Deciphering Pres. Obama's new White House playlist

If there’s only one thing that could garner bi-partisan support of President Obama, it’s his taste in music (Oh wait!). As he’s done in the past, the president released a two volume playlist this weekend as he vacations in Martha’s Vineyard, one for summer days and the other for summer nights. Let’s take a look:

01 Wale – “LoveHate Thing”
02 Leon Bridges – “Smooth Sailin’”
03 Courtney Barnett – “Elevator Operator”
04 Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros – “Home”
05 Sara Bareilles – “Many The Miles”
06 Janelle Monaé – “Tightrope”
07 Jidenna – “Classic Man”
08 Jay Z – “So Ambitious” (Feat. Pharrell)
09 Manu Chao – “Me Gustas Tu”
10 Common – “Forever Changes”
11 Aloe Blacc – “The Man”
12 Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley – “As We Enter”
13 Nina Simone – “Sinnerman”
14 Prince – “U Got The Look”
15 Aretha Franklin – “Rock Steady”
16 Beach Boys – “Good Vibrations”
17 Gary Clarke Jr. – “Don’t Owe You A Thang”
18 Gin Wigmore – “Man Like That”
19 Charles Mingus – “II B.S. (Edit)”

Right off the bat, the daytime list is anchored by newer artists. People like Nas, Common and Janelle Monae get the easy pass onto the list as they’ve been to the White House numerous times. Clearly, younger musicians, including Courtney Barnett and Leon Bridges, are important enough to the president that they help start the mix off right. However, as he’s mentioned in the past, he loves the classics. Prince gets a shout out with the frankly odd choice of “U Got The Look,” which doesn’t immediately strike me as a song to blare at Martha’s Vineyard. Note also how the daytime playlist includes “The Man,” “Classic Man,” AND “Sinnerman.” All vastly different songs that evoke very different summertime moods. Props must also go to the commander-in-chief for picking the one good song off of “Blueprint 3” in “So Ambitious,” as the obvious presidential choice from that album would have been “Run This Town.”

And leave it to a guy who at times is the coolest guy in the room and also the opposite for featuring the corniest of cornball anthems in Edward Sharpe’s “Home” and then ending the mix with a primo Charles Mingus song. The guy is multi-faceted.

01 Chrisette Michele – “If I Have My Way”
02 Esperanza Spalding – “Espera”
03 Aaron Neville – “Tell It Like It Is”
04 Ledisi – “Alright”
05 Denise LaSalle – “Trapped By A Thing Called Love”
06 D’Angelo – “Lady”
07 Tower Of Power – “So Very Hard To Go”
08 Carmen McRae – “Midnight Sun”
09 Caetano Veloso – “Cucurrucucù Paloma”
10 Corinne Bailey Rae – “Green Aphrodisiac”
11 Method Man & Mary J. Blige – “I’ll Be There For You / You’re All I Need”
12 Billie Holiday – “Lover Man”
13 Fiona Apple – “Criminal”
14 Chance The Rapper – “Acid Rain”
15 Miles Davis – “My Funny Valentine”
16 Anthony Hamilton – “Do You Feel Me”
17 Janet Jackson – “I Get Lonely”
18 Lizz Wright – “Lean In”
19 War – “All Day Music”
20 Floetry – “Say Yes”

Obama may have helped make “Slow jamming the news” a long running joke, but the night time half of this mix is chock full of them. Classics from Tower of Power and Aaron Neville are mixed in with slightly more recent examples by Floetry and Ledisi. Clearly, President Obama’s night time is…sensual, to say the least. Obama’s pick from Chance the Rapper might raise a few particular eyebrows, but again, with picks like Chance and Esperanza Spalding, it shows that he not only appreciates new music, but actually knows what’s good. Compare this to say, President Bush’s classic rock iPod playlist or even President Clinton’s confusing mix of religious tunes and Great American Standards. When was the last time, if ever, that you could say that a standing President gave legitimately great advice for what music to put on in the summertime? I’m sure Eisenhower knew some great marches.

Only time will tell which of our candidates will occupy the White House come November, and only a little more time will tell which music they deem good enough for the deeply-important summer mix. My guess? A lot of Fleetwood Mac.


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Kevin Stairiker is a features writer for Fly. He is a graduate of Temple University and enjoys writing in third person. When he isn't writing, he's probably playing guitar for a litany of bands, reading comics or providing well-needed muscle at The Double Deuce.

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