Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have made public playlists (or, their respective media teams have, anyway) to prove that they’re just a coupl’a regular guys who need a good road trip soundtrack to keep them awake. But we all know these mixes are meticulously curated and scrubbed of “unrelatable” songs: while VP nominee Paul Ryan can admit a fondness for Rage Against The Machine, Obama and Romney’s spin doctors would’ve swapped out such an abrasive choice with, say, Spin Doctors.
The playlists depict a neutered version of the candidates’ listening realities, but the chosen songs reveal details about how each man wants to be perceived, and provide clues to their true musical leanings. So with that in mind, we’ve analyzed the two playlists to determine who has better taste in music. (Pressing political issues, people.) Read on to see if we’d rather rock out with Romney or Obama.
Here’s Obama’s 28-song campaign playlist (it has now grown to 41 tracks, but we’ll use the smaller, early version):
No Doubt — Different People
Earth Wind & Fire Experience feat. Al McKay Allstars — Got To Get You Into My Life (Live)
Booker T. & The MG’s — Green Onions
Wilco — I Got You
The Impressions — Keep On Pushing
Jennifer Hudson — Love You I Do
AgesandAges — No Nostalgia
Ledisi — Raise Up
Sugarland — Stand Up
Darius Rucker — This
Arcade Fire — We Used to Wait
Florence + The Machine — You’ve Got The Love
James Taylor — Your Smiling Face
REO Speedwagon — Roll With The Changes
Raphael Saadiq — Keep Marchin’
Noah And The Whale — Tonight’s The Kind Of Night
Zac Brown Band — Keep Me In Mind
Aretha Franklin — The Weight
U2 — Even Better Than The Real Thing
Dierks Bentley — Home
Sugarland — Everyday America
Darius Rucker — Learn To Live
Al Green — Let’s Stay Together
Electric Light Orchestra — Mr. Blue Sky
Montgomery Gentry — My Town
Ricky Martin — The Best Thing About Me Is You Feat. Joss Stone
Ray LaMontagne — You Are The Best Thing
Bruce Springsteen — We Take Care Of Our Own
To Show He’s “With It”: Arcade Fire, Florence + The Machine
To Show He Has Eclectic Taste: Wilco, ELO, Raphael Saadiq
Most Pandering Song: While Bruce’s latest lefty anthem could go here, we actually believe Obama listens to it. But a Ricky Martin message song? Not buying it, Mr. President.
Notably Absent: Rap. The president is an avowed fan of Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, but nary a scary rap song appears on his playlist. Not even positive, “conscious” rap from the ’90s like Arrested Development!
What It All Means: Starting off with a Tragic Kingdom deep track is a George W. Bush-like gut decision; it shows Obama isn’t just a front-runner latching onto hit singles. Perhaps the familiar ska-lite of No Doubt signals an appreciation for bands like The Specials or Madness. Also, by highlighting Achtung-era U2 and choosing a few obscure musicians (AgesandAges?), the president shows he has some hipster leanings.
Now, here is Mitt Romney’s 19-song playlist of tunes he listens to on the road:
The Soggy Bottom Boys — I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow
The Killers — Read My Mind
Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons — December, 1963 (Oh What A Night)
Johnny Cash — Ring Of Fire
The Killers — Somebody Told Me
The Kingston Trio — The MTA (The Boston Subway Song)
The Beach Boys — Good Vibrations
Clint Black — Desperado (Live)
Roy Orbison — Crying
Commodores — Only You (Long Version)
Del Shannon — Runaway
Tim McGraw — It’s Your Love
Toby Keith — As Good As I Once Was
Kid Rock — Born Free
Willie Nelson — Over The Rainbow
Nat King Cole — Stardust
Roy Orbison — In Dreams
Keith Urban —Somebody Like You
Carrie Underwood — All-American Girl
Bonus campaign rally track: Silversun Pickups — Panic Switch
To Show He’s “With It”: The Killers, Silversun Pickups
To Show He Has Eclectic Taste: Nat King Cole, Johnny Cash, Commodores
Most Pandering Song: Even when stripped of all this political context, Kid Rock’s “Born Free” is one of the most pandering songs ever created. So when you pair it with a politician trying to ensnare the votes of Middle America, you get a Ford F-150 commercial come to life.
Notably Absent: Classical. No Bach to balance out Kid Rock? Guess Romney’s not so elitist after all. Also missing? Women. Carrie Underwood is the lone female voice on the list.
What It All Means: We were intrigued by the androgynous glam of The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me” paired with the psychedelic anthem “Good Vibrations.” Perhaps lurking underneath Romney’s straitlaced veneer is a wannabe party animal who lives vicariously through the cooler-than-thou, gender-bending David Bowie and the druggy Sgt. Pepper’s.
Conclusion: Both guys display an extensive knowledge of early rock n’ roll (Del Shannon, Booker T & The MG’s, etc.), which is to be expected. Obama has more breadth — he highlights soul as much as country, the ’90s as much as current acts and oldies. Apparently they’d both like to forget that the ’80s ever happened, but Romney would also like to forget that divas ever happened. When it comes to country, Romney is the clear winner, his choices of Johnny, Willie and Carrie totally punking Obama’s strange affinity for Darius Rucker and Sugarland. But Obama has a savvier ear for pop music.
Enough stalling, who would we rather spin some tunes with? We’d have to go with Obama, mainly because he’s more of a genre- and period-hopper. Which also makes us think he’d be more likely to rock out to the spin doctor-rejected songs we’d subject him to.