As we here at Blogcritics.org know, how one responds to popular culture – or even IF one responds to popular culture at all – can say volumes about a person. How we entertain ourselves and sensitivity to art can reveal much about our inner workings.
Stephen Snowder calls the media in general to task for ignoring what he sees as a key element of the Democratic presidential campaign debate from a couple of weeks ago in Baltimore:
- It took a question about music — “What’s your favorite song?” — to produce the only authentic moments at the recent Democratic debate in Baltimore and to show just how unsatisfying these campaign events have become.
….Carol Moseley Braun went first. She’s not just a long shot for the Democratic nomination, she’s a no shot. But she answered quickly, a confident smile on her face. “You Gotta Be,” by R&B-flavored pop artist Des’ree, is an optimistic, energetic song that almost everyone knows. It’s a lot like the candidate herself — uplifting, rather than realistic.
….Al Sharpton was next. He chose soul singer James Brown’s “Talking Loud and Saying Nothing,” calling it “James Brown’s song about the Republican Party.” This is vintage Sharpton — clever, and yet easily turned against him.
….John Edwards had to follow Sharpton all night. He fumbled for several seconds, muttering something about how hard it was (again) to follow the New York preacher. Clearly nonplussed by the question, he finally fell back on one of his campaign theme songs: rocker John Mellencamp’s “Small Town,” a good, safe tune that reminds the audience of his blue-collar roots.
….John Kerry wants us to know that he is not a typical liberal. The title of Kerry’s song choice — “No Surrender,” by Bruce Springsteen — invokes the language of war. Unlike any of his opponents, Kerry served bravely in Vietnam, commanding a gunboat and returning home a decorated hero.
….Dean chose “Jaspora,” a Creole hip-hop number by Haitian-born Wyclef Jean that Dean identified as “one you’ve never heard of.” The simple lyrics are garnished with Biblical allusions and supported by an addictive reggae beat. It is utterly apolitical. It’s not even in English.
….Lieberman, who has called Dean “a rookie,” opted to play the political pro by choosing two songs, neither of which anyone believes is his favorite. The first was Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow),” Bill Clinton’s theme song. Ah, the good old days. (I guess we’re supposed to forget that Lieberman made his name by being the first Democrat to break with Clinton over the Monica affair.) The second was Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” — either a show of strength or a show of arrogance. One thing for sure: He’s not going after Gen X, Y or Z.
Dennis Kucinich picked John Lennon’s “Imagine.” He deserves credit for consistency: That’s exactly the song one might expect from the Ohio representative, who says he wants to establish a Department of Peace. If we were wondering whether he was more than a one-issue candidate, we can stop wondering.
Dick Gephardt’s answer was Springsteen’s signature song: “Born in the U.S.A.” It’s got a nice, jingoistic title, but it’s a little mystifying that a pro-war Democrat chose an antiwar anthem about a Vietnam soldier who returns home not to a ticker-tape parade but to hardship and tragedy. I cannot imagine why the Missouri congressman chose it.
….Bob Graham, the candidate who looks most like your grandfather, had the benefit of going last. He must have thought that he was still running for governor of Florida because he chose Jimmy Buffett’s “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” a fun but meaningless summer song. [Washington Post]
It is very interesting how these people – for they are people, by the way – spontaneously chose to identify themselves. Is it the song or the message, or both? Snowder finds much that is ironic or odd about the candidate’s selections, and he is right to call attention to them.