Trax on the Trail: Researching Music on the U.S. Presidential Campaign Trail

Trax on the Trail Research Assistant Sarah Griffin presented her research on campaign music at the Georgia College 23rd Annual Student Research Conference in April 2020. You can check out her poster here. Sarah Griffin (Student, Georgia College), Dana Gorzelany-Mostak (Assistant Professor of Music, Georgia College), Haley Strassburger (Student, Georgia College), Naomi Graber (Assistant ProfessorContinue reading “Trax on the Trail: Researching Music on the U.S. Presidential Campaign Trail”

Pop Songs on Political Platforms

November 2, 2017 Our project on pop songs and political campaigning began in the fall of 2015, when we decided to work on a campaign music article that we could present at the Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association (MEIEA) Conference in April 2016. We thought that it was especially appropriate, since the conference thatContinue reading “Pop Songs on Political Platforms”

A Media Scholar’s Response to Trax, Trump, and a Strange New World

July 31, 2017 Trax on the Trail has helped keep me connected to political events for over a year. As many of us academics seek ways to respond to the new normal, some of us may want to do what I did—sign up to participate in blogs like Trax o the Trail. Most of usContinue reading “A Media Scholar’s Response to Trax, Trump, and a Strange New World”

Korean Drumming at the Women’s March in Lexington, KY

February 17, 2017 Like dozens of cities around the nation and globe, Lexington, Kentucky witnessed a women’s march with thousands in attendance the day after Trump’s inauguration (January 21, 2017). Lexington police and the Kentucky National Organization for Women said it was the largest march seen in city history. The overarching goal of this march and the sister marches wasContinue reading “Korean Drumming at the Women’s March in Lexington, KY”

Donald Trump, Jackie Evancho, and the Performance of Embattled Whiteness

January 18, 2017 You can access this essay at Musicology Now. Interested in learning more about inauguration music? Please check out Musicology Now’s other inauguration-related essays. And join Musicology Now for their live blog event which will start on January 19th and continue into inauguration day. Musicology Now is a blog sponsored by the AmericanContinue reading “Donald Trump, Jackie Evancho, and the Performance of Embattled Whiteness”

The Trump Bump II: Satire, Remix Culture, and User-generated Campaign Musical Posts

January 12, 2017 In a previous contribution to Trax on the Trail, I noted that Donald Trump had received “more nightly [i.e. televisual] news attention than all of the Democratic campaigns combined,” and “unquestionably more attention online than any other Republican candidate.”[i] As the official Republican presidential candidate, Trump continued to garner extensive audiovisual coverage, butContinue reading “The Trump Bump II: Satire, Remix Culture, and User-generated Campaign Musical Posts”

Just Sing No: 30 Days, 50 Songs and the Musical Campaign for a Trump-Free America

December 19, 2016 Ryan Bañagale’s essay on the first seven songs of the 30 Days, 30 Songs website discussed the project’s beginnings.[i] Since then, more songs have been released. On October 24, organizers Dave Eggers and Jordan Kurland pointed out that they were expanding it to 30 days and 40 songs because so many more artistsContinue reading “Just Sing No: 30 Days, 50 Songs and the Musical Campaign for a Trump-Free America”

The President Takes the Stage: On Theatre and Safe Spaces for Politicians

December 8, 2016 On November 18, Republican Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s multicultural hip-hop retelling of the life of the titular founding father. Miranda had used songs from the musical to campaign for Democrat Hillary Clinton, and was publically against the Republican platform, particularly its plank on immigration. In response to Pence’s attendance,Continue reading “The President Takes the Stage: On Theatre and Safe Spaces for Politicians”

Un-Conventional Music

November 25, 2016 Historical precedents inform us that national party conventions are supposed to ratify a platform and select a nominee, affirm party identity, and celebrate collective unity.[i] This occurs through a four-day spectacle of sight and sound that builds to the climax, the nominee’s acceptance speech at the end of the last day. NotContinue reading “Un-Conventional Music”

