Sunday 23 October 2016

Obama shows that he's got soul with the release of presidential summer playlist

Horatia Harrod

Published 16/08/2015 | 02:30

Mos Def
Mos Def
Billie Holiday
Bob Dylan
Florence + the machine
Frank Sinatra
Rolling Stones

He's serenaded a church in Charleston with a rendition of Amazing Grace, and belted out Sweet Home Chicago alongside BB King.

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Yet away from the political spotlight, President Barack Obama has chosen a somewhat more soothing selection of music with which to spend his summer.

The White House has released a playlist on music-streaming website Spotify of the president's favourite holiday songs.

The 40 chosen songs on the "President's Summer Playlist" will presumably comprise the soundtrack to Obama's two-week vacation in Martha's Vineyard.

According to the White House's official Spotify account, each track was "hand-picked" by Obama and made "due to popular request".

The two lists - one for day and one for night - show a particular affection for classic soul, with tracks from Al Green, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, the last of whom famously sang My Country 'Tis Of Thee at Mr Obama's inauguration in 2009. On the other end of the scale, the president has chosen a track by Low Cut Connie, a Philadelphia band which has never troubled the charts.

Adam Weiner, the band's lead singer, said he was "shocked and humbled and confused" by their inclusion: "I thought it was a joke at first, but then I remembered that Obama has incredibly great taste and that he has always championed the little guy."

Mr Obama has often spoken of his love for jazz, and the genre is represented here by Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Billie Holiday. The president shows off his musical chops by picking lesser-known songs by famous artists - he chooses Joni Mitchell's Help Me, an album track from 1974 and Bob Dylan's Tombstone Blues - but also includes familiar radio staples such as The Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter and Frank Sinatra's The Best Is Yet To Come.

Taylor Swift may currently be the most popular US star across the world, but as the singer removed her music from Spotify's streaming service at the end of last year following a payment dispute, she does not make an appearance. Obama's taste in country music is a little more alternative, taking in the likes of the Texas band Okkervil River and singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile.

There may be a nod to the States' huge Spanish-speaking population in the president's choice of Columbian salsa band Sonora Carruseles. In the 2012 election, Obama won 71pc of the Hispanic vote to Mitt Romney's 27pc.

The playlist also shows the president has not forgotten the special relationship with the UK: his playlists include music by British acts including Coldplay, Lianne La Havas and Florence + The Machine.

Van Morrison is the only Irish artist to feature with Moondance.

Obama has never been shy in sharing his taste in music. In contrast to the ill-fated attempts of British politicians to curry favour with voters with references to the Arctic Monkeys and The Smiths (whose lead singer Morrissey said David Cameron was "forbidden" to be their fan in 2010), Obama has had striking success with the musical community. What message that sends to Irish politicians, we cannot know.

Obama's 2008 election campaign was bolstered by support from rappers including, more recently known as a judge on BBC One's talent show The Voice UK, who recorded a song called Yes We Can for him.

Obama said at the time that, alongside American rock from Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and Sheryl Crow, he had a lot of rap on his iPod. In his new playlists he finds a place for tracks by socially conscious rappers such as Talib Kweli and Mos Def, having previously criticised the "misogyny and materialism" of more commercial rap music.

Obama's choice of platform for his playlists also indicates his technological savvy: Spotify is a Swedish company which launched in 2008 and has expanded rapidly around the world since then, reaching the UK in 2009 and the US in 2011.

Sunday Independent

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