We’ve heard it a bazillion times whenever a president walks into the room: dun-dun dah-dah, dah-dah-dun-dah-dah dah-daaahh-dah. To that we say, “Boooring.” So, just in time for Inauguration Day, we’d like to offer these alternatives to “Hail To The Chief” that would have allowed our chief executives throughout history to traipse into a room and address big, scary American issues in style—or, present themselves honestly, at least.
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BEASTIE BOYS - "Girls"
When we decided to do this playlist, I immediately knew I would have to pick a song for Bill Clinton, and it would have to be a Beastie Boys song. Clinton has been my favorite president since I was seven (read: I was a nerd even then). However, as much as I love Bill, I can't pretend that he doesn't have his flaws, especially when it comes to the ladies. (After all, it almost cost him his job once.) Still, I hope that he would appreciate my choice of song for him and see it not as a slight, but as a head-shaking, sly smiling "Oh, Bill, you old dog" kind of tune. At the end of the day, Bill—like every straight man out there—loves the ladies. He's a charsimatic flirt, and that charisma is what helped him recover from that messy blue-dress scandal and made him one of the most-loved presidents.[BM]
THE DIRTBOMBS - "Ode To A Black Man"
The song was originally written by the late Phil Lynott, the leader and lyrical genius of the classic British metal band Thin Lizzy. The raw, rave-up version delivered by Detroit garage-rock fulcrums the Dirtbombs celebrates major figures in black history, with references to Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammed Ali, Robert Johnson and Professor Longhair. Given our obstinant Congress, it's the song's chorus that brings it all home. "There are people in the town that try to put me down/They say I don't give a damn/but the people in the town that try to put me down/Are the people in this town that could never understand a black man/Don't take it no more." It's all driven home with two drummers, several charging guitars, one screeching harmonica and Mick Collins' commanding vocal. Don't take it no more, in-fecking-deed... [JP]
EMERY - "Studying Politics"
Sure, this song is probably about a girl (I mean, it's a by pop-screamo band; of course it's about a girl), but a good president could adapt its lyrics to be about the political struggle they must go through to get elected. "It's in the way you sell every word and phrase/And leaving me to know how much the meaning weighs/Saying that but meaning this/Using hands for emphasis.” Kinda sounds like a presidential debate, no? [SH]
THE GET-UP KIDS - “Rally ‘Round The Fool”
“Rally ‘round the fool/We all fall” are a pair of lines that were destined to describe a faulty leader. I just want to see someone hijack a PA system and send the screeching, ominous end of this song sweeping through a crowd of uppity politicians to watch them squirm when Human Force One steps in. In fact, I want to be that person. It can’t be too difficult to get past secret service, right? What could go wrong? [CW]
GAMEFACE - "Election Year"
A staple of SoCal punk-rock group Gameface’s catalog is the three-chord classic “Election Year.” It’s part personal and part political, a song suited for the skeptic in everyone. “It’s an election year/Can you feel the changes coming?/It’s an election year/But who’s voting?” [BK]
GREEN DAY - "American Idiot"
One of the best-known politically themed songs in recent years is "American Idiot," the title track of Green Day's 2004 album famously criticizing the state of America. Its massive success even landed it on Broadway with an adaptation in 2010. With more than 14 million albums sold to date and four Grammy nods, it's highly possible your mom has a copy. The single itself lashes out at a lack of social progress with the vintage punk-rock vigor that Green Day fans were missing: “Well maybe I’m the faggot American/I’m not a part of a redneck agenda.” [BK]
GREEN DAY - "Platypus (I Hate You)"
Given certain congressmen's recent public desires to shut down the government, how can you not imagine our commander in chief walking into the Capitol singing, "Red eye, code blue/I'd like to strangle you/And watch your eyes bulge right out of your skull"? Yes, I know we expect our elected officials to be of higher regard than we are ourselves. But I remember the time when four candidates from the Republican primary accused the President of appeasing America's enemies in some act of foreign policy PR. "Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al-Qaida leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement," was the President's response. I'm pretty sure he would've preferred to lift a verse from Billie Joe Armstrong's attack on a wiseass journalist. Still, I hope he's got this track on his iPod. [JP]
JAY-Z & KANYE WEST - "H・A・M"
Two rap songs in one day? It must be a hump-day miracle. For some reason, politics makes me think of feisty, raunchy hip-hop. Next week, President Obama officially starts his second term, and I can't think of a better anthem for him than "H・A・M" from two of rap's most-respected names. The President's second term looks to be as busy as his first. He will have to address the economy, unemployment, same-sex marriage, gun control and that annoying little issue of Guantanamo which he has yet to close. It's said that politicians don't work for the people; they just worked to get re-elected. Well, Mr. President, this is your last term, your last hurrah. So do what you promised during your campaign. To hell with the naysayers. It's time to go hard as a motherfucker.[BM]
RADIOHEAD - "2 + 2 = 5 (The Lukewarm)"
"2 + 2 = 5 (The Lukewarm)" finds Thom Yorke weaving in references to George Orwell's 1984 while his band play in 7/4 time, delivering a haunting, powerful opening to their 2003 album Hail To The Thief. [Geddit??? —heavy-handed ed.] "You have not been paying attention," Yorke moans repeatedly, which is a solid criticism of virtually any world leader ignoring their constituents for their own personal gain. It would take a pretty gutsy president to make this his or her anthem, but it could always be turned back around on the voters who cast their ballots down party lines, not realizing the havoc they're helping wreak by not thinking for themselves. [SH]
MATT SKIBA - “Red, White And You”
One listen and you can probably guess which president this song is directed at, but by the end of their terms, “This time next September/You'll always be dismembered” pretty much sums up the legacy of any president. So, why not just face the facts and “Boo-hoo, Red white and you” at the end? You probably can’t relate to that triumphant instrumental theme they gave you anymore, anyway. [CW]
We always like a challenge. So, submit your ideas for future playlists in the comments. Bring it!