Obama’s Dream Endorsements

Soundtrack for this post: ‘How Can You Mend a Broken Heart‘ by Al Green, ‘The Seed (2.0)‘ by The Roots ft. Cody ChesnuTT, ‘Pretty Noose‘ by Soundgarden

According to a story broken by The Tennessean a couple of days ago, Obama (or his staff) aims to count around 40 musicians or bands among his declared supporters for re-election later this year.

My first thought on seeing the list was that it had to be bogus.  For one, I haven’t even heard of a good portion of the artists (Sara Bareilles, Bruce Hornsby, Jewel Kilcher, to name just a few).  Secondly, the majority of those I have heard of seem like odd choices, not just because of questionable musical merit (Train?  The guy from Maroon 5?  Really?) but also questionable relevance.  Surely Gwen Stefani, the Counting Crows and Ricky Martin are well past their heydays?  And people who still care about Jack Johnson were never going to vote Republican were they?

These sources for skepticism can however be relatively easily accounted for.  Coming as I do from a country with compulsory voting, it is easy to forget the utility of tools (sorry Jack) for mobilising naturally sympathetic but not necessarily motivated vote sources.  The fact I’m not American could also help explain the apparent abstruseness of the list.  Genres like country and contemporary soul don’t have nearly as much extra-US penetration as hip hop, pop and rock.

There’s some ambiguity about the status of the list which could also explain some of the more esoteric inclusions.  Although described as a wish list, it is clearly a practical document rather than an intellectual exercise.  As such it is constrained by reality: it appears most inclusions have agreed to be on board for Obama 2012, or can be reasonably expected to be so.  So while we could all probably agree we’d prefer Lupe Fiasco over B.O.B. or Cat Power over Regina Spektor, that’s not really the point.

One way in which the list certainly does conform with what you would expect to come from a campaign team is that it attempts to cover all bases.  There’s hip-hop with cred (Jay-Z), hip-hop without cred (B.O.B.), hip hop turned pop (Fergie and will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas), R&B (Chrisette Michele and Alicia Keys), contemporary soul (India Arie and John Legend), blues (Robert Cray), country (Lady Antebellum and The Band Perry), alt-country (Wilco), hard rock (Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell), indie (Vampire Weekend), stuff for the oldies with and without a real interest in music (James Taylor and Josh Groban respectively), music for particularly idiotic tweens (Jonas Brothers), Latin pop (Marc Anthony), show music (Bette Midler and Audra McDonald) and, of course, a Hindi language a cappella group from Pennsylvannia (Penn Masala).

So a broad range of tastes is covered, major ethnicities ticked off, and Ricky introduces some balance, sexual orientation-wise.

The full list is available here.

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