There is a long list of politicians who have misunderstood the songs they have appropriated for their campaigns. From Ronald Reagan completely missing the point of Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” to John McCain misappropriating the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero,” history is filled with instances of rockers telling politicians to leave their songs alone. This Rolling Stone story has lots of those details.
But no one has ever whiffed on the meaning of the songs used to pump up the crowd quite as bigly as Donald Trump.
The former president reminded everyone of his unparalleled gift for missing the point on songs during his rally this past weekend in Greenville, North Carolina. CNN’s “New Day” anchors Brianna Keilar and John Berman dissected the bizarre soundtrack for Trump’s most recent “Grievance Rally” Monday morning, and it’s a testament to their professionalism the segment didn’t dissolve into untethered giggles.
They went through Trump’s entire playlist to underscore the rich irony that Team Trump apparently didn’t see, or didn’t care about. For example, is a song like NSYNC’s bouncy “Bye Bye Bye” the very best choice for a candidate who got bounced out of the White House by voters after one term?
Berman then decides to note another strange choice, the Broadway standard “Memory.” Berman, clearly an aficionado of show tunes, points out that this number from the musical “Cats” was sung by Grizabella the Glamour cat, who was lonely sad and dreaming of the old days.
Then there is the Pink Floyd classic “Brain Damage,” which talks about a lunatic stuck in someone’s head. Look, some lyrics aren’t obvious. But how is this song being played at a rally featuring the former president who once asked out loud at a televised press conference about whether ingesting bleach could kill coronavirus? Who once asked if you could nuke a hurricane? Does anyone at Mar-a-Lago actually listen to the lyrics of these songs?
Apparently not, because people at the NC rally also heard Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” As Keilar said, everyone old enough to drink knows this song, which at one point includes the lyrics “be careful what you do, because the lie becomes the truth.” We thought this would be the moment Keilar would crack, but she held strong.
We agree with Berman’s assessment that Trump’s continued use of Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” is truly “mystifying.” After all, John Fogerty’s Vietnam-era anthem trashes the sons of wealthy families who were able to dodge the war. So of course, it gets blasted through the sound system at a rally for the rich guy from New York City who was able to avoid military service because of bone spurs.
Then there is Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic.” When Berman mentioned that this song is literally about a sinking ship, even Keilar couldn’t keep it together (watch at 4:44 for yourself). Berman then goes in for the kill and says that if Trump was on the Titanic, he would have been Rose (Kate Winslet’s character) and refused to share space on the door with poor Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), and just stared at him floating in the freezing waters.
The entire segment is worth watching purely for entertainment value. And it proves once again that The Atlantic was right when it said, “Irony’s Not Dead; Long Live Irony.”