A mix tape is one of those intimate gestures we remember from high school. You’d spend hours, if not days, going through your CD collection, taping songs off the radio, searching for that perfect combination of songs that would tell your recipient exactly how you feel. It spoke louder than a letter, or a note or later, an email. It was a soundtrack to your soul, saying what you couldn’t say, articulating what you yourself couldn’t put into words. A mix tape is how you told someone I love you. A mix tape is how you won their heart.
And so the Democrats set out once again trying to achieve what they have failed to do for the past 8 years, win America’s heart and convince us, the American people, that they are the ones we should choose. They wooed us with words throughout the Primaries; they courted us with commercials. For the past four days, however, they resorted to that good ol’ fashioned accoutrement of courtship, the mix tape, to tug our heart strings into a flutter and tell us we’re the one. What follows, a break down of the music of the Democratic National Convention and whether they succeeded in getting in our pants.
1. “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond
With lyrics like “Hands reaching out / Touching me / Touching You” the Democrats kick things off coyly. “Sweet Caroline” obviously introduces Caroline Kennedy, who in turn introduces her uncle Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA, duy). The song succeeds in casting Caroline Kennedy as that sweet little girl, daughter of John and Jackie, who grew up before America. She is America’s daughter and if she can throw her reverential support behind the Senator from Illinois, we too can do the same. We are reminded of the Kennedys as a legacy, icons of nostalgia much like Neil Diamond and this ubiquitous track, and the implicit statement that a President Obama would be a rekindling of that magical past.
2. “Still the One” by Orleans
One of the best things about mix tapes is that song you’ve never heard before but immediately grabs you and forces you to ask, “Who IS this?” Well, it’s Orleans and their song “Still the One” played as Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) took the stage following an emotional video that made the senator look like Pat Conroy, a comparison fine with us since both white-haired blue-blooders look great on a schooner.
This song by Orleans proclaims, “You’re still the one I want to talk to in bed / You’re still the one that turns my head / We’re still having fun / And you’re still the one.” The DNC again gets a bit sexual with lyrics alluding to touching and coitus, but c’mon, it’s the Kennedys, the sexiest lineage since the De Borgias of Padua. “Still the One” maintains the nostalgia invoked by “Sweet Caroline” and reminds us that Ted Kennedy truly is a legend of the 20th century, despite Chappaquiddick, and we’d totally respect his decision if he left us in an overturned car he crashed in a channel off Martha’s Vineyard.
3. “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder
Naturally, the presumptive nominee for the role of First Lady is introduced by the music of a fellow African-American, Stevie Wonder. The choice of song sets the tone for a speech the purpose of which is to prove to the American people that Michelle Obama is not a racist black terrorist that Google chats Sista Souljah while updating the Wikipedia page for the Weather Underground. Mrs. Obama seems to succeed and the song, in its light-hearted way, makes us smile, nod and agree, yes, she is lovely and I’d really like to see her lead a tour of the White House during a Christmas special with Barbara Walters on ABC.
4. “Blue Sky” by Big Head Todd and the Monsters
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY, are you retarded?) is the keynote speaker on the second day of the convention and the DNC chooses a track from ’90s alt-rock mainstays Big Head Todd and the Monsters. One of those bands Dave Matthews used to OPEN for. It’s not clear if Hillary chose this song as her campaign’s anthem because of its jangly tone, an allusion to the nineties rock aesthetic, and the sound’s invocation of a beautiful Clintonian past, or if she just liked the lyrics “Oh, yes she can / Change the world / There is no other one / Believe and you will find blue skies.” Either way, it works tonight as an olive branch between her and Obama’s supporters, a contemporary reinterpretation of the Clinton bridge to the 21st century. It’s only fitting that Big Head Todd was the contractor for that bond between then and now.
5. “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” by Fleetwood Mac.
Former President Clinton chooses to take the stage accompanied by his classic campaign song. Ironically, the song and his choice of it really make us think about the past, removing the focus from Obama and back on to Bill. What a narcissist. A lovable, inspiring narcissist. Appropriately, because it plays behind another Clinton, the song serves as a perfect transition from the legacy of the Kennedys to the promise of an Obaman future. It’s a poignant moment for the Democratic party, one where we are able to look both forward and back, from the Kennedys to the Clintons to the Kerrys to the Obamas. There is history here, a very clear homage to the dynasty of Camelot and what comes to appear as a ceremonial knighting and passing of the torch.
6. “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey
After President Clinton John Kerry takes the stage to an instrumental of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” He quiets the crowd and the band quickly, presumably embarrassed of the contradiction between the song’s message of hope and his own failed Presidential candidacy. He exits to the instrumental of another well-known song, but I can’t place my finger on its name at the moment. This is the song on the mix tape that you like but skip because you’ve just heard it too much over the past 4 years. Every mix tape has one. Usually it’s “Brown Eyed Girl” or Common’s “The Light.”
7. “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen & the Ampersand Band
Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden is the keynote speaker on the third day of the convention. Following his speech the chorus of “The Rising” fades in on the convention center’s speakers. The song is about the emergency workers who ran into the World Trade Center on 9/11, the families who dealt with loss and the country that must find a way to heal. The song is nothing short of anthemic. As the final track to the DNC playlist it establishes a perfect tone of American redemption through hope, sacrifice and commitment. Then Presidential nominee Barack Obama comes out from the wings, underscoring his absence from the previous two days, and emphasizing his presence now. The words of “The Rising” seem uncomfortably messianic as we’re led to believe Obama, like Jesus, has been resurrected. Eh, who are we kidding? Dude’s God. A DJ of words and an MC of our spirits. At least that’s what this music makes us feel, and as everyone nose a good mix tape always gets the girl. Well done, Democrats, America and her cynical electorate, for the time being, are yours.