The Playlist Project: Campaign Songs

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Welcome to The Playlist Project, where we’ll be posing musical questions to Paste staff, interns and writers and then compiling their responses into a handy playlist before opening it up for discussion in our comments section.

We’re still more than eight months away from the 2016 presidential election, and everyone knows that it’s a bit of a mess. Our brand new politics section has all those hot takes, but we’re leaving the issues (mostly) aside here to focus on the music. So far, Bernie Sanders has played “Starman” in Iowa, Hillary Clinton has shared her love of contemporary pop, Chris Christie has earned more headlines for his Bruce Springsteen/Bon Jovi alliance debate than his policies, and Trump has been reprimanded for using music by Adele, Neil Young, and Aerosmith without their permission. This week, we take those music choices personally, as the Playlist Project prompt is…

If you were running for office, what would your campaign song be, and why?

Josh Jackson, President/Editor-in-chief
The Ramones, “Beat on the Brat”

If I’ve learned anything from this election cycle, it’s that attracting negative attention by being as obnoxious as you can is WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT. “What an inappropriate song for a presidential campaign,” those in the LIBERAL MEDIA would say. “Yeah, but he’s just saying what we all are thinking,” my supporters would respond. Because who doesn’t, deep down inside, WANT to beat on the brat with a baseball bat. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh oh.

Bonnie Stiernberg, Music/TV Editor
Alice Cooper, “Elected”

If you can’t fist-pump and sing “ELECTEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD” to me while I wave and shoot off a confetti cannon, I’m not interested in your vote.

Jim Vorel, News Editor
Randy Savage, “Pomp and Circumstance”

There can be only one choice—the entrance music of Randy “Macho Man” Savage and high school graduations everywhere—”Pomp and Circumstance.” As in the case of the two-time WWF Champion, this would be entrance music primarily, booming out over the loudspeakers as I came down the tunnel and toward the squared circle/debate podium, whichever it might be at the time. And as with Savage, it would be accompanied by various video highlights of my political career—debating on the floor of the legislature, wearing a hard hat and pretending to care about industry, and delivering elbow drop after flying elbow drop to the sternums of political opponents.

Hilary Saunders
Woody Guthrie, “This Land Is Your Land”

Woody’s treatise would be the obvious answer here. But to add a bit of subtlety and revolution, I’d have my musical team only play the forgotten political verses.

On the flip side, I kind of just want to play Childbirth’s opening song/title track “Women’s Rights.” Julia Shapiro (of Chastity Belt) alternates between screaming the band’s name and “women’s rights” in this 39-second punk rock intro. I’d do the same so that at least someone in politics would get the hint that gender inequality is still an issue in this country.

Shannon M. Houston, Assistant TV Editor
Jay Z and Kanye ft. Frank Ocean, “Made in America”

I’m going to run for office just so I can make people listen to this song more. It has a little bit of everything we seem to like in a campaign message—celebration of this strange, complex country, references to great Americans of the past, a little (or a lot) of a certain braggadocious style (presented perfectly by Jay and Ye), and some God-related stuff that sounds more spiritual than dogmatic (because it’s sung by Frank Ocean). In “Made in America,” this country is a flawed but still beloved home; America is family and America is all the more interesting because of the black artists, activists and believers who continue to define it.

Dominic Sinacola, Assistant Movies Editor
Carly Rae Jepsen, “I Really Like You”

Like Jeb Bush’s “Please clap,” I don’t see any harm in just coming out and straight-up asking for approval. Hey voters, I really really really really really really like you—do you like me too? Plus, if there’s any remote chance I could get Tom Hanks on board, I’ll take it.

Trevor Courneen, Assistant Food Editor
Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run”

“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. Past politicians have made the mistake of using “Born in the U.S.A.,” clearly misinterpreting the lyrics. Ideally, The Boss would be my running mate and “Born to Run” would also be our campaign slogan. When speaking at rallies, I’d address the difficult times that may arise during my presidency, but I’d reassure everyone by saying, “Together, America, we can live with the sadness; I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul.”

Annie Black, Contributing Writer
John Fogerty, “Centerfield”

Yes, I know this song is about baseball. But shouldn’t the future president of the United States have the eagerness of a kid wanting to put taken off the bench and thrown into the game? Plus, there’s some fun clap-alongs going on in this track, which you know, crowds love. Also now that I think of it, the entire campaign trail could be baseball themed—baseball hats, throwback baseball raglan tees, rallies held at community baseball fields, charity baseball games with John Fogerty as the pitcher…I think I may be on to something. Put me in, America! I’m ready to be president!

Eric R. Danton, Contributing Writer
The Clash, “Clampdown”

When I was in college, my friend Josh suggested modifying Petula Clark’s “Downtown” as a campaign song if I ever ran for office: “Danton, things will be great, just vote Danton!” The idea still cracks me up (and gets stuck in my head). Maybe it’s the tenor of the times all these years later, but this election season seems to call for a more ominous campaign song. Something like “The Clampdown” by the Clash, which skewers the intolerance, willful ignorance and who’s-toughest saber-rattling that is so far characterizing the primary process. At rallies, I’d dedicate the song to my opponents. And of course, I’d ask the Clash’s permission first.