Reporter's Notebook

Theme Songs for Presidential Candidates
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Readers submit tracks they associate with the 2016 presidential candidates. Submit your own via

Show 2 Newer Notes

Track of the Day: 'I Just Called to Say I Love You'

Last week, Elaine—who writes our Politics & Policy Daily newsletter—asked readers, “What song should Donald Trump come out to when he walks on stage Thursday night at the Republican National Convention?” The winning picks are here, including a bunch of honorable mentions. Elaine is doing the same contest this week for Hillary Clinton, who speaks tonight in Philly. Scores of you have emailed song recommendations (there’s still time via hello@), and Elaine will be announcing her picks tomorrow, but here’s a teaser from reader Steve Perez:

What song should Hillary Clinton come out to when she walks on stage Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention? Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” because she is afraid to use email these days.


(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)

For our reader series of songs inspired by presidential candidates, Mark gets ambitious:

In your long list of endeavors this election cycle, I offer an album (in its entirety) that speaks to the different players in the election cycle of 2015-2016: Chris Rea’s Road to Hell, released in 1989. (The Geffen CD issue, which is what I’ve got, included “Let’s Dance.”)

1. “The Road to Hell (Part 1)” - This song is for the Vichy Republicans:

I said ‘mama I come to the valley of the rich
Myself to sell’
She said ‘son this is the road to hell’

2. “The Road to Hell (Part 2)” - This song is for the Independents:

Oh look out world, take a good look
What comes down here
You must learn this lesson fast and learn it well
This ain’t no upwardly mobile freeway
Oh no, this is the road
Said this is the road
This is the road to hell

3. “You Must Be Evil” - This song is for every breathing Democrat
regarding Trump:

All this week, via our Politics & Policy Daily newsletter, Elaine asked readers, “What song should Donald Trump come out to when he walks on stage Thursday night at the Republican National Convention?” On Tuesday night, in a surprise stage entrance to introduce his wife before her convention speech, Trump sauntered out in a silhouette against a glowing-blue background (reminiscent of Close Encounters) with Queen’s rock anthem “We Are the Champions” filling the arena. (Unfortunately The Donald wasn’t wearing the regalia of Freddie Mercury.)

But Trump’s official walk-on music, for his big acceptance speech last night, was the theme from the blockbuster movie Air Force One. (Harrison Ford presumably wasn’t impressed.) None of our readers picked that obscure score, but one of them, Joe Bookman, did pick The Rolling Stones’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” which was Trump’s walk-off music.

So which song did Elaine and the P&PD team pick among the scores of reader submissions? Carly Simon’s ode to narcissism:

The refrain is very meta:

You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you? Don’t you?

Thanks to reader David Neufeld for the winning pick. The runners-up were DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” (a primary-themed pick from reader Raymond Williams) and the old American spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” (an ominous pick from Charles Patterson). Regarding the latter, here’s a rendition more in line with Trump’s WrestleMania past:

Some honorable mentions from Elaine were Queen’s “I Want It All” (via Christopher Boehme) and the theme song from the musical Hair (via Geraldine Link). The most popular picks from readers were “My Way” by Frank Sinatra and “Send in the Clowns” by Judy Collins. One reader suggested “Real American” by Rick Derringer, “especially if Trump comes out to pyrotechnics.” Another pick was “Fucken Awesome”:

From the reader who recommended it:

Great band, great song, and sung by a woman to bring cross-over appeal. And really, what else can top “We Are the Champions” for self-assurance and braggadocio?  Even better, the swearing adds a dash of New York values …

(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)

All this week, Elaine—who writes our Politics & Policy Daily newsletter—has been soliciting reader responses to the question, “What song should Donald Trump come out to when he walks on stage Thursday night at the Republican National Convention?” Scores of you have written in, and Elaine will be announcing the top picks tomorrow, but right now, before The Donald struts out (or maybe flies out?) to the podium tonight, here’s an over-the-top entry from Susie that I couldn’t resist posting as a note, namely to publish the words “carnelian-red dripping maw”:

Trump’s walk-out melody at the RNC should be “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.” Costume and staging matter, too. His entrance will be preceded by a veritable battalion of marching, naked-but-draped, blonde bombshells (literally). His profligately gilt-edged children—clearly branded TRUMP on their foreheads, and with all their strings and the master puppeteer visible by over-head projection—will also join the procession, dropping tiny-but-very-white redneck effigies along his walkway (to mark his path of retreat).

