Once upon a time, all you needed were three chords and the truth. With those, musicians could plumb the depths of humanity or make a gentle stand against the American war machine. But what good could such simple tools do in the age of misinformation? The truth isn’t good enough to combat the droves who refuse to accept the outcome of a democratic election, turn to Ivermectin before Covid vaccines and insist that a crass, spray-tanned television personality is an Adonis-shaped Christian leader. For that, you need three chords and post-truth.
Enter Nick Lutsko, sweating in front of the camera and howling his devotion to right-wing demagogues. “I want to be at the RNC,” Lutsko bellows in a song posted to Twitter in August 2020. “I wanna sit with Dan Bongino,” he pleads, referring to the conservative radio host. At first glance, Lutsko bears little difference to the countless nutjobs who fill YouTube and Twitter, proclaiming fealty to Republican leaders while peddling conspiracy theories, the crazed look only underscoring their belief.
When he fantasizes about showing Bongino “the American flag that hangs behind the toilet in Grandma’s basement,” certain that the alt-right talking head will keep him safe from “the man in the stairs,” Lutsko slips into the paranoia of pilled online conservative voices who complain about being silenced by the “intolerant Left.”
Right-wing parody anthems aside, Lutsko is an accomplished Tennessee-based musician who has been recording music for nearly a decade. He released his first album, Heart of Mold, in 2013. While he has long written comedy songs for College Humor and Super Deluxe, “I Wanna Be at the RNC” established Lutsko as the premiere satirist of the post-truth age.
Where The Onion took on The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal and The Daily Show and The Colbert Report used the language of CNN and Fox News to skewer the 24-hour news cycle, Lutsko plays on the home turf of the consptracy, sharing his songs on social media and YouTube. His songs mingle alongside videos spreading election lies and QAnon conspiracies, almost imperceptible from the real thing. Following the lead of a song he wrote for Super Deluxe, which sets Alex Jones’ rants to a mellow folk accompaniment, Lutsko’s tunes repeat conservative talking points with a straight face.
Take the laid-back ballad “Baby Blood,” which follows conservative conspiracies to their logical end. “Celebrities are hot because they all drink baby blood,” he croons, before concluding, “Donald Trump looks like wet ass because he doesn’t do that stuff.”
In “Joe Biden Wants to Take Your Meat,” Lutsko bops along to an up-tempo pop beat while offering tips for those convinced that the President’s call for more moderation among beef consumption foretells a government ban on carnivores. “Stuff ‘em in your puppets or tuck ‘em in the tops of your toilets,” he urges listeners. Anything to hide them “discretely from greedy meat-lovin’ Joe Biden’s hands.” Lutsko delivers these messages with truly catchy tunes and a wide-eyed look, punctuated by the same mad stare as the people he copies. Lutsko fills streams choking with misinformation and disrupts their hold with ideas somehow even more bonkers, and far more benign, rendering actual conservative arguments inert.
Even songs without overtly political themes heighten his satire. Since 2020, Lutsko has crafted a vast mythology, playing the role of an embittered man-child who loves Spirit Halloween stores, has a rivalry with Jeff Bezos, and tries to launch a third Gremlins movie, featuring a human/gremlin hybrid called Desmond, to spite the Hollywood big wigs. This fictional Lutsko lives in his grandma’s basement and constantly runs afoul of his grandmother’s boyfriend Mel. Connecting all of these tunes is an evolving story about men in subterranean tunnels and demonic figures resembling Bezos and/or 1980s and 90s family movie staple Ernest P. Worrell harkening the apocalypse.
Lutsko’s critique is at its sharpest when these absurd plotlines intersect with his political songs. In the mid-tempo number “School Board Meeting; Lutsko emulates the conservative hoards who invaded school board meetings to protest mask mandates. “I don’t have kids but I’m still seething,” he sings, insisting that “I have the right to exercise my rights to exercise.” But as the song continues, his shifts from making mundane demands (“Open the school gym to alumni!”) to apocalyptic warnings. “The men in the tunnels are coming!” he screams in the final seconds.
Throughout his songs, Lutsko delivers his outrageous with utter sincerity. Where Jon Stewart delivered his monologues with a smirk and Steven Colbert invited guests to call him out on his idiocy, Lutsko shouts with a faux seriousness befitting his subject. Like any work of satire, he runs the risk of being misunderstood, especially when his videos appear on social media next to actual Right-wing nuts.
To those who subscribe to such beliefs, there may not be a clear difference between Lutsko’s songs and a YouTuber repeating OAN talking points. But when he demands $100,000 to play at Joe Biden’s inauguration or pens an ode to dejection after being passed up by The Spirit Halloween Movie, the difference becomes clear to the rest of us. And we gain a better understanding of the Internet pits into which so many Americans fall, searching for something that feels like the truth.