Discovering the Candidates Through Their Playlists
Bill Clinton's reappropriation of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" might be the first song that comes to mind when talking campaign themes, but every American president has had one, dating back to George "G-Dub" Washington's 1780s barnburner, "Follow Washington," which briefly caused quite a stir in Colonial powdered-wig waltz circles (arguably sparking the first and worst Southern dance craze). In the ensuing centuries, Americans have been subjected to such rousing jingles as "Huzzah for Madison Huzzah,""Grant, Grant, Grant,""If the Johnnies Get Into Power Again" (Garfield), "Buckle Down With Nixon,""Keep Cool and Keep Coolidge," and "Little Know Ye Who Is Coming" (John Quincy Adams), which begs for a Kanye West cover.
Granted, a good campaign song has never been proved to boost a politician's poll numbers, but occasionally one is portentous: Herbert Hoover, one of history's worst presidents, chose the abominable "If He's Good Enough for Lindy," blind to the fact that a mere decade later Lindbergh would be tainted by his Nazi sympathies. And Franklin Pierce's terminally bland "Pierce and King" hasn't withstood the test of time — nor, for that matter, has President Pierce. So with California's primaries and Super Duper Tuesday looming on February 5, which candidate has what it takes to top the benchmark William Taft anthem from a century ago, "Get on a Raft With Taft"?
Resume: First lady, United States senator from New York, emotes well when questioned about follicular difficulties.
Song Playlist: "You and I," Celine Dion; "Blue Sky," Big Head Todd & the Monsters; "American Girl," Tom Petty; Jesus Jones' "Right Here Now."
What This Means: Picked in a poll on Clinton's Web site, the choice of "You and I" speaks more to the heavily baby-boomer-age, female-skewing demographics of Clinton supporters than it does to her, though there is a slight chance that a line in its chorus, "You and I/Were meant to fly/Higher than the clouds," may be a tacit admission of past drug use.
Possible Suggestions to Boost Her Campaign: "96 Tears," ? & the Mysterians; "It's My Party," Leslie Gore; "She's Not Just Another Woman," Biz Markie.
Resume: Illinois state senator, United States senator from Illinois, glowing recommendation from Oprah Winfrey.
Song Playlist: "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," Stevie Wonder; "Move On Up," Curtis Mayfield; "Give the People What They Want," The O'Jays; "City of Blinding Lights," U2.
What This Means: Obama has the campaign-theme game on lock. Cannily reappropriating classic civil rights-era staples, Obama subtly links himself with another era of epochal change, but more important, he (or his advisers) selected songs with a universal appeal. Of course, the decision to play U2's execrable "City of Blinding Lights" proves once again that Bono must be stopped at all costs.
Possible Suggestions to Boost His Campaign: "Things Done Changed," Notorious B.I.G.; "Changes," David Bowie; "The Choice Is Yours," Black Sheep (could be used to shore up allegations that he's not totally prochoice).
Resume: Renowned defense attorney, U.S. senator from North Carolina, a magnificent coif.
Song Playlist: "Our Country," John Cougar Mellencamp; "Small Town," John Cougar Mellencamp (used in his '04 campaign).
What This Means: Sharing first names, small-town roots, populist ideals, an anticorporate stance and a love for expensive haircuts, Mellencamp and Edwards are soul mates — if not long-lost brothers. But Edwards' all-Mellencamp, all-the-time strategy may alienate socially conservative Southern Democrats if they find out that Mr. Small Town once titled an album Dance Naked.
Possible Suggestions to Boost His Campaign: "Cut Your Hair," Pavement; "Raise Up," Petey Pablo (could be instrumental in the North Carolina primary); "It Takes 2 [Americas]," DJ Rob Base & DJ EZ-Rock.
Resume: War hero, U.S. senator from Arizona; like Keith Richards, McCain cannot be killed by conventional weapons.
Song Playlist: "Barbara Ann," The Beach Boys; "Johnny B. Goode," Chuck Berry; "I Won't Back Down," Tom Petty (before Petty asked McCain to stop playing it).
What This Means: That, in addition to being able to play the guitar like he was ringing a bell, Johnny B. Goode shares the same forename as McCain. Conveniently, the song happens to have been adored by aging McCain supporters during their poodle-skirt and malt-shop years. Also, it means that Tom Petty is cool.
Possible Suggestions to Boost His Campaign: "No Surrender," Bone Thugs-N-Harmony; "John the Revelator," Son House; "Uncle John's Band" (could be instrumental in delivering the much-coveted hippie vote).
Resume: Millionaire private equity investor, governor of Massachusetts, ability to keep hair and facial features frozen in a waxy glow despite extreme wind, sleet, snow or hail.
Song Playlist: "A Little Less Conversation," Elvis Presley; "Dancin,' Shaggin' on the Boulevard," Alabama; "Only in America," Brooks & Dunn.
What This Means: Songs featuring lyrics about "shaggin' on the boulevard" and "clos[ing] your mouth and open[ing] up your heart and... satisfy[ing] me" hint at the hot-blooded fecundity of the Romney clan (Romney already has 11 grandchildren).
Possible Suggestions to Boost His Campaign: "Stupid Marriage," the Specials (to remind voters of his opposition to gay marriage); "The [Anti] Immigration Song," Led Zeppelin; and "Making Flippy Floppy," Talking Heads (which won't gain him any votes but would certainly be more appropriate).
Resume: Mob prosecutor, mayor of New York City, separated from his wife at a press conference without telling her first.
Song Playlist:"Life Is a Highway," Rascal Flatts; "Rudie Can't Fail," the Clash; the theme from Rudy, Jerry Goldsmith.
What This Means: That Giuliani either has come under the sway of the leftist, anticapitalist rhetoric spouted by former Clash front man Joe Strummer or he just really, really likes songs with "Rudy" in the title.
Possible Suggestions to Boost His Campaign: "Accidents Will Happen," Elvis Costello & the Attractions; "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," Alan Jackson; "Asshole," Beck.
Resume: Governor of Arkansas, Southern Baptist minister, recovering "food-a-holic."
Song Playlist: While Huckabee has no set playlist, he plays bass in Capitol Offense, a classic-rock cover band whose set list includes songs from Steppenwolf, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Elvis, Wilson Pickett and Lynard Skynard.
What This Means: That despite the fact that Huckabee was once in favor of isolating AIDS patients from the general population, once declared that he can't "wait for the duck hunting in heaven" and has endorsed "creationism," at least voters can take solace in the fact that he can play "Freebird" on request.
Possible Suggestions to Boost His Campaign: "Babies With Guns," Aesop Rock; "All I Want Is That Pure Religion," Blind Lemon Jefferson; "Armageddon Time," the Clash.
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