As we recently discussed, the Obama team has perfected the zeitgeist campaign. Some of it is intentional, (the text messages, the basketball,) while the rest (the internet memes) just sorta happens. Music is another important element of this. Everyone knows Republicans make poor DJs, and Senator Obama has collected an impressive variety of musical endorsements.
Democrats always pwn music. Even sad-sack John Kerry had future Senator Bruce Springsteen. But, as the BBC’s Gavin Hewitt noted today, Springsteen, the Foo Fighters, and Bon Jovi were always the headliners; fans would literally come for the band and leave from the candidate. Obama is the star, and his campaign has picked perfect music to augment his aura:
“Two songs, however, are used to define the campaign. One is the arrival anthem, that plays Barack Obama onto the stage. It is U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” – with its line “oh you look so beautiful tonight.”
It’s a stunning song, combining a real Phil Spector sound with a crowd-pleasing hook. They also nailed it on Biden, bringing him out to Springsteen’s “The Rising.” It may be a little too 9/11, but Springsteen acolyte (and legitimate Reverend) Jeffrey Symykywicz makes the case for why it works, and most importantly it just feels right.
Choosing campaign songs is not as easy as it looks. Hillary’s people flubbed it with Celine freakin’ Dion, John Edwards’ schtick was Mellencampy, and poor McCain-Palin keeps getting sued. So back to the other song Hewitt identified as central to the campaign:
“…after his speech, when he lifts the bottle of water to his lips, in comes the heavy beat and then Stevie Wonder’s scream in “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”
In the key of Stevie, an African-American friend of mine said something worth closing with. I had been talking about the cultural relevence of Bob Dylan to my family, the kind of people who raise their kids on Phil Ochs and Joan Baez, edited up a “liberation haggadah” for Passover, and distribute “Rise Up Singing” as a graduation gift. We were driving somewhere discussing this when Stevie comes on his CD player. My friend turns to me and goes: “What Bob Dylan means to your mother, that’s what Stevie Wonder means to black people.”