Call For Comments: Politicians and Protest Songs

From Mav: If you know me at all, you probably know that I’m kind of a politics junkie. So, that means that among other things I tortured myself by watching the Republican Presidential Primary debate last week. It was… kind of a train wreck. And for the most part it wasn’t even really a very interesting train wreck. If you had any delusions that one of those people was going to rise and take on Donald Trump… let me just tell you to set that aside now. But there was one really interesting moment that I kind of want to talk about. The debate, being on Fox and wanting to pander to the base as much as possible, opened with asking the candidates to address how well they related to the number one song in the country, “Rich Men North Of Richmond” by Oliver Anthony. The results were… kind of comical.

If you’re not familiar with Oliver Anthony, that’s not surprising. It likely means you don’t listen to much country music… but also, he basically wasn’t really famous before two weeks ago. So you might remember Jason Aldean had a shitty song called “Try That in a Small Town” last month an all of the right wing pundits got behind and encouraged their fans to listen to it and briefly drove it to #1 on the Billboard charts. And then it kinda started sinking because honestly… it’s kinda dumb. It’s just a bunch of dog whistles poorly set to music, and even the MAGA types didn’t really like it. They were just trying to “trigger the libs” or whatever. And … well, the libs didn’t really care. Basically we all heard it and said “I mean, it’s a shitty song… but if you want to listen to shitty songs, that’s on you.” So time went on. Aldean fell down the charts, and everyone stopped caring. But then two weeks ago, Ben Shapiro and the other weenies got together and tried it again with a song by more or less unknown country folk singer Oliver Anthony. And it’s … better. So the MAGA weenies were able to take the Billboard #1 spot again.

And the thing is, it legit just is a better song. Like, I’m being fair here. It is an objectively better song than the Aldean song. It’s kind of a working class folk anthem of a guy voices his grievances. There was some pushback on the left from people who don’t like it because of some vague references to pedophile politicians and a line that complains about overweight welfare queens, but objectively, it’s a decently written and passionate plea that voices angry working class white male grievances. And that is a very real market that deserves to be given the chance to make its art.

And of course the republicans decided to exploit it!

Which is why it was funny. You had 8 millionaire republican politicians standing on stage awkwardly trying to represent working class values and trying to relate to the song by complaining about fat cat politicians. I laughed but figured that I’d not really have anything to say about it.

BUT THEN… Oliver Anthony released a video where HE complains about the RNC misunderstanding his song. And suddenly I was like “Holy shit! Dude is self aware!” Now I’m not going to go so far as say I agree with him politically on much of anything, but I think it’s kind of great that he is laughing at politicians using a song which he specifically points out he wrote mostly to complain about them specifically.

Ronald Reagan

This isn’t the first time. Three years ago, we did a show where we talked about the memefication of political speech and I specifically spoke to the thing where politicians keep using songs they don’t understand, perhaps most notably when Ronald Reagan was campaigning using Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, a song he clearly didn’t understand the point of.

And Springsteen went out of his way to stop it. We weren’t just talking about music then, but I’d like to dig into that a little deeper. Springsteen and Anthony aren’t the only ones. There’s a long history of politicians wanting to be cool by latching on to “cool” musicians when the truth is… they’re not actually cool. Honestly, neither side is. But I think it’s interesting when it happens and I want to talk about it.

So what are your thoughts? What do you make of politicians trying to associate with political songs? Does it matter if they get the message right? Is Obama the only person who ever did it well? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

4 Comments and 0 Webmentions for “Call For Comments: Politicians and Protest Songs”

  1. John Mellancamp, Little Pink Houses

    I feel like there’s a whole to be said about the Fleetwood Mac reunion and the Clinton years given your breakdown.

    Also, if we look outside of the US, the weird flirtation between Britpop and Tony Blair’s labor is worth talking about (as are some latter day British incidents like James Cameron saying he’s a huge fan of The Smiths and how that very much mirrored the Rand Paul + RSTM thing here.

    And y’all really must say something about Trump, I guess.
    His dancing to “Macho Man” is just bizarre on so, so many levels.

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