What We Can Learn From Trump And Biden’s Musical Choices


What We Can Learn From Trump And Biden’s Musical Choices

When he was seven years old, President Donald Trump punched his school music teacher.

“I actually gave a teacher a black eye,” he wrote in his 1987 book The Art Of The Deal, “because I didn’t think he knew anything about music.”

Mr Trump says he was “almost expelled” over the incident, and it suggests he’s as opinionated about music as he is about trade or taxes.

The president is a big fan of The Rolling Stones, Eminem and Elton John (a decidedly one-way relationship), but his favourite song is Peggy Lee’s Is That All There Is? It’s an interesting choice: Lee’s nihilistic ballad essentially says life is a series of meaningless disappointments, so you might as well drink away your sorrows and forget about the rest of the world.

Mr Trump sees it differently. “It’s a great song because I’ve had these tremendous successes and then I’m off to the next one. Because, it’s like, ‘Oh, is that all there is?'” he told his biographer Michael D’Antonio, in 2014.

So what about his Democratic rival, Joe Biden? Well, his tastes are no more up-to-date. His favourite band is traditional Irish folk outfit The Chieftains, he told People Magazine in 2012, adding: “I would sing Shenandoah if I had any musical talent.”

Shenandoah, which The Chieftains recorded in 1998, actually dates back to the early 19th Century. The story of a fur trapper who falls in love with the daughter of a Native American chief, it’s steeped in romanticism for the early days of America.

None of these songs have been played on the campaign trail this year – but the candidates’ musical preferences at rallies and in advertisements offer a glimpse into what they think works for their supporters.

Mr Trump’s playlist leans heavily on classic rock songs that project power and combative self-confidence.

He frequently plays Queen’s We Are The Champions – whose refrain, “No time for losers,” could almost be the president’s inner monologue.

Tina Turner’s The Best (“you’re better than all the rest“) and Survivor’s pugnacious Eye Of The Tiger (“just a man and his will to survive“) fulfil similar functions – conveying the idea of Mr Trump as a lone wolf, fighting the political establishment.


Mr Trump often seems to be trolling critics with his choices. Why else would he play Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, or The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want? And his perceived persecution by the media gets a musical airing, too, through songs like Michael Jackson’s Beat It.

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They told him, don’t you ever come around here,” sings the star, who once kept a home in one of Mr Trump’s buildings in New York. “Don’t want to see your face, you’d better disappear.”

But the song actually advocates retreat. “You’d better leave while you can,” Jackson advises, the message being: You think you’re tough, but your opponents are tougher… so be the better man and walk away.

What We Can Learn From Trump And Biden’s Musical Choices


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