There are two ways to look at campaign playlists. The first is that it's just a bunch of songs that have a lively enough beat to keep the crowd energetic and happy. The second is that every single artist and tune is selected to subtly communicate messages about the candidate and his policies. The Atlantic Wire prefers the second option, because it is more interesting. Both President Obama's and Mitt Romney's playlists are designed to appeal to people who might be skeptical of them. Obama's tracks are meant to not scare white people. Romney's are picked to win over to people he'll never understand: the Republican base.
President Obama's campaign playlist contained a few gems, but it was shockingly safe. Sure, it has a variety of artists -- neo-soul and country pop! -- but within each category, the campaign made the safest selection possible. Most notably, the songs by black artists were really old -- Al Green, Aretha Franklin -- or neo-soul like Raphael Saadiq, whom Pitchfork described as an artist who thinks 1960s soul sounds "don't need to be revived, resurrected, retrofitted, or revitalized. They just need to be played." The country songs, on the other hand, were really new -- bland Nashville pop like Sugarland, whose "Everyday America" music video literally takes place in a supermarket aisle. No country classics like Johnny Cash, who was, after all, the author of that criminal-coddling classic "Man in Black."
The Killers, "Read My Mind" -- The lead singer is Mormon.
Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations"
Clint Black, "Desperado (LIVE)"
Roy Orbison, "Crying"
Commodores, "Only You" - Long Version
Del Shannon, "Runaway" -- What this says about politics, I don't know. But the video is hilarious: Shannon stands on a platform and sings while a dozen girls in crop tops dance in a circle around him. Romney should try this at a campaign rally.
Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, "It's Your Love" -- So many love songs. All during the primary, Romney's campaign has tried to appeal to women by portraying him as a long-married family man.
Toby Keith, "As Good As I Once Was"
Kid Rock, "Born Free" -- Kid Rock played at Romney rallies in Michigan. Yes, again, it's hard to get bands to let Republican candidates play their songs. But Kid Rock? Seriously? Put aside the taste thing -- the man has had four mug shots.
Willie Nelson, "Over the Rainbow" -- This song was made famous by Judy Garland, a gay icon. Is it Romney's way of saying he's not anti-gay without scaring the conservative audience? Also, it seems unlikely Obama would have included on his playlist the notable marijuana-legalization advocate.
Nat King Cole, "Stardust"
Roy Orbison, "In Dreams"
Keith Urban, "Somebody Like You"
Carrie Underwood, "All-American Girl" -- This is another girl-power video, sort of, with lots of wigs.