Pop Rock the Vote: Meet the Musicians Hitting the Campaign Trail
They say that nothing goes better with an impassioned speech about the economy and taxes than a little rock ‘n’ roll. Alright, so I may have made that up, but the fact is that politics and music have been intertwined for years in campaign cycles. In the last election cycle, we saw a weird friendship between Kid Rock and Mitt Romney blossom, and we’re still reminiscing about Obama’s infamously badass rally with Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen. Musicians are no stranger to jumping on the campaign trail in order to lend their talents to the candidate they align with, and—of course—to bring out the youth voters.
As we race toward Monday’s Iowa primary and officially kick off the campaign season, political campaigns are starting to look more like music festivals. The candidates are taking out their headphones and sandwiching some major jams between their policy pitches. Here are all the best, worst, and most confusing tracks coming out of this year’s presidential campaign.
Bernie Sanders Brings the Noize
Bernie is no stranger to mixing music with politics. I mean, the guy recorded a hilariously bad but kind of endearing folk album called We Shall Overcome back in 1987. This election cycle, one of the most avid supports of the Bernmeister has been rap phenom Killer Mike of Run the Jewels fame. He’s interviewed the socialist revolutionary in the SWAG shop, and talked him up on late night talk shows. They’ve held a roundtable discussion on MLK’s legacy, and one on democratic socialism with the iconic Cornel West and Nina Turner.
Now, Mike will finally take the mic (we couldn’t resist). He’ll perform on Saturday alongside indie rock darlings Vampire Weekend (sans Rostam Batmanglij) and Foster the People at a free “Students for Bernie” concert in Iowa City—which is probably the first time you’ve ever felt jealous of Iowans. After that, a big benefit concert by the Red Hot Chili Peppers at LA’s Ace Hotel will encourage everyone to rock out with their Bern out.
Hillary Clinton’s Girl Power Anthems
It’s no secret that Hillary’s got female voters fired up over the prospect of her making history as the first woman president. Recent polls have shown that on a national level, 57% of women voters support Clinton, as compared to 31% for Sanders. Who run the women voters? Clinton. She’s been gathering female voter support since her 2008 bid for the White House. The problem that’s cropping up now, though, is her standing among youth voters who’ve overwhelmingly sided with Sanders. In an effort to bring some much needed youth girl power to her campaign, Clinton has switched up her focus, swapping out 2008’s Elton John collab with two of pop’s biggest female heavyweights to bring some confidence and a few fireworks to the campaign trail.
Katy Perry and Demi Lovato have both been seen out on the campaign trail and on stages, supporting Hillary and firing up young voters. Last year, Perry took over Clinton’s Instagram and performed a medley of songs, while dressed up from nails to headband in Hillary Clinton garb. Lovato took a bit more of a… subtle approach, belting out her hit song “Confident” before announcing to a 2,000-strong crowd that she doesn’t know a woman “more confident than Hillary Clinton.” As we enter the final few days before Iowa, we’ll have to see how far Lovato’s confident endorsement will go toward swaying voters.
Donald Trump’s Nightmare Cheerleaders
Since there seems to be no competition facing the hate-mongering frontrunner, Trump is in a league of his own among Republican supporters. His approach to musical endorsements is less about big name celebs, and more about creating dystopian horror fodder to give a soundtrack to your nightmares about him running the country. Taking a page from North Korea’s playbook on fascist propaganda, Trump introduced the world to a five-girl band called USA Freedom Kids that gave off major flashbacks to the real-life Hitler Youth Choirs.
The quintet took the stage at a Trump rally in Pensacola, Florida, because that’s the only state that approaches his level of crazy. Their song was called “Freedom’s Call,” and it featured weird dancing and an even weirder placement of a Trump podium in the middle of the group. The podium actually showed more emotion than the dead-eyed youth who got roped into this by their crazy-ass parents. I mean, how else can we explain the pint-sized cheerleaders singing lyrics like, “Deal from strength or get crushed every time” and “Inspire, proudly, freedom to the world”?
As fun as it is to listen to musicians join politicians on the campaign trail, it’s time we all face the music: we could be headed for a future where the USA Freedom Kids sing our new national anthem.
Main image by Kathryn Chadason. Additional images via Tumblr, Associated Press, and Getty.
Stay tuned to Milk for more slightly unnerving presidential endorsements.