Truly history-defining moments are like gold dust. Gold dust which, last week, the world’s favourite 60-year-old man from Honolulu, Hawaii generously sprinkled over the unexpecting, albeit hungry, masses. Yes, I am referring to the release of Obama’s 2022 Summer Playlist.
“Every year, I get excited to share my summer playlist because I learn about so many new artists from your replies”, Obama wrote. Can this man get any better? Not only does he support new artists – a notably refreshing contrast from Trump, who tried to end Federal Arts funding (ironically, it grew) – but, to the eagle eye that notices the 44-song-length list, he also enjoys a sneaky allusion to himself as the United States’ 44th president (very smooth Barack, very smooth).
The relationship between politicians and the arts is both a rich and rocky one. Art is intrinsically linked to human creativity and freedom, and so has always found itself subject to strict regulation in totalitarian states (take, for example, the Nazi Book burnings of the 1930s, or the propaganda music still played in North Korea). On the other hand, democratic nations have been careful to preach (at least publicly) the importance of the arts. Dwight. D. Eisenhower lauded modern art as a ‘Pillar of Liberty’. Sir Winston Churchill, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter all tried their hand at painting. We even have a picture of John. F. Kennedy’s daughter Caroline Kennedy to thank for being the source of inspiration behind Neil Diamond’s hit 1969 song “Sweet Caroline”.
Despite these variations, one thing remains the same wherever you look: art is deeply personal. Every person will have a different – perhaps unexpected – taste in it. Think, the bodybuilder who loves opera, or the librarian who loves heavy metal. Saying this, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so quick to assume a millennial publicist was involved when I saw the likes of Burna Boy and Fatboy Slim gracing this year’s edition of Obama’s playlist, alongside some expected old-school classics, such as Prince and The Spinners. Forgive me, but I find it hard to visualise the former president typing Lil Yachty’s ‘Split/Whole Time’ into Spotify and getting groovy to the lyrics “Got some bitches in Budapest” and “My dick get bigger when I see a money rack”.
Prejudices aside, the surprising nature of Obama’s playlist got me wondering what artists our politicians at home in the U.K are listening to. For instance, did Boris blast Britney Spears’s ‘Oops I did it again’ at his second Downing Street bash? Does Liz Truss vibe to Professor Green’s ‘Dance Like A Tory’? Is Rishi Sunak humbly listening to Pulp’s ‘Common People’? Does Matt Hancock still connect with Shaggy’s ‘It wasn’t me’ or was that just in his Cheating On The Wife era?
It seems likely we won’t be receiving any responses from our politicians to the questions we really want answers to (what’s new there, right?). However, what we can confidently discern on our own is twofold: Obama is still as cool as he was in the White House and Boris could well be a Belieber. In fact, I believe his unedited resignation speech opens with ‘Is it too late now to say sorry? Because I’m missing more than just bare parties’.