Tituss Burgess Takes Aim at Trump With New Song: "He's Dumb as Bricks"

The Emmy-nominated performer talks to The Hollywood Reporter about his new EP and his favorite presidential candidates.
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Tituss Burgess

Tituss Burgess may not have been canonized, but he is discovering his sainthood through his upcoming EP, Saint Tituss. And apparently, his first holy order comes courtesy of the debut single, "45," that takes a critical look at the state of the American political climate under President Donald Trump.

Burgess, the singer and actor known for his Emmy-nominated turn on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, released a video alongside "45" that features imagery of straitjackets, painted eyes and Burgess and lyricist Daniel J. Watts cutting themselves free from rope ties. The song calls for the American people to "wake from your slumber," and details a profound distaste for Trump with lyrics such as, "He's dumb as bricks, a magic show with no tricks." 

While the verdict is still out on who he supports in 2020 to replace Trump, if he had to vote today, Burgess said he would want the ballot to feature Joe Biden for president and Kamala Harris for vice president. "They’re the closest thing to the America that I want to see," he explained. "They’re the closest thing in terms of what their policies are and what they’re standing for, and what they claim they’ll do in the first 100 days. I think the sight of Joe Biden, honestly, would correct the temperature here, even if he didn’t get a whole lot of stuff done."

Burgess caught up with The Hollywood Reporter and touched on "45," sainthood and what he would do if he were POTUS. 

Can you tell me a little bit about why you decided to take aim at President Trump with the single?

Sure. It actually has less to do with Donald Trump, and more to do with the people. Those dancers in the video have eyes painted on to their eyelids, so they’re asleep. That’s the way most of America is operating right now, and we are letting this man, who holds the highest office in all the land, order that humans not be treated humanely. And that is terrifying, along with all the other corrupt things that he is doing. The song is about a call to action.

You sing, "I don’t fear, 'cause I know we’re the cure." What do you mean by that?

America put him in the office, America can take him out of the office. Would we pay attention to each other, listen a little more, had a little more patience, do a little more homework, we could change a lot. We could do a lot. Our country could really be greater than it is, it could really be the world that he claims he is making it. We could really make it great.

The song has a little bit of Broadway drama — it’s got a lot of funky pop. What were your musical influences?

I don’t have musical influences that I purposely borrowed from while I compose. I mostly let the content and the subject matter dictate the mood of how it should feel. I suppose my upbringing and my degree in music aids in how I compose, but I’m one of the rare composers — I don’t sit down and set out to write in the style of, I just write it.

Do you have a particular favorite that’s coming up on the EP, or any surprises off Saint Tituss?

Just the whole album alone, Saint Tituss is to me sort of reclaiming my sainthood — a saint is just a sinner who fell down and got back up. I’m always making mistakes, and I’m incredibly flawed, but I’m also incredibly good. I think people should reconsider how they see themselves, be a little kinder to themselves when looking in the mirror, and deign to be a lot more frank and honest both with themselves and with the rest of the world, and that’s how I chose to live, that’s how I insist people perceive me, and that’s how I plan to roam the Earth for the rest of my days. I’m just excited that people listen to the whole thing.

Are there any big themes or messages that you have on the EP that you want people to take away?

Just be honest, be frank, be in touch with yourself, and be willing to tell the ugly truth. Not the convenient truth.

Are there any particular artists that you’re listening to right now, or any particular songs?

Opera singer Renee Fleming is my favorite thing, I’m always putting her stuff on loop. I love this English singer by the name of Labrinth [Timothy Lee McKenzie]. I’m always jamming out to Bette Midler. I have an eclectic little taste.

Since you shared your disapproval for President Trump and where we are as a country on "45," have you picked a candidate for the 2020 election?

The verdict is still out, but if I had to vote today, I would wish the ballot would look like Joe Biden for president and Kamala Harris for vice president. They’re the closest thing to the America that I want to see. They’re the closest thing in terms of what their policies are and what they’re standing for, and what they claim they’ll do in the first 100 days. I think the sight of Joe Biden, honestly, would correct the temperature here, even if he didn’t get a whole lot of stuff done. It would calm things down a lot. The sight of him is a reminder of when things didn’t feel so manic and unsafe. The sight of him makes me feel safe.

If you were president, what would be the first things you would do coming off of a Trump presidency? What do you think is most important for America?

I would get those kids out of the borders and with their parents. And I would ban guns. I would make people who want to be police officers or any sort of FBI agent take psychology tests and psychiatric evaluations and do a deep background check to make sure they’re not part of the KKK.