early and often

Pop Music: Why Barack Obama Is a Stronger Candidate Than John Kerry Was

Barack Obama Rolling Stone Cover

Last week, New Yorker editor David Remnick was talking to New York’s Andrew Goldstein at the premiere of Hamlet at Shakespeare in the Park. He made an excellent point about the 2004 election:

You know how I knew John Kerry was going to lose the last time? There was a Q&A in GQ, and the first question they asked him was the kind of thing that a candidate should have knocked out of the park. Plus we endorsed him, so I wanted him to win. And I read this Q&A, and it was the kind of thing that a candidate should have been able to do in his sleep. One of the questions was, Who’s your favorite rock-and-roll person? And he’s a boomer, he has every right, he says, well, Bob Dylan is one of them — maybe it was Dylan and the Beatles, Dylan and the Rolling Stones. And the interviewer asked, “Well, what’s your favorite Dylan song?” And he really can’t think of any. And then he says, “Blowing in the Wind,” which is a great song but the uncoolest answer you could come up with.

It’s true — Kerry was impersonable, if that’s a word (and spell-check is telling us it’s not), and when he tried to seem “normal,” it never seemed genuine. Remember that terribly awkward staged hunting expedition?

So it was with great interest when we read that Barack Obama’s playlist would be in Rolling Stone next week.

Below are some of the artists that Obama confessed to liking:

Stevie Wonder
Bob Dylan
Rolling Stones
Sheryl Crow
Miles Davis
John Coltrane
Charlie Parker
Bruce Springsteen
Elton John
Earth, Wind & Fire

As Radar pointed out, it’s good music but not particularly edgy. But that’s the thing — it’s so safe that it feels completely normal. He’s a 46-year-old lawyer from Chicago! If it’s criticized by anyone, it will be because it’s unexciting, not because it doesn’t seem genuine. When pressed on which Dylan songs were his favorite, Obama had a solid response, unlike Kerry. He likes the album Blood on the Tracks, and “Maggie’s Farm” is one of his favorite anthems “during the political season.” He explains: “It speaks to me as I listen to some of the political rhetoric.”

How fitting, when you think about the closing lyrics of the song:

Well, I try my best

To be just like I am,

But everybody wants you

To be just like them.

Whether it’s because his staff learned from the mistakes of the Kerry campaign and was careful to craft a public human being out of Obama in advance, or whether it’s because he genuinely digs Dylan, it works. Almost too well.

Inside Barack Obama’s iPod [Rolling Stone]

Pop Music: Why Barack Obama Is a Stronger Candidate Than John Kerry Was