Are You An Undecided Voter? Let Music Be Your Guide!

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It’s Election Eve 2012, and the Weeping Elvii have thus far managed to keep our heads above the political fray. After all, we are a music ‘zine not a political blog, so we support your right to vote for the candidate of your choice for any office, even if it’s “The rent is too damn high” dude.

In the Presidential race, we’ve heard the choice described by some voters as the “lesser of two evils.” Come on —it’s not like you’re being asked to decide between the Jonas Brothers and One Direction! But if you are indeed an undecided voter (and we’re not quite sure how you could be) then why not base your final determination on a criteria near and dear to your heart, like musical taste? If economic and international affairs public debates have not convinced you, you just might be the type of voter who may be swayed by the musical performances, choices, and tastes of the candidates.

At this late juncture and after $6 billion of campaign ads, this is as good a method as any to determine which way your chad hangs. Hey — it beats the hell out of a coin flip! Think of it like the woman in your office pool who fills out her NCAA bracket winners by team colors.

So let us start by offering you some facts…yes actual facts that don’t need verification by John King, Donna Brazille or Rush Limbaugh‘s doctor. Many of these facts were recorded live to video with (unfortunately for some) neither overdubbing nor Auto-Tune. Some of these are actual “on the record” points of data, but ALL are undisputed (unlike much of what political candidates usually assert).

Category 1: Musical Skills

Let’s start with POTUS himself.

While giving a traditional speech at The Apollo Theatre in January, the building’s history was simply too much for President Obama to resist, and he was moved to croon a cappela the first 7 words of The Right Reverend Al Green’s immortal 1972 hit “Let’s Stay Together.”  By all accounts, The Prez nailed it with his breathy, sexy, and very much in-tune falsetto. The Apollo/”Let’s Stay Together” moment may have even surpassed Bill Clinton’s saxy moment on The Aresenio Hall Show and Nixon’s pre-Watergate piano concerto as the greatest musical moment in Presidential history.

It even prompted Rev. Al (Green, not Sharpton), who was in the audience at the time, to remark that he was “thrilled.” High praise coming from one of the greatest (not to mention coitus-inducing) soul singers of all time, who saw a near 500% increase in sales of this classic ballad immediately following Mr. Obama’s impromptu cover. It only took 7 words, 3 bars, and less than 10 seconds for the President to have this much impact on Rev Al’s catalog…just think of what he could do for the beleaguered music industry if he crooned regularly! Picture it: everyone from Jay-Z to the Foo Fighters sending their latest demos, mix-tapes and singles to the White House in hopes of getting the President-approved sale bump! Hello, stimulus!

We also can cite Mr. Obama’s hipster, jazz-like spoken word, “slow jamming the news” segment on Jimmy Fallon, as well as being called up on stage by blues legend Buddy Guy to hit a well-sung line on “Sweet Home Chicago” with Mick Jagger, B.B. King and Gary Clark Jr. standing by. Hell, he even gave Dylan a medal (Bob’s response to it all is still being deciphered and transcribed…we think he was pleased but he may have been ordering waffles). There is also this: POTUS has consistently been seen (along with the First Lady) clapping on beats 2 and 4 at inaugural and other White House events. Mr. Obama is even a Grammy winner — granted, it was for Best Spoken Word Album but his Grammy looks just the same as Arcade Fire’s or Bon Iver’s. Even if you deny all this, one (of any party) must admit that he keeps good musical company.

 

As for Governor Romney’s musical skills? Well, let’s just say that the good Lord and /or Joseph Smith did not bless him with the musical gene quite commonly found among the Mormon persuasion (The Osmonds, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Sen. Orrin Hatch, and Romney rival/keyboardist Governor/Ambassador Jon Huntsman).  Video of the Guv belting out a lifeless, tone-deaf rendition of “America the Beautiful” and a tune of undetermined origin and melody that linguistically would baffle Lt. Uhura (as featured repeatedly by David Letterman, who describes it solely as “some Mormon hymn”) are so musically incriminating that they have even been used by his opponent in a campaign ad. If you’ve got the intestinal fortitude for these type of things, have a go. But after just five seconds, we found ourselves screaming “Mein Gott im Himmel, make it stop!” Regardless of what you think about Governor Romney’s politics, when it comes to his singing…well let’s just be glad he has a good head for business.

 

Category 2: Musicians as Surrogates

By previous Republican standards Mitt Romney’s support looks like Live Aid — he’s got Kid Rock warming up the crowds at his shows, and everyone from Gene Simmons to (what’s left of) Lynyrd Skynyrd to Trace Adkins to The Nuge. And a gaggle of country singers.

