It gets stuck in your head the way that only the worst music can. "The Macarena." "My Heart Will Go On." "Who Let the Dogs Out?" And now, Obama Girl. The kind of "artist" who has become determined to colonize our brains with the worst kind of mind-control pabulum. It puts those Bible-beaters obsessed with Satanic metal to shame. And if I catch myself thinking about the song one more time, I’m gonna end up with a crush on Obama.
But past that, it’s truly a sad state of affairs when the most scrutiny a presidential candidate has to bear is when a scantily clad Barbie doll ends up singing his praises (aka his pecs). But in a way, it is also strangely appropriate. In the world of sound-bites, campaign trail bluster and speechifying slogans that personify the word "triangulation," this song really does seem to sum up the circus of election season.
Despite the obvious tongue-in-cheek-ness of the video, there’s an astonishing likeness to how modern pop looks and sounds. It cashes in on a barely-clothed model (real name Leah Kauffman) lustily and sometimes vapidly parading for her crush. It has the syrupy sound of the same overproduced instrumentation that seems such a big player on the airwaves. And its lyrics are cheap clichÃƒÂ©s that barely scratch the surface of actual human experience or emotion. Irony aside, this should all sound pretty familiar to anyone who has ever watched MTV more than fifteen minutes.
High on form, low on content. In many ways, it is also what we have become accustomed to with our news coverage. The same tragedy is played out every two, four, six years around election time.
Barack Obama is portrayed as the young and charismatic liberal. When the vast majority of people in this country are sick of politics as usual-war, inequality and Washington insiders-a man with the audacity of hope is indeed a breath of fresh air. He is an upstart, the long awaited maverick ready to come and clean up a long corrupt town and system. He accepts no PAC money, has voted against the war supplemental, and of course is the first black candidate who actually has a shot at winning.
Taking all this at face value, he definitely sounds like the man for the job. But a glance any longer than the 30 second spots reveals a man just as committed to Washington’s same old agenda. He is not for a withdrawal from Iraq, but a redeployment that still keeps power in the hands of a quisling, US allied government. Other journalists have pointed out his acceptance of private donations from employees of companies such as Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Exelon and Time Warner. And the focus on his skin color belies that he has built his whole campaign around an assertion that racism doesn’t exist.
This is the kind of coverage bound to come of a media that would rather gloss over the reality of cash-run elections, accepts the logic that the US should have some sort of presence in the Middle East, and is perfectly okay with a narrow two-party system. What we want is one thing. What we get, actually get, is quite another.
But when our news and entertainment are strangled by CNN and Clear Channel (a big contributor to Obama’s Senate campaign) , this is the status quo to be expected. Here is the basis of our system portrayed on the television and computer screens; in our election campaigns, our music, and our culture in general. It is the system of form before function, image before honesty and spectacle before substance. It is a system that should be discarded into the dustbin of history.
But this is what makes our time so exciting. Despite the attempted whitewashing of the daily horrors the Bush crew are carrying out, people are clearly fed up. The same people so excited about the Democrats are sitting in at congressional offices demanding their reps take a stand on the war. The immigrant rights movement is still alive, kicking and organizing.
This video is something different, though. It is sexist and exploitative, not to mention completely unlistenable. Still, that today’s shallow pop formula can be so easily turned into a parody exposes its bankruptcy. Moreover, the wave of anti-Bush, anti-war music cropping up recently shows that people are ready for a better, more vibrant and relevant soundtrack for their lives.
That can be said about the system itself.
Alexander Billet is a music journalist and activist living in Washington DC. He is a regular contributor to Znet and Dissident Voice, and has also appeared in CounterPunch, Socialist Worker and MR zine.
His blog, Rebel Frequencies, can be viewed at http://rebelfrequencies.blogspot.com, and he can be reached at [email protected]