Kid Rock is running for Senate. This is ridiculous, of course, because writing raps about wanting to be a cowboy is not a skill that overlaps with creating sensible policies and functioning laws. But on the other hand, it’s not at all ridiculous because he’s a celebrity. Normal candidates have to work hard for voters to learn their names, but celebrities, by definition, are well known. They have an advantage. No wonder there’s been so many celebrity politicians, and I’m not talking just about the White House: Al Franken, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Fred Thompson, Ronald Reagan, Sonny Bono, and more. It’s woven into the fabric of American democracy.
So, we have to take Kid Rock’s candidacy seriously. Not so seriously that we have to learn his real name just yet because his official campaign website remains KidRockForSenate.com. But still. Seriously-ish.
Inspired by Kid Rock, we’ve decided to look at the relationship between music and politics in the same spirit of seriously-ish. These are 10 Albums That Could Run for Office or, put another way, 10 Albums That Represent a Complete and Coherent Political Philosophy. It’s totally arbitrary, completely made up, and for entertainment purposes only. Or it’s an excuse to fly off in a rage-filled tirade on Twitter. Your choice.
In this game, it is the album that is running for office, not the artist. The album must express a complete worldview. Some worldviews are local, some international, some interested in the economy, social issues, or revolution. We’re going to distill these statements down into policy positions. These policy positions do not have to be sane; after all, music is larger than life, and a political campaign based on music is going to be extreme. After that, we’ll pluck a campaign slogan from the album’s lyrics, locate real politicians with similar belief systems, and take a guess as to how electable that message would be. Along the way there will be amazing music. And remember: This is nothing but a totally meaningless, completely arbitrary assault on you, your values, and everything you hold dear.
Arular by M.I.A.
Campaign Slogan: “Pull Up the People/ Pull Up the Poor”
Campaign Messaging: Arular is here to tell the government to go away, and if they’re not willing to blow the scene, M.I.A. says, “I’ve got the bombs to make you blow.” Arular is in favor of free love and free people (“Hombre”), against child-trafficking (“10 Dollar”), and perfectly willing to use violence to achieve those goals. “I’ll fight you just to get peace,” she warns. Here, the head-spinning high of the dance floor blends with the bloody battle fields. It’s like the gleeful destruction of Paris by the mobs of the French revolution. One can imagine M.I.A. holding a wine glass, leaning on a guillotine, calling out for another bottle of champagne and another rolling head.
Similar Politicians: Che Guevara, Camille Desmoulins
Chance of Winning Election: In certain districts of California, this is an easy win.
What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye
Campaign Slogan: “Only love can conquer hate.”
Campaign Messaging: What’s Going On is a concept album about a soldier returning from the Vietnam War to racial and economic tensions. From this simple story, the album outlines a bold vision for humanity that includes how we should treat each other and the world outside of ourselves. It even covers how to behave when we disagree: “Picket lines and picket signs/ Don’t punish me with brutality.” The album isn’t just political; it’s a complete system of morality, one that demands pacifism and patience.
Similar Politicians: Mahatma Ghandi
Chance of Winning Election: Not so good in America, but the message might be better received in one of those tiny Scandinavian countries where everybody’s always taking care of each other.
Born In The U.S.A. By Bruce Springsteen
Campaign Slogan: “No retreat, baby, no surrender.”
Campaign Messaging: The first words of the album are, “Born down in a dead man’s town,” and life doesn’t get easier from there. Blind patriotism this is not; instead of celebrating its birthplace, the album treats it as another bit of bad luck. “The times are tough, just getting tougher,” for the blue-collar characters who populate Born in the U.S.A., the result of an increasingly globalized world that’s causing factory jobs to move overseas. “Now I work down at the car wash/ Where all it ever does is rain.” Veterans are sent to pointless wars and return home to find that life has moved on. This is the landscape of Born in the U.S.A., an album that knows you are hurting and feels your pain.
Similar Politicians: This is what every politician from the industrial midwest is desperately trying to be.
Chance of Winning Election: Little known fact: 35% of Americans aged 50-65 have already elected this album President of their heart.
Nina Simone Live In Concert by Nina Simone
Campaign Slogan: “Doing things gradually will bring more tragedy.”
Campaign Messaging: After civil rights activist Medgar Evers was killed by a white supremacist in 1963, Nina Simone wrote “Mississippi Goddam.” It was recorded for Nina Simone Live in Concert at Carnegie Hall, and when it was released as a single, it was boycotted in several southern states. It’s witty, dripping in irony — a tense smile holding back a howl of rage. She performed two more original civil rights songs for this album — “Old Jim Crow” and “Go Limp” — as well as a powerhouse rendition of “Pirate Jenny” that works as a menacing metaphor for black anger. And unlike most of the other albums on this list, we don’t need to imagine the political consequences. This album represented a real, important moment in the Civil Rights movement.
Similar Politicians: Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to congress, who served seven terms and wrote the bill that guaranteed domestic workers a minimum wage.
Chance of Winning Election: I don’t know, but not as high as it should be.
The Clash by The Clash
Campaign Slogan: “Burnin’ With Boredom”
Campaign Messaging: In the ’60s and ’70s, rock’n’roll was busy trying to change the world, but a decade went by and nothing had changed. As The Clash saw it, “Cant make no money/ Can’t get out of here.” Idealism gave way to disaffection, and the hippies gave way to the punks. “Who needs Parliament/ Sittin’ makin’ laws all day/ They’re all fat and old.” This is the philosophy of, if you can’t beat ‘em, flip ‘em off. The Clash gives one-finger greetings to the police, the corporations, and the United States of America. Violent revolution is considered on “White Riot”: “Black man got a lot of problems/ But he don’t mind throwing a brick” is a reference to London’s race riots in the ’70s, but as The Clash see it, the white citizens of London are, “too chicken to try it.” What can be done? “You better cheat cheat, no reason to play fair.”
Similar Politicians: None; you can’t hold these views while also holding power.
Chance of Winning Election: Yeah, right.
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back by Public Enemy
Campaign Slogan: “Clear the Way or The Prophets of Rage.”
Campaign Messaging: Chuck D. once called Public Enemy “The Black CNN”, and It Takes a Nation… reports on drugs, racism, the criminal justice system, and violence. But I think their style of reporting comes from a much older news tradition, specifically the newspapers and pamphlets produced by the leaders of the American revolution. Then, facts were presented in an artful way in the hopes of eliciting an emotional response. It Takes a Nation… wants you to be angry about life under a brutal regime, being ruled by people who don’t represent you or care about your interests.
Similar Politicians: Sam Adams, Thomas Paine.
Chance of Winning Election: There might be some resistance at first, but these sort of ideas tend to age well.
Pussy Whipped by Bikini Kill
Campaign Slogan: “Rebel Girl”
Campaign Messaging: Pussy Whipped is short, direct, thunderously heavy, and unabashedly feminist. “These are my tits, yeah/ And this is my ass,” is how “Li’l Red” begins. “And these are my legs/ Watch them walk fucking away.” Pussy Whipped is about the politics of the human body, the smallest space we can occupy. It’s concerned with the fundamental human rights for respect, personal space, and some decent sex every once in a while (“Why can’t I ever get my sugar?”) On the album’s show-stopping moment, “Rebel Girl”, Pussy Whipped makes the argument that simple attitudes can have immense power and that an intense female friendship is inherently revolutionary.
Similar Politicians: Carrie Nation, who used to smash up taverns with a hatchet in order to make her point.
Chance of Winning Election: Who cares? “That girl thinks she’s the Queen of the neighborhood/ I’ve got news for you, she is!”