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SPOTLIGHT: Sweeping Culture Daily

Music and the 2012 Presidential Election

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By Bryan Hood | After what felt like years of breathless reporting, election day is finally upon us. Talk about President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney has seemingly seeped into every aspect of our daily lives, including our music. Now, politics and music aren’t exactly strangers to one another – campaigns have long had theme songs and there was of course the protest music of the ’60s — but during this election cycle, it’s seemed as if the two were bizzarely inseparable. Whether it be what songs the campaigns were using (with or without permission), which artists were eager to play rallies for the candidates, or what acts politicians were desperately seeking the approval of, politics and music have been spending a lot of time hand in hand this year.

Here are five ways that music has been involved with this year’s election:

Supporting Their Candidate

Bands big and small had no problem attaching themselves to either candidate, with Obama counting Katie Perry (dressed as a human ballot), No Doubt, and Stevie Wonder amongst his supporters, while Meatloaf, Big & Rich, and Taylor Hicks threw their might behind Romney. During the final push for votes over the last couple of days, we’ve seen both candidates really pull out the big names, with Obama getting Springsteen and Jay-Z to play a rally for him in Ohio, while Romney answered with the slightly less legendary (but still Grammy winning) Kid Rock at his last rally in New Hampshire. Jay-Z’s Ohio performance featured an appropriately political tweaking of “99 Problems,” where he declared “I got 99 problems but Mitt ain’t one”(which you can watch below).

Silversun Pick-Ups Asks Romney to Stop Playing “Panic Switch”

In today’s record industry, it’s great when your song gets picked up for use in a commercial or in a movie. Especially at a time when it’s increasingly difficult for a band to make a living playing music, exposure to a new group of fans is priceless. What band wouldn’t want this? Well, we can think of one: Silversun Pickups, who were less than thrilled to learn that Romney was playing their song, “Panic Switch” at rallies, and sent a Cease and Desist order asking the candidate to stop. “We don’t like people going behind our backs, using our music without asking, and we don’t like the Romney campaign,” singer Brian Aubert said in a harshly worded statement. Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, also found that his favorite band, Rage Against the Machine, wasn’t too keen on him talking about how much he liked their music either.

The National Vs. Ohio Students for Romney

Silversun Pickups and Rage Against the Machine weren’t the only band upset at seeing their music associated with the Romney campaign. The National have long been supporters of Obama, playing rallies, selling shirts, and letting the President use their song “Fake Empire” in an ad last election. So it was a little strange to hear that very song featured in a pro-Romney ad two weeks ago paid for by Ohio University Students for Romney. The band’s singer Matt Berninger tore off an angry YouTube comment demanding that the group stop using the song immediately. “The song you’re using was written about the same backward, con game policies Romney is proposing,” Berninger wrote, also noting that everyone who created the song, many of them Ohio natives, would in fact be voting for Obama. The student group relented, pulled the video, and apologized to the band, only not really. “Unfortunately we’ve learned that partisan divide exists on youtube and in music as much as it does in Washington,” they wrote in a statement.

Christie and Springsteen

Although he’s not vying for the Presidency today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, has been one of the more prominent figures of this election cycle. The Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg attended one of the Boss’s shows with the governor, and uncovered that as much as Christie loved Springsteen, and it was clear that he really really did, the feeling was not mutual. But this tale of unrequited love has a happy ending. Over the last few days, the two have been brought together by President Obama, and the AP reports that the interactions caused New Jersey’s tough guy governor to shed a tear or two.

Waka Flocka Flame Throws His Support Behind Voting

And on a final, completely non-partisan note, let’s leave you with the words of Waka Flocka Flame, who when asked how he felt about voting, simply said, “Votin’ cool.” Waka’s always right.

Image: Jay-Z/Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

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