Donald Trump has become the latest in a long line of politicians who can’t pick an appropriate song for toffee. Try listening to the lyrics, says Liz Buckley.
There’s a long, dearly held tradition in the US that presidential candidates are shit at music.
Last week, Donald Trump announced his presidential intentions with his own astonishingly badly judged soundtrack and hair, slowly moving towards supporters with thumbs aloft on a downward escalator while standing quite still to Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World, all in a building named after himself. A moron’s own staging of what it looks like to be successful.
Trump had made the mistake of thinking Rockin’ in the Free World might be about being a backward, prejudiced, undeservingly rich, reality TV cunt such as himself, when a small amount of research would have shown him it’s actually Neil Young’s attack on George H. W. Bush for widening the social inequalities and income disparity in the States.
Not a great mistake to make and one he might have avoided if his camp had the manners or basic business sense to have properly cleared permission with Young’s management in the first place. Neil Young quickly issued a statement not only asserting the lack of clearance, but also aligning himself to Bernie Sanders’ camp in preference and, my favourite, adding that he is Canadian.
The Republicans, famously, had previously come unstuck when Reagan used Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA as part of his 1984 re-election campaign soundtrack, even referring to Springsteen in his speeches, having decided it was the epitome of one plaid-shirted New Jersey guy’s hopes and Americans dreams.
Reagan thought this without realising the song’s air-punching mock-patriotism is actually a disgusted attack on America’s shameful treatment of Vietnam veterans. He also thought this despite having been denied permission from Bruce Springsteen’s management upfront, but this wasn’t enough to stop him, and as time told us, stupidity and firm denials weren’t anything to stand in Reagan’s way.
“Couples have lovingly stared into each other’s eyes to Babybird’s You’re Gorgeous during countless first wedding dances, never really listening beyond ‘I’ll do anything for you’.”
The UK can’t say it hasn’t messed up of course. Tony Blair repeatedly used D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better in the Labour Party’s 1997 campaign, which wasn’t a mistake in the sense that he had the band’s full backing at the time. It was just a mistake in that it turns out he became a war criminal. Things definitely got worse. No wonder Brian Cox went into space; what else can you do?
Misunderstanding a song’s intention is by no means limited to politicians either. Couples have lovingly stared into each other’s eyes to Babybird’s You’re Gorgeous during countless first wedding dances, never really listening beyond “I’ll do anything for you”, lala-ing through the verses and everyone chiming back in for the big chorus.
The song is actually about a soft-porn photoshoot with a poor girl trapped on the car bonnet of a grimy photographer’s car as he charms her into compromising positions. Babybird’s Stephen Jones is brilliant at being happy-sad, creepy-mad and cutesy-sick and this one song of his is relentlessly taken massively out of context. Knowing that, let me leave hanging in the air the fact the song was even used to advertise children’s Nurofen.
Personally, I do actually love a mismatched wedding song and have laughed myself silly that my friend Pandora was once at a wedding that playlisted Edwin Starr’s War before seguing into Eminem’s Stan. If the bride and groom didn’t end that wedding on an argument, shouting “WAR! WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?” before bundling either one of them (don’t mind) into the boot of a car, I don’t want to hear about it.
Sometimes lyrics can be misunderstood wilfully, of course. The Beatles’ Blackbird is often treated more as a children’s nursery rhyme than their thoughts on mid-1960s American civil rights, as some people just didn’t enjoy those wobbly-headed moptops being political, and Helter Skelter definitely doesn’t secretly want us to kill everyone in sight as told by the voices. I’ve always quite enjoyed Courtney Love thinking Nirvana’s Heart–Shaped Box was about her. Intimately about her, as she was telling Lana Del Ray publicly over Twitter just the other day. To be honest though, Kurt really burst that bubble back in the day when asked its meaning – “Children with cancer”. Sexy!
Just be careful whenever you’re near anyone who says: “Oh! I love this song! It’s basically all about ME”. It isn’t.
Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.