Editor’s Note: This list originally ran in 2012, but with the election ramping up with Rand Paul and Hilary Clinton announcing their candidacy this week, we thought it would be a good time to remind our candidates which sort of songs to avoid when choosing your election anthem.
The first Presidential debate of 2012 was last night, which seemed to us like perfect timing to take a serious (and not-so-serious) look at the choice of campaign songs over our proud American history. What we found was plenty of choices not to be so proud of, with a lot of songs standing out as completely perplexing. While every step made and word said is carefully planned in presidential campaigns, it’s surprising how ridiculous and flat-out confusing so many campaign song choices are. So without further ado, here are ten most ridiculous campaign songs in U.S. History.
George W. Bush – “Only In America” by Brooks & Dunn
Nothing breaks your dumb, hillbilly reputation like picking a phony patriotic song like “Only In America” which shares its namesake with a Larry the Cable Guy TV Show.
Barack Obama – “Only In America” by Brooks & Dunn
The only thing more perplexing than the use of this song is the use of this song after Bush used it; nothing like taking notes from the president with the worst approval rating in history. Fortunately for Obama, the rest of his campaign songs are downright brilliant, from Springsteen’s “The Rising” to Stevie Wonder’s “Sign, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” to Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher”. It may be manufactured by his favorite intern, but it is straight hip.
George McGovern – “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
The message is right on “Bridge Over Troubled Water” for a re-election campaign vs. Richard Nixon, but you can’t pick a more somber song to run a campaign on. I would rather sulk all-day with my head in a pillow than go out and vote with “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.
Ronald Reagan – “California Here We Come” by Oscar Brand
Classic Hollywood move. Nothing unites the nation like singling out the glamorous state you come from. Not only that, but having a song written just for you is also not exactly the coolest move.
Michael Dukakis – “America” by Neil Diamond
Not sure how you can lose an election when you summon the power of Jew Elvis (Neil Diamond), but even the worst of candidates can defy the odds. Michael Dukakis’ use of Diamond’s “America” is also rather perplexing considering the song is pretty strictly about immigration, a touchy issue in the last 25 years that you don’t necessarily want to push as your campaign slogan.
Mitt Romney – “Born Free” by Kid Rock
We all laughed out loud when we saw that Mitt Romney and Kid Rock have been paired together. I feel fairly confident to say that Kid Rock was part of the 47% of America Romney said was helpless before Rock broke big with the rap rock banger “Ba Wit Da Ba”.
George W. Bush – “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty
This is our favorite story of the list. Dub-ya went for “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty – an admittedly great campaign song – to only later back down from Tom Petty, pulling the song from his campaign after Petty threatened him for using it. Petty later played the song on behalf of the Bush’s opponent Al Gore. Talk about the ultimate back fire. Good thing for Bush, Petty is a popular musician, but not a true electoral winner.
Ross Perot – “Crazy” by Patsy Cline
File this one under straight-up confusing. Usually you don’t want to associate your campaign with the word “crazy”, and usually you don’t want to use a sappy and sensual love song to get people to vote for your big-eared billionaire Texan.
Bob Dole – “Dole Man” by Sam and Dave
This files under the ridiculously awesome category. Is there a more perfect pairing in the world than a punned version of a sexual soul classic and the oldest, whitest presidential candidate in recent memory? Changing Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” to “Dole Man” with only a change of chorus is simply amazing. That means the song still includes such lyrical gems in regards to Dole as “Good lovin’, I got a truck load/And when you get it, you got something/So don’t worry, ’cause I’m coming” and “I learned how to love before I could eat/I was educated at Woodstock/When I start lovin’, oh, I can’t stop”. Never has a campaign song been so ripe with Viagra jokes.
John McCain – “Take a Chance On Me” by ABBA
We couldn’t get over how amazingly passive this song is for a campaign song. When you pick the same song one of the most toothless TV character of all-time, Andy Bernard, used to ask out Angela on the Office, it’s not the most convincing song of all time. Looks like McCain was going less for the “Why” and more for the “Why Not” strategy. Maybe he was just trying to counteract his ridiculously tasteless take on the Beach Boys “Barbara Ann” (Bomb Bomb Iran).
These songs missed our list, just like the candidates that go with these songs fell flat in the primary.
Mike Huckabee – “More Than a Feeling” by Boston
Nothing says pure ecstasy like voting for Mike Huckabee. I can just see Austin locked in his law school dorm room in the spring of ‘08 in his “I Heart Huckabee” t-shirt air-riffing “More Than A Feeling” as he dreams of four years with Huckabee at the helm.
Rudy Giuliani – “Rudie Can’t Fail” by The Clash
Other than “Dole Man” this is about as ridiculously awesome as a campaign song gets. Nothing like using the anti-establishment punk spirit to use the perfectly rocking and perfectly titled “Rudy Can’t Fail” for a campaign slogan.
Rudy Giuliani – “Take Us Out” by Jerry Goldsmith (Theme from Rudy)
As you can tell, Rudy G just got it. Using the theme from one of the best sports movies about one of the worst sports teams, Rudy Giuliani once again used his name to awesome heights.
So there’s the list. Let us know what we unforgivably missed, got right, or just rip on us in general.