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DNC soundtrack

The following is a breakdown of my opinions on how music is strategically used in election years to connect with voters. This is not a critique of the artists, their art, or politics.  It’s just my thoughts on how music becomes a powerful tool in swaying the human psyche. The leaders on both sides of the aisle know this well, and put a lot of planning on how to use it to gain an edge.

Jennifer Hudson was picked to sing the national anthem.  This is because she’s a.) an American Idol alum, and therefore b.) an African American artist with a lot of crossover appeal c.) an “average” celebrity with a more relatable lifestyle than the Pitt-Jolie posse, and finally she’s d.) “a self-made success” (with the help of the American Idol public). The DNC planners no doubt wanted us all to draw a parallel between her rise to obscurity to success with Obama’s similar story.

Bon Jovi replaced Bruce Springsteen as the performer at the DNC last night.  This was a very deliberate move, since mainstream, white, middle aged, middle of the road Republicans relate much more to what’s on country radio than they do to Springsteen, who’s seen by many American’s as one of those celebrities with an “un-relatable lifestyle,” and can actually backfire on a candidate, much like being endorsed by George Clooney is arguably a risky move.  Americans tend to rail back against that kind of affiliation.  Yeah, Bon Jovi probably has just as much money as The Boss, but the band had a huge crossover hit that featured Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles. Since they share a playlist with Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney on most country stations, this makes them more “everyday American” to the eyes of white farmers & suburbanites.

-After Obama’s speech, the TV audience heard Brooks & Dunn’s “Only In America” as Obama & family waved to the crowd, confetti falling and fireworks exploding.  This song was a reaction to 9/11, and to those of us who listen to country radio, if even occasionally, it draws an immediate emotional connection back to the uber-patriotic days that followed 9/11. 

John Legend & Will.I.Am’s “Yes We Can” was absolutely brilliant. If you missed it, the duo sang/spoke over clips of Obama’s best sound bytes to create an original song. Legend flooded the stadium with his platinum-smooth Gospel tinged vocals, while Will.I.Am basically served as hype man, repeating key phrases, and closing the song out with “register to vote for Barak Obama…change America.” 

-Legend honed his pipes growing up as a church singer, and was no doubt brought on board to cater to the audience who attend traditional black church services. (These congregations tend to be very conservative, both politically and theology.  In 2004, the urban black vote helped Bush win Ohio, in large part because the black churches were preaching against the pro-abortion John Kerry). 

-Will.I.Am was picked because he is a popular figure in MTV hip-hop with no controversies attached.  Nas, Jay-Z, The Game and a host of other “A list” rappers have intellingant songs packed full of content that Obama supporters could relate to (see Nas’ “Sly Fox” song, which disses Fox News), but these big names all come with excess gangster baggage.  Save his involvement in the train wreck of a song “My Humps,” Will is squeaky clean. 

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-It’s also notable who we DIDN’T hear about playing at the DNC: Notable live band hip-hop newcomers Flobots played along Rage Against the Machine in an anti-war show at 11am yesterday.  The DNC has the good sense to realize that Rage is a polarizing band, and even loyal Democrats associate Zach De La Rocha & co. with either communist sympathies, or their support of Mexican revolutionaries trying to overthrow that nation’s government. Even MTV didn’t cover this one. 

-As a final note, Fall Out Boy is set to release a “political album” on November 4.  (Apparently F.O.B. doesn’t realize that 97% of their fan base is not only too young to vote, but isn’t even old enough to hold a drivers license).  Expect to see a lot of artists “cashing in” on the election this year.

tower, 25, can be heard on 89.7 Shine.FM in Chicago, and 101.7 FUSE FM in Saginaw, Michigan. If you’re up for a laugh, check out his thoughts on trying to find a weekend girlfriend. Despite what he just wrote, he still kind of likes Fall Out Boy’s From Under the Cork Tree album.

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