POTUS is spending the last days of the campaign zooming around swing states with Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z as opening acts. His campaign has also featured performances by Bon Jovi and a new song/video from will.i.am. One would expect hip-hop artists like Common and Young Jeezy to support the President, but he’s also garnered support from country artists including Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw, and a group called DJs for Obama, which includes the likes of Steve Aoki and DJ Cassidy.

The musical crimes of Jon Bon Jovi and Black Eyed Peas notwithstanding, the advantage here also goes to Obama. As we’ve pointed out before, an endorsement from Kid Rock (who is not a kid nor does he rock) might have mattered more ten years ago and a pre-plane crash Skynyrd endorsement might have counted for something in the late 70s but having the “thumbs up” from the guitar tech on the Rosington-Collins ’81 tour just isn’t persuasive. And as far as we know Ted Nugent is either in federal prison for threatening the president, teaching people how to live off the land at a survivalist compound, or both. That being said….POTUS sure does have a lot of 1%-ers in his camp.

 

Category 3: Campaign Playlists

Which campaign’s playlist you prefer could be more information to help you decide which election-night afterparty you’ll want to attend. These lists are compiled from the songs that are played at each candidate’s political rallies.

Mr. Obama’s campaign playlist is all over the genre map with classic artists like Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, Booker T. & The MG’s, Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind and Fire, country stalwarts like The Zac Brown Band, Dierks Bentley and Sugarland, alternative artists like Wilco, Florence and the Machine and Arcade Fire, and gems such as neo-soulstress Janelle Monae.

The Romney campaign playlist is — as one might expect — full of country artists that include Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood, and is undeniably far more “old-school” with Frankie Valli, The Beach Boys, Nat King Cole, Roy Orbison, Del Shannon and The Kingston Trio. The choice of The Killers and “The Man in Black” are nice touches but color me baffled with the list’s lead-off choice from the movie O Brother Where Art Thou, “Man of Constant Sorrow.” It’s one of the great soundtracks and an amazing version of the Appalachian classic, but choosing such pained subject matter to represent one’s campaign seems a bit…tone deaf, if you will. Of note, several artists (including Tom Petty) asked the Romney campaign to remove their songs from his events.

 

Category 4: Running Mates

Let’s not forget our current Veep and his challenger.

Paul Ryan’s aides probably scrambled looking for the fastest, highest bandwith wireless connection once Rep. Ryan announced that his iPod playlist… “started with AC/DC and ended with Zeppelin.” It’s an image at odds with the one of young, eager, Brooks Brother-attired Republican aides more likely to wear cashmere than listen to “Kashmir.” In any case, if Rep. Ryan’s point was to talk of his play list from A-Z, would not AC/DC to Zeppelin only get him up to L?

Then of course there was Mr. Ryan invoking Rage Against the Machine. I would like to see his play count on The Battle of Los Angeles. This of course provoked RATM guitarist and resident socialist Tom Morello to point out that Mr. Ryan and company are EXACTLY the machine they are raging against.

The unofficial PX90 spokesmodel also has been quoted as saying… “At Wisconsin Badgers football games in Madison, they start every fourth quarter with House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around,’ so [that song] brings me back to Wisconsin.” House of Pain? Wisconsin? There was a Sesame Street segment where this particular song played while the young children on set encouraged those watching to get some exercise by doing as the song says…whether the song has had the same effect on the potential Romney/Ryan electoral base is unclear.

As for Vice President Biden? Well, much less is known but People reports that Mr. Biden confessed to Ray LaMontagne’s “You Are The Best Thing” being a favorite on the campaign trail. His love of The Chieftans is on the record and his love of great Irish music extends to the ballads of great Irish crooners Paddy Maloney and Frank Patterson as they made him “think of my mother.” Now, who can disparage that?

So there you have it — all the information you undecided voters need to make an informed rock-n-roll choice in the voting booth. Now crank up the volume, get out there, and vote!

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Clem emerged from the underbelly of NashVegas where he began his love of ALL things musical. College found him in the commercial music program at the University of Miami where he actually learned what the hell he was doing. New York was next and whether he “made it there” is still up for debate. From playing in the honky-tonks of Nashville and the dance clubs of Miami to Broadway and theatrical stages around the country, to Carnegie Hall (while practicing one day somebody told him how to get there) and the recording studios of New York and L.A., Clem’s variety of musical experience has transcended the boundaries of genre. He owns a production company, lectures on music in colleges across the country and is on the visiting faculty of Elon Univ. He has a port-o-johns named after him at Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza.