Examples: "Your Smiling Face," James Taylor; "I Got You," Wilco
What It Says: Dad-rockers are basically Obama's key demographic: Well-to-do, suburban, educated, and (probably) moderate Democrats politically. The only surprise about Wilco's inclusion was that there's only one of their tunes on the list. The band is from Obama's home base of Chicago, it has played benefits for him, and he's noted his love for its members. If Obama loses, he'll be singing not "I Got You" but rather "Misunderstood" (I'd like to thank you all/For nothing/Nothing at all."). One might expect a president working hard to win the Tar Heel State might have chosen Taylor's "Carolina in My Mind."
SOUL AND R&B
Examples: "Let's Stay Together," Al Green; "Love You I Do," Jennifer Hudson; "Green Onions," Booker T. & the MGs
What It Says: This is the largest single genre group, but it runs the gamut from classic soul (Aretha is for the same aging boomer population as James Taylor) to more contemporary fare like Raphael Saadiq. A large number of R&B tunes helps the president connect with black audiences without turning off older white folks: Who doesn't love "Green Onions"? And after his own impromptu rendition, the Al Green standard was a mandatory selection.
Examples: "Different People," No Doubt; "The Best Thing About Me Is You," Rick Martin feat. Joss Stone
What It Says: We're frankly puzzled. Obama has very few straight pop tunes, and the ones he does are a little offbeat -- No Doubt? Is he running for president of 1998? It's also a little surprising that he left off his pal Justin Bieber.
Examples: "My Town," Montgomery Gentry; "Stand Up," Sugarland
What It Says: The president knows he needs to firm up his support among white working-class voters, so country is the second-largest group of songs after soul and R&B. The choices tend to be patriotic, small-town-America-celebrating songs, logically enough. But they show a rather limited taste for and knowledge of all things twang: there are two songs apiece from country-pop crossover stars Sugarland and from Darius Rucker, the former Hootie & the Blowfish frontman who's remade himself as a Nashville star.
What It Says: In a shocking omission, Obama hasn't included a single rap song on his list. That's despite vocal support and occasional musical shoutouts from Jay-Z, Nas, and others; despite his own professed love for Lil Wayne; despite his invitation of Common to the White House; and despite K'Naan publicly offering the president use of his "Wavin' Flag" even as he asked Mitt Romney to stop using it. But rap is dangerous territory for a politician, liable to scare off older white voters and with lyrics often marred by casual sexism and talk of violence. After Common's appearance caused a kerfuffle, the Obama team is trying to tread carefully.