After a wave of criticism, Shakira has withdrawn from her scheduled appearance in Qatar, where she was to perform at the World Cup opening ceremonies. Shakira is not the first to refuse to perform in Qatar, as Dua Lipa and Rod Stewart have made public decisions to decline organisers’ offers to open the ceremonies. According to Rod Stewart, the famed musician turned down more than 1 million USD to perform in Qatar for one simple reason: “it’s not cool to go”.
A few days ago, organisers announced that Shakira would be opening the ceremonies along with BTS’s Jungkook and Robbie Williams. For decades, performing at the World Cup opening ceremonies was a massive honour, one reserved for the world’s biggest, most international musicians. That is why Shakira’s performance at the World Cup in South Africa was seen as such an important moment in her career. A few years ago, almost no major artist would decline such a gig just because of the historic nature of the performance and the global reach. But the Qatar World Cup is different. To see why, all you have to do is look at Dua Lipa’s response when rumours circulated that she would be performing. “There is currently a lot of speculation that I will be performing at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Qatar,” Dua wrote in an Instagram Story on Sunday. “I will not be performing, and nor have I ever been involved in any negotiations to perform”.
And though she mentioned that she will be will be rooting for England “from afar,” the she also said that looks forward to visiting Qatar when it has “fulfilled all of its human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host” the World Cup. In early 2021, the UK newspaper The Guardian published a detailed investigation revealing that at least 6,500 migrant workers in Qatar had died between 2011 and 2020. Since then, this figure of 6,500 deaths has become central to the criticism of the World Cup. But it is not just the migrant worker statistic; Qatar is still a hostile environment towards LGTBQ people.
As time moves on, we have more and more expectations from our public figures. While celebrities used to get a pass, people now criticise how they earn their funds. If your image is being used by a regime that conflicts with the mores of most of your fanbase, you better believe that you will hear an earful. Perhaps more importantly, labels and sponsors listen closely to vocal fans; even if performers can earn a pretty penny, the buck does stop somewhere.