Essays and Interviews


  • 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 that … Read more
  • 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 us … Read more
  • 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 was … Read more
  • 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 American … Read more
  • 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, but … Read more
  • Just Sing No: 30 Days, 50 Songs and the Musical Campaign for a Trump-Free America
    December 19, 2016 30 Days 30 Songs Playlist 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 … Read more
  • 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, … Read more
  • 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. Not … Read more
  • 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 through … Read more
  • 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 levity … Read more


  • On the Inside Trax: Dr. Nicholas Phillips, Pianist, Educator, and New Music Advocate
    A search by genre in the Trail Trax database will reveal very few examples of classical music on the trail. There was Stephen Colbert’s live string quartet with underscore for the final debate, “Hillary” (Kate McKinnon) and “Bernie’s” (Larry David) "Waltz of the Flowers" on Saturday Night Live, and Trump’s memorable entrances to “Nessun dorma” in 2016. Although a … Read more
  • Rebecca Pronsky: Singer-Songwriter, Brooklyn’s Truth Bearer
    On October 28, 2019 Trax research assistant Sarah Griffin and Trax founder Dana Gorzelany-Mostak had the pleasure of speaking to Rebecca Pronsky, a singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn. Pronsky first came to our attention when we heard her delightful 2020 Candidate Jams, 60-second didactic songs dedicated to each Democratic presidential candidate. What made this country-noir artist … Read more
  • On the Inside Trax: Stuart Schimler, Founder, American Pioneer Music
    September 20, 2016 Today on the Inside Trax, I chat with Stuart Schimler, founder of American Pioneer Music. The former UC Berkeley history major makes his living as a software exec by day, but he also has a secret (or not so secret) passion—he loves campaign songs! Schimler’s company has produced two campaign song albums: … Read more
  • On the Inside Trax: Kraig Moss, A Modern Day Troubadour for Trump
    September 2, 2016 Over the course of the 2016 election cycle, the press has eagerly reported on the many pop songs candidates take to the trail. Journalists sometimes criticize the candidates’ seemingly tone-deaf choices: “Tiny Dancer” for Trump….really? In other instances, the pundits of pop culture debate the legality and ethics of candidates using the … Read more
  • On the Inside Trax: John Balduzzi, Political Consultant
    March 15, 2016 In addition to bringing you the viewpoints of students and scholars, Trax on the Trail is committed to going behind the scenes to bring you insiders’ perspectives on the creative processes that bring the campaign soundscape to life. Political candidates use music throughout their campaigns to paint a picture of their priorities, … Read more