30 Days, 30 Songs: “Puncturing that inflated horror of an ego”

October 17, 2016 I won’t lie. I’m a fan of just about anything Ben Gibbard does—be that as frontman for Death Cab for Cutie, as fifty-percent of The Postal Service, or as trail running fanatic. When word of a new Death Cab for Cutie song came across my newsfeed last week, I immediately clicked throughContinue reading “30 Days, 30 Songs: “Puncturing that inflated horror of an ego””

The Snowths & Mahna Mahna, Baby & Johnny, Michael Myers & the Final Girl Join the Debate

Much to the delight of Trax on the Trail and its contributors, the second presidential debate inspired at least a dozen musical settings. We have seen Hillary and Donald singing duets, busting out dance moves, assuming Muppet personas, and appearing as the leads in a horror film. Indeed this activity brings some much needed levityContinue reading “The Snowths & Mahna Mahna, Baby & Johnny, Michael Myers & the Final Girl Join the Debate”

Not Another Term: Music as Persuasion in the Campaign Against the Re-Election of George W. Bush

October 5, 2016 Not Another Term: Music as Persuasion in the Campaign Against the Re-Election of George W. Bush October 5, 2016 It is not unusual for pop musicians to use their fame and their music as a platform for critique of presidents. Former presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan were on theContinue reading “Not Another Term: Music as Persuasion in the Campaign Against the Re-Election of George W. Bush”

Trial, Transformation, and Redemption: Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Banks, and Women in Competition—Popular Culture and the Audiovisual Transformation of My “Fight Song” into Our “Fight Song”

September 13, 2016 In the context of political campaigns, music is almost always linked to a visual context, be it a campaign rally or political spot.[i] The interaction of audio and visual elements is central to understanding such political communication. This was driven home to me during the second session of the Democratic National ConventionContinue reading “Trial, Transformation, and Redemption: Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Banks, and Women in Competition—Popular Culture and the Audiovisual Transformation of My “Fight Song” into Our “Fight Song””

“This Land Is (Once Again) Your Land”: Woody Guthrie and the 2015–16 US Presidential Race

August 24, 2016 In US electoral politics since the 1980s, many candidates have (re-)branded themselves as “hip” and “cool” by utilizing hit songs from mainstream popular music. As a significant example of this trend during the 1992 US presidential election, Bill Clinton mobilized MTV culture by using classic rock, with Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” servingContinue reading ““This Land Is (Once Again) Your Land”: Woody Guthrie and the 2015–16 US Presidential Race”

Deconstructing the Populism: Pop Music on the Modern Campaign Trail

August 8, 2016 There is perhaps no phrase that defines the 2016 election cycle better than a return of populism. In the US, populism (broadly defined as appeal to “the people” against established powers, social structures, and hegemonic ideologies and values) bubbled to the surface in the wake of the so-called Great Recession (2007–09). TheContinue reading “Deconstructing the Populism: Pop Music on the Modern Campaign Trail”

Seeing Double: Presidential Parodies and the Art of the Musical

July 21, 2016 The stage is set for a political event. American flags are strewn about a platform set with two podiums, and an audience sits, rapt with anticipation, waving signs supporting the candidate. A gentleman in a clean-cut suit steps up to one podium, but instead of delivering a stump speech, he begins rapping:Continue reading “Seeing Double: Presidential Parodies and the Art of the Musical”

Belva Lockwood for President, 1884: A Woman in a Man’s World

July 7, 2016 In fall of 2015, Trax on the Trail joined forces with Prof. Emily Abrams Ansari’s Music and Politics class at Western University in Ontario. Each student penned an essay or created a podcast that explored a specific intersection between music and presidential politics. In January, Nikki Pasqualini offered her insight on theContinue reading “Belva Lockwood for President, 1884: A Woman in a Man’s World”

The Use of Background Music in Political Advertising

June 19, 2016 Most of us see dozens, if not hundreds, of political ads on television (and increasingly online) each election year. The majority of these ads seem to blend together in our minds; few stand out.  Yet the creators of these ads sometimes spend days, if not weeks, making decisions about even the smallestContinue reading “The Use of Background Music in Political Advertising”

Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign Spotify Playlist

May 25, 2016 The playlist has become an unofficial political campaign requirement akin to kissing babies. As such, one may be inclined to dismiss it as purely political pandering. Nevertheless,we argue that its use is a legitimate contemporary campaign strategy that deserves attention.[i] While the political playlist is an artifact of the digital age, it buildsContinue reading “Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign Spotify Playlist”

Feeling the Bern or Just Feeling Burned? Musical Parody and the Contest for the 2016 Democratic Nomination

April 17, 2016 From Renaissance parody masses to Weird Al Yankovic, milk commercials to playground taunts, musical parodies are a ubiquitous, cheeky thread of a society’s musical fabric. The pervasiveness of parody belies the cleverness of the act of parodying a recognizable song; by introducing the creative constraint of reusing pre-existing musical matter, parodies instantlyContinue reading “Feeling the Bern or Just Feeling Burned? Musical Parody and the Contest for the 2016 Democratic Nomination”

Staging the Nation

March 31, 2016 On 13 January 2016, approximately 12,000 people gathered in the Pensacola Bay Center in Pensacola, Florida for a two hour rally in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. At an event that included the Gun Girls for Trump leading the pledge of allegiance, speeches from local Trump supporters, and anContinue reading “Staging the Nation”

The Trump Bump 2016: User-generated Campaign Music about Donald Trump and His Political Opponents

February 20, 2016 On 16 June 2015, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. Since then, Trump has received “more nightly [i.e., televisual] news attention than all the Democratic campaigns combined,” and unquestionably more online attention than any other Republican candidate.[i] Trump’s pronouncements—especially his proclamations concerning Muslims and Hispanic immigrants—haveContinue reading “The Trump Bump 2016: User-generated Campaign Music about Donald Trump and His Political Opponents”

Musical Yearning in Bernie Sanders’s Presidential Primary Ad “America”

February 2, 2016 As I was writing this in late January 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was soaring in the polls in early primary states Iowa and New Hampshire. As this piece goes “to press,” it cannot escape mention that Sanders has now achieved at the Iowa caucuses what for his campaign means aContinue reading “Musical Yearning in Bernie Sanders’s Presidential Primary Ad “America””

Political Pop and Commercials that Flopped: Early Lessons from the 2016 Presidential Race

January 14, 2016 During the past two presidential elections, Barack Obama targeted key voters along the campaign trail by deploying pop culture tropes, especially the sights and sounds of popular music (Gorzelany-Mostak, Love, Deaville, and Saffle 2015). Campaign strategists for the 2016 presidential hopefuls have worked hard to emulate Obama’s success and once more toContinue reading “Political Pop and Commercials that Flopped: Early Lessons from the 2016 Presidential Race”

“I’ve Been Everywhere:” Martin O’Malley and the Many Meanings of the Guitar

January 8, 2016 Is America ready for a troubadour president? It is a question Democrats have to ask themselves as they decide on their party’s nominee for the 2016 election. For though Bernie Sanders would be the first Jewish president (who is also an avowed democratic socialist), and Hillary Clinton would be the first womanContinue reading ““I’ve Been Everywhere:” Martin O’Malley and the Many Meanings of the Guitar”

The Unwelcome Use of Musical Artists and Their Songs by Presidential Candidates

December 18, 2015 In contemporary presidential campaigns in the United States, candidates routinely use popular music in ways that cause musical artists to respond negatively. Indeed, every four years, we now expect that at least some presidential candidates will become embroiled in controversy after a musician complains about their music being used illegally or inappropriately.Continue reading “The Unwelcome Use of Musical Artists and Their Songs by Presidential Candidates”

Dancing Around the Double-Bind: Gender Identity, Likability, and the Musical Rebranding of Hillary Clinton

November 29, 2015 From the New York Times to Saturday Night Live, media surrounding Hillary Clinton’s second presidential campaign has centered around that ever-elusive (yet seemingly critical) trait: likability. The former First Lady and Secretary of State has endured a long history of criticism due to her perceived elitism and aura of inaccessibility (Leibovich 2015).Continue reading “Dancing Around the Double-Bind: Gender Identity, Likability, and the Musical Rebranding of Hillary Clinton”