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From cringeworthy to baffling: 2024 candidates revealed their favorite songs

Graig Graziosi looks at the obvious picks, outlier picks, and their “oh wait, you’re serious?” picks

Wednesday 06 September 2023 20:58 BST
<p>Vivek Ramaswamy raps after doing a Fair Side Chat with Governor Kim Reynolds, at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa</p>

Vivek Ramaswamy raps after doing a Fair Side Chat with Governor Kim Reynolds, at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa

Who wants to talk about policy when you can talk about music?

Several of the 2024 presidential candidates replied to a Politico query to list their top 20 tracks. The point of the exercise was, ostensibly, to see what music makes the hearts of our prospective presidents sing, but, let’s be honest, the responses were certainly pored over and curated by the candidates' staffers.

Despite the fact that a politician's music choice is mostly inconsequential to how they'll govern, part of the election season game is connecting with voters. Bill Clinton did it with his saxophone, Barack Obama did it with his summer playlists.

Rather than providing a full list of their songs — which can be found at Politico's original storyThe Independent will look at the candidates' obvious picks, outlier picks, and their "oh wait, you're serious?" picks.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

The staunch Donald Trump critic and former governor’s top 20 was dominated by classic rock artists including Elton John, Van Halen, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, though there were a few exceptions.

Obvious: “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen.

Mr Christie wouldn't be able to show his face in New Jersey without a song from the Boss topping his list.

Outlier: “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” by Coldplay

This song about losing yourself in your favorite music isn't what you'd expect to hear a conservative boomer from New Jersey connecting with, but hey, maybe Mr Christie has depths he hasn't fully revealed to the public yet.

Oh wait, you're serious? : “Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran

The mind outright rejects the image of Mr Christie sitting quietly while being serenaded by the redhead heart-throb from Halifax.

It is worth noting that Mr Christie also had “Mr Brightside” by The Killers on his list. More on that later.

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

Obvious: “I Love Rock N Roll” by Joan Jett

“I Love Rock N Roll” is inoffensive and boosts a legendary female rocker, letting Ms Haley celebrate a fellow successful woman while dodging any conservative complaints that she's "gone woke."

Outlier: “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens

The ever-thoughtful lyrics to Cat Stevens' song about world oneness stands in stark contrast to Ms Hayley's hawkishness toward China and Russia.

Oh wait, you're serious? : “Take What You Want” by Post Malone featuring Ozzy Osborne and Travis Scott

This is likely bait for the Gen Z and Millennial voters. Luckily none of the Republican party's elderly voter base will know who either Travis Scott or Post Malone is, otherwise they might have some questions about those face tattoos and Astroworld.

Ms Haley also included “Mr Brightside” by The Killers — apparently a beloved tune among middle-aged conservatives — to her list.

Vivek Ramaswamy

The anti-woke – and it seems anti-rules – businessman inexplicably only provided eight songs when he was asked for 20.

Obvious: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem

The American voters have been made painfully aware by Mr Ramaswamy's insistence on rapping the song in public that he really digs the “mom's spaghetti” song.

Outlier: “Jolene” by Dolly Parton

There's no debate that “Jolene” is a great song, but it seems odd that Mr Ramaswamy — who sells himself as a tactical businessman beholden to no one — would enjoy a song about a woman begging someone not to take something from her.

Oh wait, you're serious? : “Rondo Alla Turca” by Mozart

Yeah we get it, you're a classy dude.

Mr Ramaswamy did not include “Mr Brightside” on his list. Unclear how that will play with the voters.

Former Texas Congressman Will Hurd

Mr Hurd's list is easily the most diverse in terms of its inclusions, with artists ranging from Hootie and the Blowfish to Matisyahu and Jamiroquai.

Obvious: “I Gotta Go” by Robert Earl Keen

Mr Hurd would be remiss to not include a fellow Texan on his list, and singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen fits the bill, being a country singer but not a pop country singer. He's one of the only country artists included on Mr Hurd's list.

Outlier: “East Bound and Down” by Jerry Reed

The unofficial theme song of Smokey and the Bandit and truckers across the country, the song is one of very few that aren't rap, rock, or R&B on his list. Maybe Mr Hurd just really loves Burt Reynolds.

Oh wait, you're serious? : “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift

Mr Hurd is a 46-year-old man from Texas, a former CIA spy, and does not appear to have any children. It seems unlikely that he's singing “my ex-man brought his new girlfriend” to himself in his car.

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson

Mr Hutchinson also somehow managed to only come up with eight songs, and among those eight there are some questions.

Obvious: “Ophelia” by Levon Helm

Like Mr Christie and Mr Hurd, Mr Hutchinson's top pick reflects and celebrates the state where he's got the most support; Helm was an Arkansas-born drummer and vocalist who had a solo career after performing for rock icons The Band.

Outlier: “We Belong Together” by Los Lobos

Considering most of the rest of Mr Hutchinson's shortlist includes bands like The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, and Garth Brooks, the inclusion of a more modern, less twangy band stands out.

Oh wait, you're serious? : “Get the Party Started” by Pink

Imagine a 72-year-old man from Arkansas listening to his music. “Get Rhythm” by Johnny Cash seamlessly transitions into “Get the Party Started” by Pink. That's the reality this list is trying to sell the American voters.

The final two participants in the musical survey, conservative radio host Larry Elder, and liberal scholar and political commentator Cornel West, had lists that seemed far less curated and more reflective of their actual musical tastes.

Mr Elder included two Boyz II Men songs — “End of the Road” and “Its So Hard to Say Goodbye” — “Let It Be” by The Beatles, and “That's Life” by Frank Sinatra, among others.

Mr West only provided four songs but included “Love Supreme” by John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin's “Respect,” and the legendary “Mississippi Goddamn” by Nina Simone.

There were some notable absences from Politico’s survey, including former President Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, and, presumably, Joe Biden.

Mr Trump has made it clear that, at the very least, he loves the songs “YMCA” and “Macho Man” by the Village People, as he frequently uses them as walk-out songs during rallies. His first dance at his inauguration was to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” He has also used the Ghostbusters theme at least once during a 2017 Halloween event at the White House, where he waited until Ray Parker Jr sings “bustin' makes me feel good” to walk out.

While Mr Biden did not provide a list this year, his campaign previously provided a selection of his favorite music to The New York Times. That list included “Hereos” by David Bowie, “We Take Care of Our Own” by Bruce Springsteen, “The Weight” by Aretha Franklin, and some more eye-brow raising selections like “The Sound” by the 1975 and “Home” by Dierks Bently.

It's unclear what kind of music Mr Pence and Mr DeSantis enjoy. Perhaps Gregorian chants and the “Imperial March” from Star Wars. But that's just a guess.

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