Trump enters with a dark and crookedly flowing cape sporting stripes pulsing in neon yellow. The papier mâché wall following him is decorated in pesos-stuffed piñatas and bordered in the blood of migrants. The music will abruptly stop on a loud and jarring note immediately upon him reaching the podium and just after the crowd-circulated collection plates have been gathered into his grasping hands. Photo op: His orange face will outshine his yellow pulsing stripes, and the green of Republican dollars falling from his blistered hands into the black hole of his drooling, carnelian-red dripping maw will sparkle in the light of a purple Lucifer’s welcoming embrace.

That’s not what Ben Carson had in mind. Or Boehner.

(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)

Edward Sharpe, a reader in Alberta, recommends a cover song a little better suited for our series of song selections inspired by presidential candidates—and possible running mates? Here’s Edward:

I was tooling around in the car today and Lucinda Williams’s cover of AC/DC's “It’s A Long Way To The Top” came up. Her tone screamed out to the trip that Hillary Clinton is on. And the content, along with the Mavis Staples-like voice helping out in the background, had me thinking about Elizabeth Warren, her line of work, and her possible outspoken support for quite possibly the first woman POTUS. I didn’t think Warren was going to do that until next week, but she had probably announced very shortly before the tune came up for me. 

(Track of the Day archive here. Earlier archive here. Submit via hello@.)

For our periodic series of songs themed on presidential candidates, reader Meg nominates a Leonard Cohen classic for Bernie Sanders:

It’s appropriate on so many levels. The two men have a lot in common in generation and origin, but more importantly, in viewpoints on social justice, equality, individual liberty, and peace. Both are complex, but they are brave in their convictions, and this song addresses hope for the restoration of a functional democracy.

Update from a reader with an alternative pick:

Leonard Cohen is great, but for my money you’d be hard pressed to find a song more explicitly socialist in sentiment than Joseph Arthur's “Travel as Equals.” (There’s a studio version too, but this live version from the Letterman show is somehow far superior.) The message aimed straight at the 1%, and the emotion in Arthur’s vocals seem to me a perfect summation of the core of Bernie’s appeal.

(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here. Submit via hello@)

At a rally today in Illinois, presidential long shot John Kasich compared his life to that of Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, paraphrasing Gandalf to say that things in life don’t happen by accident. But if the Ohio governor were like Baggins—nice and inoffensive, nobody's really sure why he’s still around or what role he’s playing—then which characters from the book would most fit the other presidential candidates?

To her opponents, Hillary Clinton seems like Beorn, taking on whatever form is most convenient for the moment. Bernie Sanders, his supporters might say, is like Bard the Bowman as he goes after the elite wealth-hoarder Smaug. Marco Rubio is Fíli, the young, promising future leader who is unceremoniously killed. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is Thorin, a bombastic, riches-obsessed guy who is somehow leading everyone. Ted Cruz, like Gollum, covets his (class) ring. And Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal are the trolls who were knocked off early.

Long after the next president is sworn in, Kasich will probably still be around, living to 130 years old or so before one day crossing the sea with the elves.

(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here. Submit via hello@)

For our ongoing series of songs inspired by presidential candidates at a particular moment in the campaign, a reader sends this classic from Elton John:

My window may be quite small, so I’d like to take the opportunity to dedicate this song to Marco Rubio [who’s only won a single contest out of 15 primaries and caucuses but is still standing].

(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here. Submit via hello@)

A few weeks ago, a reader insisted, “It’s only fitting that each candidate gets a theme song that’s truly representative.” So far we’ve gotten entries for Trump, Sanders, and Cruz. Here’s one for Clinton—Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl,” which a pair of Clinton supporters mashed up with footage of her from several decades:

The reader adds, “If this video is truly independent, Team HRC needs to find these folks and hire them.” Update: The original video was removed from YouTube, so I replaced with a new copy, but if that gets removed too, here is the original Bikini Kill music video.

(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here.)

For our new series of songs themed on presidential candidates, readers have already submitted ones for Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. Today a reader sends “Donald Trump’s theme song,” which should be taken tongue in cheek:

Another reader gets the new series rolling:

“Joan of Arc” by Arcade Fire is way too perfect as a theme song for Ted Cruz coming out of the Iowa caucuses. There are quite a few songs about Joan out there—two operas, a musical, various pop songs from Leonard Cohen to Madonna—but this one is about how much hatred she inspired in others even though she was proven to be right in the end.

You had a vision they couldn’t see so
They put you down
But everything that you said would happen
It came around
And they’re the ones that put you down
'Cause they got no heart
But I'm the one that will follow you
You’re my Joan of Arc

I suspect Cruz isn’t quite ready to be burned at the stake for his beliefs, but his followers do seem to believe he has a direct line to G-d.

If you have a song you think fits a theme of one of the presidential candidates: