Part of this week's election sideshow has been the emerging tiff between the rock band Heart and the McCain campaign. McCain has been playing their song "Barracuda" on the campaign trail in honor of Sarah Palin, and Nancy and Ann Wilson of Heart don't like it, not one bit. "Sarah Palin's views and values in no way represent us as American women," they stated to Entertainment Weekly. "We ask that our song 'Barracuda' no longer be used to promote her image." Of course, they were only too happy to let Fergie ruin the song, so it's safe to say that the Wilsons aren't completely on the right side of the credibility line, here, either.
The McCain camp says that their ducks are in a row, where licensing the song is concerned. And Heart's former guitarist, Roger Fisher, is pretty sanguine about the matter, noting that the royalties received can go right to the Obama campaign. But I still think that a protracted battle with Heart over the use of "Barracuda" redounds to no one's benefit, especially if it inspires some insipid and angry movie from Nancy Wilson's spouse Cameron Crowe, starring Kirsten Dunst.
The real issue here, of course, is the fact that the ideology of most contemporary rock musicians creates an almost intractable gap with the Republicans who just want to keep their voters fired up during those interminable waits between stump speeches. Outside of the Kid Rock songs not themed around strippers and meth and the quasi-Xtian crud proffered by the Scott Stapps of the world (a phenomenon I have faced firsthand), there isn't a whole lot decent stuff in the rock catalog for the GOP to use.
The conventional wisdom is that Nashville tends to stay home for the GOP, but there are holes in that theory as well: country music superstar Tim McGraw is a Democrat, Toby Keith is Obama's most awkward supporter, and McCain himself could only get one half of Big And Rich (the "Rich" half, natch) to pen and perform - ad infinitum/nauseam - that test-case of the Law of Diminishing Returns, "Raising McCain" (which would make an excellent song for a future McCain-Palin network sitcom).
Back in 2006, the National Review attempted to make a conservative case for fifty rock songs - but the results was a mixed bag of badly misinterpreted lyrics and tunes that were frankly more in the Reason/libertarian vein. An example? "You Can't be Too Strong" by Graham Parker, to which I retorted:
Parker asks of someone who's had an abortion, "Did they tear it out with talons of steel?" To which I reply: "No, silly. In America, abortion is safe and legal and performed with sterilized medical instruments." Also, I love NR's qualification: "Although [the song]'s not explicitly pro-life..." Sixty percent of the way through and they're defining the standard of success downward--just like the Iraq war!
In the end, the National Review only ended up proving that if you apply enough tortured reasoning, almost any song could take on a conservative bent. Here are some fitting examples, I found back then, based on random selections from my iPod:
"Use It" by the New Pornographers
Carl Newman issues a cri du coeur for the United States to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling in order to provide energy for the future by singing: "If you've got something that sheds some light, use it tonight!"
"Theme Song" by Too Much Joy
The central part of the chorus, "To create, you must destroy," marks this as one of the most stirring tributes to economist Joseph Alois Schumpeter and his principle of "creative destruction" ever penned. In case you're wondering what "creative destruction" is, that's the term the conservatives use to explain why even after you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and worked with zeal and diligence all your life, you still aren't getting your pension.
"Killer Parties" by the Hold Steady
My friend Ramesh Ponnuru went to a Killer Party, once. And it was...THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY! BWAHAHAHHAHA!
"Barely Legal" by the Strokes
"I didn't take no shortcuts. I spent the money that I saved up." Awesome, dude. Let's go grab Ayn Rand and listen to Rush's 2112 again!
So you see, Heart faces a losing argument: with enough coats of pseudo-intellectual gloss, one can make the argument that "Barracuda" really is a roof-rattling paleocon anthem. This is why I think rock bands should simply write and record some crazily conservative songs for the GOP to use. I see no reason why a skilled band couldn't bang out a slamming track, titled "Drill Baby Drill" or something, that conservatives would go mad for while sending a simultaneous wink to their regular fanbase that they're actually taking the piss, as they say. If you have a band and would like to give it a try, send me an MP3, and we'll get Howard Wolfson to blog about it maybe!