On Our Endorsement of Barack Obama, Because the Music in His Super-Bowl Ad Is So Much Better Than a Shitty Celine Dion Song

03Feb08

Until now we’ve been careful not to endorse either of the leading Democratic candidates — preferring to hold out for Geraldine Ferraro — but with the New York State primary upon us, we have decided to end our prevarication and officially endorse Barack Obama. Our decision is not based on any particular issue — for practical purposes, Obama and Clinton are largely the same — and it goes without saying that we will happily support either in a general election over any Republican. So why Obama? What ultimately moved us into his camp was not his cloying message of change and hope and progress, or any particular antipathy toward Hillary’s personality or brand of experience, but something far less logical. In short, what settled it for us was Barack Obama’s Super Bowl ad, which seriously rocks in a way that nothing put forth by Hillary Clinton has, and especially not the shitty Celine Dion song — “You and I” — she chose last spring for the theme of her campaign.

How exactly — and yes, how seriously — does this Obama video rock? For starters, the footage is unpretentious and uncomposed; it feels like it was taken on a hand-held camera by someone who was part of the action but also removed from it, hovering and analytical (here we think of “alone in a crowd,” the refrain of the timeless R.E.M. song “Camera”.) No doubt it was calculated to appeal on these exact grounds, but if we’ve been played, we still appreciate the gesture, because it cuts across the grain of 99 percent of political ads, not to mention the usual craptastic Hollywood fare.

More impressive still is the music, which (though we don’t who’s playing it) is only 1,000,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) times better than a shitty Celine Dion song. Essentially an indie-rock jam, it has a drumbeat that vaguely recalls the Modern Lovers and a surfy guitar riff redolent of the Ventures. (And how fucking awesome is that? Like all great songs, we almost passed out when we heard it.) There is a whining dissonance to the guitars that touches us, for what better way to acknowledge the daily turmoil of life? And thanks to the (relatively) edgy music and video, the lyrics — we hear Barack’s voice, mixed in from a campaign speech — magically work. For the duration of the ad, we don’t care if they are cheesy and hippie-sounding (“End war!” “Save the environment!”), and we actually want to “join” his cause (“Join” is the title of the clip, which also strikes as somewhat less presumptuous than “You and I,” as if we’re already on the team.)

Is it wrong to admit this matters to us? Perhaps it’s superficial, but we would be lying if we said that this single thirty-second Obama ad didn’t move us in a way that Hillary never has. And when the candidates are this closely aligned, isn’t it the small things that push us over the edge? After all, this is a song fragment we have played with our own fingers for hours and hours in the many basements of our youth; likewise, we have heard the beat of these drums — and here, in some of the greatest moments of our life, when we have felt most alive — as we’ve surfed over mosh pits with a thousand hands holding us aloft.

Obama

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