Certainly, when music is played at a certain time or occasion it evokes different emotions, memories, and mood, always telling a story, creating history and meaning to different people over different eras. Popular music is a universal language understood by all “the art of thinking in sounds” Jules Combarieu cited in Frith (1998). Standardisation, of pop music, means it is no surprise that it is in the midst of the recent USA presidential elections, being used as a commodity within the culture industry for mass consumption predominantly to influence voters. “Music possesses a unique power to inspire, motivate and energize a camping” (ASCAP, n.d).
In this blog, I will discuss how Donald Trump and Hillary Clintons who in an endeavor to appeal to a wider audience/voters they would not otherwise reach, try and show their personality and identity institutionalised through sound, which taps into the voter’s emotions subliminally and passivity. However, Clinton and Trump are not the first to use popular music in campaigns, reflecting on Tony Blair’s song of choice, “Things can only get better” by D:Ream in his 1997 campaign in speaking and giving meaning to the nation.
According to the Guardian (2016), Trump’s selection of artists and genre bares no links between them. Throughout her campaign, Clinton embraced the notion of being the first female president hence as desperation set in she used mostly powerful female-led pop ballad bangers opposed to ‘serious’ music listening. (Longhurst, 1995) states this music is transforming and transcendental experience where nothing is ever the same with form and content and requires concentration, whereas the chosen pop music is the opposite of that as it sweeps individuals into passivity without using reason or engage in active listening, “the music does the listening for the listener Ardono (1941). Does his music have anything to do with their proposed policies?
Clinton’s campaign selection is based on what Ardono refers to as “sell out popular music” with pop artists who seem to have found ‘the hook’, and Gendron (1986) refers to it as resembling repetition & compulsion so characteristic of childhood behavior & that serious listening is not required as this is listening purely for entertainment.
Clinton’s choice of music gives meaning to the audience of varying ages 18 – 40s who can relate to the likes of Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Jenifer Lopez, and lady Gaga. Those above 50 could relate to Madonna Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen, these musicians according to Ardono do have their own variations but are nevertheless still standardised products. The pseudo-individualisation or uniqueness of these artists is only a surface effect, but it works. Standardization is considered not only as an expression of rigidity but also as a source of pleasure Gendron (1986). The music chosen by both candidates has repeated catchy chorus that does not require the voters to actively listen.
“In popular music, the mere recognition of the form virtually guarantees full understanding, in serious music one does not achieve full understanding, until one has struggled to concentrate. (Gendron, 1986, p.iv
Music has a way of connecting with listener’s feelings at a particular time, therefore the meaning of music affect emotions both mentally and body movement, and probably deceives when actually it is the music that is doing it for them through false consciousness of the soul as it were. ‘The hook’ (Wall 2013) in this case plays an import role to lodge the song into the listener’s mind. Musical meaning is created through blocks standardised pop music where content and form play an integral part that changes thoughts, feelings and able to sway people in ways they would not otherwise do in normal circumstances.
In these campaigns, music is used like a commodity as described by Adorno (1941) where he used the analogy of the way cereal is consumed. Trump does not seek permission from musicians as is the norm, culture industry standardising the music as objects for mass consumption during his campaign rallies. A particular favorite “You can’t always get that you want” was again played soon after his acceptance speech. “Music notation is, therefore, just one among several vehicles of communicating musical thoughts” (Shutz, 2008, p.83).
It is fair to conclude judging by the way artists (Adele, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith Steve Tyler sending a cease-and-desist letter citing that it ‘gives a false impression’) (BBC, 2016), vehemently refuse for their music and voices to be used by Trump on the campaign trail. Musicians and songwriters are primarily responsible for creating meaning in music and adding value to it. Other musicians deliberately change the content/lyrics over during the campaigns. Musical knowledge is transmitted from those upon whom the prestige of authenticity and authority has been bestowed, Shutz (2008).
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