Monday 10 March 2008

Election News: Campaign Song Special

In an election news special, AMS student Kirsty Callaghan presents a guide to campaign songs:

Campaign songs have played some kind of role in US presidential elections since George Washington’s "Follow Washington" in 1789 (a sample selection can be heard here). The 2008 presidential race is certainly no different. As in previous elections, the candidates have used a wide range of songs, trying to select ones that reflect their message as candidates.

Ben Harper’s "Better Way" has been used by Barack Obama's team at various points on the campaign trail:

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, allowed her supporters to pick their favourite from a list of songs for use in her campaign. The Clintons filmed a short video to announce the decision – a parody of the final ever scene of The Sopranos, with the fans eventually picking Celine Dion’s "You and I".

More recently, Hillary has revealed a new campaign song specifically targeting Latino voters, "Hillary, Hillary Clinton", available here.

John McCain has used Chuck Berry’s "Johnny Be Goode" and several of John Mellencamp’s songs, before Mellencamp requested McCain stop using his material, as happened when Bruce Springsteen asked Reagan to stop using "Born in the USA" and Tom Petty threatened to sue George W Bush unless he ceased to use "I Won’t Back Down".

However, arguably far more popular than the official songs are the unofficial campaign songs created by supporters, largely in favour of Obama. of Black Eyed Peas fame has created a series of pro-Obama videos, some musical and others spoken, which have proven to be immensely popular on YouTube. The first and most popular, "Yes We Can", which currently also features on the official Obama campaign website, has had 5,852,103 viewings since February 2nd. It consists of the speech Obama made following his defeat in the New Hampshire primary, set to music and starring, amongst others, Scarlett Johansson, John Legend and basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The second most popular, "We are the Ones", has had 830,294 viewings since February 29th and is less of a song than "Yes We Can", but rather consists of crowds chanting “Obama”, with various celebrities saying what change they would like to see, spoken in a combination of English and Spanish.

Not quite as popular, but with a still substantial number of viewings is an anti-McCain video made in a very similar style to "Yes We Can" - "". Having been viewed 1,514,187 times since February 11th, the video features a selection of clips from McCain speeches and interviews, with several not-quite-so-well-known personalities singing along, before each realising exactly what McCain is saying, such as “That old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran? Bomb bomb bomb, Bomb bomb Iran.” The video ends with an alternative campaign slogan: “McCain 08 – ‘Like hope, but different'”. Hillary Clinton has not yet experienced the same kind of YouTube support as Obama, perhaps a reflection of Obama’s popularity amongst YouTube’s main demographic. All the Democratic and Republican candidates have taken part in YouTube debates, as a way of engaging and interacting with a wider audience, particularly young Americans, answering questions asked in video format by YouTube users.

All the videos have sparked some heated debates amongst their viewers, with "Yes We Can" having received some 56,353 comments so far. The ‘Comments and Reponses’ boards have become a place for viewers to throw insults at each of the candidates and at one another. They have served as a forum for political discussion, with viewers debating some major issues such as abortion rights, the war in Iraq and the qualities that make for a good President, with some questionable spelling, punctuation and usage of CAPITAL LETTERS!!!1

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