2020 presidential candidates are starting to roll out one of the most important parts of their campaigns — their rally playlists.
Major media organizations including the New York Times and the Washington Post dove into some of those playlists this week and asked the question, what do their campaign songs say about the candidates?
Jennifer Lena, is an associate professor and program director of arts administration at Columbia University who has written about how candidates try — and sometimes fail — to effectively use music to bolster their campaigns. According to her, candidate playlists “seem to be about… communicating the candidate’s platform…and in other cases candidates are trying to communicate their tastes.”
Lena uses Bernie Sanders’ campaign (“Power to the People” by John Lennon,) as an example of the former and Beto O’Rourke’s campaign (“Clampdown” by The Clash) as an example of the latter.
“Music sends a signal to people,” says Mark McKinnon, former chief media advisor to President George W. Bush. “They hear a song and they say, ‘Oh! They get me!’”
As chief media advisor, McKinnon was responsible for all things media-related, including rally playlists. He’s now co-host of the documentary series The Circus on Showtime.
Click on the audio player above to hear Jennifer Lena of Columbia University and former George W. Bush chief media advisor Mark McKinnon talk about what rally playlists can tell us about the candidates on Detroit Today.
Here’s a playlist of some past and present campaign songs… going all the way back to John Adams in 1800: