As a sidebar to our piece about the messaging in campaign music and the sometimes misguided tune selections, here’s what we’ve been hearing on the campaign trail in recent months — and what we would have liked to hear instead.
David Bowie, “Starman”
Heard at: Sanders rally walk-off music.
Why make a change: Please, please, please do not get us wrong here. We love David Bowie, and “Starman” is about as close as it gets to the perfect song in our book. However, the now ex-presidential candidate had indicated during a debate weeks prior (shortly after Bowie’s death) that he wasn’t familiar with Bowie’s music. We appreciate any time that tune comes on, but in this instance it just seemed like pandering to us. Plus, Bowie’s ephemeral mystique (especially with that song) seems incongruous to Sanders’ crunchy vibe.
Play this instead: Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm,” an anti-establishment tune that fits right in there with the rest of his playlist.
Katy Perry, “Roar”
Heard at: Clinton rallies, Spotify playlist.
Why change: Like many songs in her rotation, this is one of those songs we have to put up with everywhere we go where we aren’t allowed to control the music ourselves, like the store or (between songs on our Ramones Pandora Station, anyway) the gym. We get that Clinton/her handlers want to play fresh-ish music sung by females to attract younger women voters, but “Roar”? It’s generic, it’s overplayed, and we’d be hard-pressed to find someone who actually felt inspired by it.
Play this instead: Anything by Courtney Barnett, the rising Australian songwriter. Face it: People who listen to Katy Perry and Taylor Swift probably don’t vote, while Courtney Barnett fans are probably on the fence between Clinton and Jill Stein.
Elton John, “Tiny Dancer”
Heard at: Donald Trump rallies, multiple times.
Why change: This is another excellent classic tune, and we find it pleasing to hear ahead of Trump’s oft-intense campaign events. Lrically, however, it is very un-Donald. And while the Stones’ “Brown Sugar” is fittingly racist and sexist (and higher-energy) for such events, “Tiny Dancer” is a gentle, sweet song.
Play this instead: Tom Jones, “She's a Lady.” Few songs sum up Trump's attitude toward women — namely, judging them solely on their looks — like this one; the subject of this tune is praised solely for being seen and not heard and always “knowing her place.”