President Obama Made America A Mixtape

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Political playlists aren’t easy. If there’s one off color lyric — or if the artist doesn’t agree with your agenda — you’ve got a minor scandal on your hands.  Remember the uproar when Obama invited rapper Common to a White House poetry event? Or when Tom Petty, Sting and John Mellencamp all separately asked George W. Bush to stop using their music in his campaigns? The same thing happened to John McCain when his 2008 campaign played Heart’s “Barracuda” as a tribute to Sarah Palin’s high school nickname. And most recently, Newt Gingrich was sued for using the Rocky III theme song “Eye of the Tiger.” So whoever selected the songs for President Obama’s first official Spotify playlist (available here) had a pretty difficult task.

(MORE: A Brief History of Political Campaign Songs)

How do you make the President look cool, but not too cool? (Answer: Wilco). Thoroughly American (Sugarland) but in a way that isn’t specific to one region of the country? (Everybody loves Aretha!) How can he appeal to young people (Arcade Fire) without alienating the olds (REO Speedwagon)? Cater to Christians (Al Green, now a reverend) without offending anyone else (only his early stuff). And most importantly, how do you include songs that the President actually listens to? (I assume that’s why there’s so much of Hootie and the Blowfish’s Darius Rucker on here).

The most interesting part of Obama’s Campaign 2012 playlist is the inclusion of Ricky Martin’s 2010 song “The Best Thing About Me Is You.” The song itself is relatively apolitical (the English version is a duet with Joss Stone) but Martin’s music video is quite the opposite. It’s a feel good statement about GLBT pride — a bold move for the Puerto Rican singer, especially when you consider the fact that at the time, he’d only recently announced that he was gay. Obama’s Spotify playlist was released the same week that California’s Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional and Washington state’s house voted to legalize same-sex marriage. The song might be a quiet statement of support from the President. Or maybe Michelle just vetoed his first choice, “She Bangs.”

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