It’s 2009, and in the deep inner recesses of the White House, President John Sidney McCain III is preparing to meet with his National Security Council to discuss the latest international crisis. As he collects his thoughts and flicks through his notes, a tune drifts into his mind. If you were to stand close enough, you might even hear him mumbling the lyrics under his breath. “Friday night and the lights are low...”
Blender magazine’s report that McCain’s favourite song of all time is ABBA’s Dancing Queen, a choice so improbable and bizarre that McCain has since denied putting it at the top of his list, has rocked the media world. Particularly giddy have been the reactions of the online media, from PerezHilton to CNN.com.
When asked about his number one choice at a press conference on Monday, McCain was keen to point out that he thought he had chosen Frank Sinatra’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin as his favourite, a song which appears much further down Blender’s printed list at number eight. Despite McCain’s correction, the inclusion of two ABBA songs in the presumptive Republican party nominee’s top ten has not gone unnoticed.
Unsurprisingly, Obama’s list encompasses a far greater range of modern songs than McCain’s. The average year of release for the songs on the Democrat’s list is 1983; on McCain’s list, which includes a greater number of classics, it’s 1966. In fact, Dancing Queen is the most recent of McCain’s choices, released in 1976, whilst Obama chooses three songs from the noughties.
This includes will.i.am’s viral Internet music video Yes We Can at number ten, which incorporates soundbites from Obama’s New Hampshire primary concession speech. Narcissistic this choice may seem, but it shows that even when publically picking his favourite songs, Obama concludes with a charismatic wink and a cheeky grin.
Missing from McCain’s list is Running on Empty, the song by Jackson Browne which the McCain campaign team used with reference to Obama in a negative television advert earlier this month. The infamous ad, which compared Obama to celebrities Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, has provoked Browne to sue McCain for using his song without permission.
All songs by Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are also omitted from McCain’s list.
When the contents of George W Bush’s iPod were revealed in April 2005, the presence of anti-establishment bands such as Credence Clearwater Revival appeared as bizarre as McCain’s top 10. However, Bush’s former chief media strategist and cycling partner Mark McKinnon told the New York Times that an iPod playlist which overlooked all anti-establishment artists would be decidedly “slim”.
Whilst Bush’s musical taste may distance him from his politics, McCain’s happy-go-lucky top 10 seems even less congruous with his recent negative campaign ads and the straight-laced conservatism traditionally associated with the Republican party. From the frivolous fun-in-the-sun ambience of the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations, to the put-on-your-gladrags goodtime feel of Dancing Queen, the prevailing image of McCain is of a 1960s teenager who just wants to have fun (in actual fact, the nominee celebrated his 30th birthday during that particular decade).
The reality is rather different: Good Vibrations was released in October 1966, the same month that McCain was assigned Vietnam war duty.
Mark McKinnon stated in 2005 that political analysts should not read too much into the President’s iPod playlists. Yet in the run-up to the party conventions in the next two weeks, every word and every gesture of each nominee will be scrutinised to the nth degree. Recent research on battleground states, reported by Politicana below, shows just how close the 2008 race could become. Who’s to say it won’t rest on the crucial swing votes of some ABBA fans from Ohio?
By Robert Black