The first time that the Gingrich campaign played Joe Esposito's "You're the Best," (viz. Karate Kid) I thought, This is going to be all right. After all, that song is boss.
This isn't true of most of the songs you hear at campaign rallies. And there's a reason for this: songs at campaign events tend not to be selected because they are good, but because they either a) are so bland as to have no chance of offending anyone born after 1911, or b) contain lots of lyrics about how awesome America is, and how much the singer loves it (especially the little things, like apple pie and WD-40 (really). At yesterday's Gingrich event, Type B was the more popular of the two.
I suppose I was a little surprised (but not upset) that the Gingrich campaign hadn't loaded up on Hispanic music -- I think it might have heightened the awkwardness of an event at which almost all of the attendees (including the media) were white and almost all of the restaurant employees were Hispanic.
Still, the songs they chose weren't much better. (And by the way, Gingrich campaign -- it's time to throw a few more songs on your playlist; the third time I heard "You're the Best," I began having doubts about whether Joe Esposito really was the best recording artist of the 1980s.)
The thing is, no one really likes Ameri-rock, because most of it isn't meant to be enjoyed (at least not primarily). Instead, it's meant to make a point. And that point is: America is super-cool, and I feel really sentimental about it -- do you hear the orchestral buildup and the nostalgically yearning guitars?
And I'm down with that -- I'm down with recognizing America's greatness and getting in touch with the profundity of citizenship. I've had some seriously deep moments looking up at the flag with my fellow Americans, hands over hearts.
But that's a special kind of civic space, and you can't just create it at will. And you definitely can't throw on some third-rate Bocephus wannabe and then try to associate the whole incompletely-created-mood with your campaign. It feels fake and dissonant and manipulative.
Which is a particularly weird thing from Gingrich, given how little interest he displays in glad-handing and sentimentalizing. (Whatever else you can say about him, he's not super-heavy on the pandering.) At today's event, for example, an Hispanic man praised Gingrich profusely for his "character" and his views on immigration. The man spoke passionately, pounding his own chest for emphasis. Gingrich responded with almost no emotion at all, as if he were teaching a seminar and the end of the semester were near.
So maybe the Gingrich camp needs a different kind of theme music -- something more in keeping with the man himself. Given Gingrich's poll numbers, though, Joe Esposito's timeless lyrics might be just the thing to buoy his spirits:
Try to be best 'Cause you're only a man And a man's gotta learn to take it
Try to believe Though the going gets rough That you gotta hang tough to make it
History repeats itself Try and you'll succeed
Never doubt that you're the one And you can have your dreams!
You're the best! Around! Nothing's gonna ever keep you down You're the Best! Around! Nothing's gonna ever keep you down You're the Best! Around! Nothing's gonna ever keep you dow-ow-ow-ow-own