Hillary's musical makeover

June 3, 2007

BY JIM DeROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC

Every politician needs a great theme song, and presidential contender Sen. Hillary Clinton has been making headlines by using her campaign Web site to let the people name her tune.

So far, voting at www.hillaryclinton.com has winnowed down her campaign staffers' choices from a larger list (the first five tunes below are the winners from among their picks) as well as adding five write-in selections (the second five below). Visitors to the Web are now being asked to select the final choice on a page that allows them to hear each track, in addition to asking for their e-mail addresses, no doubt opening them up to plenty of hype in the months to come.

The Democratic process is a good thing, of course, but it isn't without risks: Some of these songs begin to seem problematic if you take a closer listen, and by letting her followers choose, Clinton could find herself saddled with a message she doesn't really want to send. Here are my thoughts on each of these songs, plus my rating:

 

"Suddenly I See," KT Tunstall
This charming country-pop ditty about taking a second look at someone you thought you knew is a strong contender but for two shortcomings: It's not homegrown --Tunstall was born and raised in Scotland --and Clinton, who has been accused of vanity and hubris, might want to reconsider lyrics such as, "Her face is a map of the world/You can see she's a beautiful girl/And everything around her is a silver pool of light." ***

 

"Rock This Country!" Shania Twain
A worse choice than Tunstall, for some of the same reasons -- Shania is a Canadian -- as well as a few others: her racy dominatrix stage image and the insipid Middle American pandering of the melody and lyrics. But the biggest demerit: At a time when America is accused of acting arbitrarily and disregarding other nations, do we really want to send the message "We're gonna rock this country/Right out of this world"? **

 

"Beautiful Day," U2
Again, unless she's gung-ho on the Free Trade issue, Clinton is turning to foreigners at the expense of her own constituents. And setting aside the fact that I'm no fan of the recent backward-looking U2, there's the fact that the ultimate message of this song is the opposite of the optimistic choruses: "You thought you'd found a friend/To take you out of this place . . . [But] you're in the mud/In the maze of her imagination." Hmmm, not so beautiful after all, is it? *

 

"Get Ready," the Temptations
Predictably Baby Boomer-centric, but a hard choice to argue with, thanks to its timeless Motown groove, those famously luscious harmonies and a message of love and devotion: "I never met a girl who makes me feel the way that you do/You're alright/Whenever I'm asked who makes my dreams real, I say that you do/You're outta sight!" ***

 

"I'm a Believer," Smashmouth
Listen, I love California's teenybopper garage-rockers Smashmouth, and I loved the Monkees before them. But does Clinton really want the connotations that come from choosing a plastic pop band covering a made-for-TV group that didn't even write its own songs? For that matter, does she want to offend the Christian right by such a casual use of the word "believer"? Just asking. **

 

"Are You Gonna Go My Way," Lenny Kravitz
Fake '60s rocker Lenny has some of the same plastic problems as Smashmouth, and this really ain't much of a song. But there are some key lines that trumpet a platform of better international diplomacy, stopping the war in Iraq and responding to the environmental crisis: "We must engage and rearrange/And turn this planet back to one/So tell me why we got to die/And kill each other one by one." **

 

"Ain't No Stopping Us Now," McFadden & Whitehead
Now we're getting somewhere: In addition to being the funkiest, most soulful and most uplifting song on Clinton's list, the lyrics here are the most open-ended and celebratory without being unduly boastful: "I know you know someone who's got a negative vibe (Ugh!)/And if you only help it will only keep it alive/They really don't have nowhere to go . . . But we won't let nothing hold us back . . . Ain't no stopping us now/We're on the move!" ***

 

"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," the Police
Besides championing one of the slightest songs Sting and his mates ever recorded, the candidate would be taking a risk here by associating with the super-rich: Do you know what those Police reunion concert tickets cost? **

 

"You and I," Celine Dion
The biggest loser on this list: Celine is musically irritating; she's Canadian; tickets to see her in Vegas cost more than most mortgage payments; the song has a pseudo-mystical subtext "Brighter than the sun and darker than the night/I can see your love shining like a light," and the last thing Clinton should do is go anywhere near a line like, "If I could travel across the world/The secrets I would tell." *

 

"The Best," Tina Turner
Like Clinton, Tina is a survivor, and the choruses of this tune are innocuous but optimistic in the best political tradition: "You're simply the best, better than all the rest/Better than anyone, anyone I've ever met!" Dig a little deeper, though, and it starts to sound like empty rhetoric: "Give me a lifetime of promises and a world of dreams." **


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