The #POTUSPlaylist, Reviewed » VSB

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The #POTUSPlaylist, Reviewed

Barack Obama is truly MY president. Never in my life, have I been so actively concerned with the minutiae of another grown man’s life as I have been with our commander-in-chief. I wait with bated breath for new opportunities for Barack to exude unabashed coloredness. Barack installs White House basketball court? I’m grinning with joy. Barack gives a perfectly executed “daps” to Black visitors and handshakes to White guests? Two raised hands emojis. Barack sings “Amazing Grace” on national television?  Frantic Harlem shaking. The highest praise.

So, when he dropped not one but TWO playlists on Spotify, I had to immediately stop, listen, and check the Black PH level of the playlists because, frankly, I was worried. Making a playlist for a homogeneous group is hard enough, but making a playlist for the entire country?  That’s a tough task. You can’t just go with one genre, you have to mix it up. You have to make your guests comfortable. As anyone who has ever thrown a social gathering with mixed company will tell you, you can’t just play what YOU like. If you want to play Jay-Z, (who is notably absent from both playlists) you better stick to “Empire State of Mind” and relegate “Money Cash Hoes” to  NBA 2K background music. Sacrifices must be made.

Even with the threat of cultural dilution looming over his head, my president managed to pick a good mix of tracks that a 54 year-old, Ivy league educated, Nobel Prize winning, Black man, raised by a White woman in Hawaii, would genuinely listen to on a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. I like to imagine Barack and Michelle on the beach lounging under the shade of an umbrella with the Day playlist coming out of Barack’s Beats Pill. Here’s a play-by-play.

“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations

Lipsyncing, Barack drops to his knees. Unbothered, Michelle reads a novel.

Barack Verified

“Live It Up” by Isley Brothers

Barack brings a reluctant Michelle to her feet. The couple dance.

Barack Verified

“Memories Live” by Talib Kweli and Hi Tek

Michelle resumes reading. Barack opens a book of his own. Nods off.

Michelle Verified

“Tombstone Blues” by Bob Dylan

Michelle asks Barack to skip this one. Barack asks her to give it a chance.

Barack Verified

“So Much Trouble in the World” by Bob Marley

Barack takes rum from the cooler. He makes Michelle a pina colada.

Barack Verified

“Paradise” by Coldplay

Michelle sips her drink. Side eye. It’s weak.

Malia Verified

“Tengo Un Trato (Remix)” by Mala Rodriguez

Feeling Tropical, Michelle drops her shawl revealing her bathing suit.

Intern suggestion

“Wang Dang Doodle” by Howlin Wolf

Barack lowers his sunglasses and raises an eyebrow. Michelle sashays to the shoreline.

Barack Verified

“Another Star” by Stevie Wonder

Barack rushes to the shore. Michelle dips her toe in the water.

Barack Verified

“Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly & the Family Stone

Michelle eases into the water. Barack sneaks up behind her.

Michelle Verified

“Boozophilia” by Low Cut Connie

Barack dunks Michelle underwater. She resurfaces and shouts: “Stop playin’”

Intern suggestion

“Wherever Is Your Heart” by Brandi Carlile

Barack and Michelle frolic in the surf. Black excellence, opulence, decadence.

Intern suggestion

“Good Day” by Nappy Roots

Afro activated, Michelle trudges back to the first blanket. Barack follows behind.

Barack Verified

“Green Light” by John Legend

Michelle dries off. Wearing a smile, she snaps Barack with a towel.

Michelle Verified

“Gimme Shelter” by Rolling Stones

The first couple lies on their blanket watching the sunset. They share crackers with brie and boysenberry jam.

Barack Verified

“Rock Steady” by Aretha Franklin

Michelle and Barack begin to pack up their things. In an effort to impress, Barack lifts more than he should. His back surges with pain.

Barack Verified

“Down Down the Deep River” by Okkervil River

Michelle walks ahead. Barack lags behind and enjoys the curves of her sundress.

Intern Suggestion

“Pusher Love Girl” by Justin Timberlake

Reaching the parking lot, Michelle slides on her sandals. Barefoot, Barack tries to run to Chevy Suburban One.  Burns feet.

Malia Verified

“Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine

Reading, Michelle sits in the front seat. Barack loads the truck.

Intern Suggestion

“La Salsa La Traigo Yo” by Sonora Carruseles

Barack asks Michelle to help him. Michelle walks outside. The couple dance subpar struggle salsa outside of the truck.

Barack Verified

Now, I don’t want to give a play-by-play of the Evening playlist because I can’t let my mind venture too far into the first bedroom, but I’m sure when Sasha and Malia hear some of these tracks around the White House they get a tad uncomfortable. As uncomfortable as I am trying to come up with a non-Huxtable, Black, middle-aged television couple that enjoys regular sex to use as a reference.  (All Cosby related references are on hiatus until further notice.) If you’d like to get it in presidentially and make two polished teenaged daughters play these songs in succession.

John Coltrane – “My Favorite Things”

Barack Verified

Beyoncé and Frank Ocean – “Superpower”

Malia Verified

Van Morrison – “Moondance”

Barack Verified

Lianne La Havas – “Is Your Love Big Enough?”

Intern Suggestion

Al Green – “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”

Barack Verified

Aoife O’Donovan – “Red & White & Blue & Gold”

Intern Suggestion

Lauryn Hill and D’Angelo – “Nothing Even Matters”

Michelle Verified

Frank Sinatra – “The Best Is Yet To Come”

Barack Verified

Ray Charles – “You Don’t Know Me”

Barack Verified

Mary J. Blige – “I Found My Everything”

Michelle Verified

Joni Mitchell – “Help Me”

Barack Verified

Otis Redding – “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember”

Barack Verified

Leonard Cohen – “Suzanne”

Barack Verified

Nina Simone – “Feeling Good”

Barack Verified

The Lumineers – “Stubborn Love”

Intern Suggestion

Cassandra Wilson – “Until”

Barack Verified

Mos Def – “UMI”

Michelle Verified

Billie Holiday – “The Very Thought Of You”

Barack Verified

Miles Davis – “Flamenco Sketches”

Barack Verified

Erykah Badu – “Woo”

Barack Verified

After reviewing these playlists, I’d have to say I’m impressed with the authenticity of the choices. Badu, Lauryn, Coltrane, the Temptations, Mos Def? A liberal arts student somewhere in the midwest is going to be expanding their world listening to Barack’s playlist. But, on the flipside, there’s clearly some outright pandering going on. I work a regular ass 9 to 5 and there’s no way I could be up on current alternative pop and Spanish hip-hop (Not Reaggaton straight hip-hop), but Barack is a time travel wizard and clearly a better man than I.

I’d like to think my president never has to tone down his true self during his private moments. I hope and pray that there’s security footage of Barack shamelessly pretending to dribble a basketball around the Oval office AND slapping the door frame when he leaves the room, but maybe, I’m naive. Maybe, Barack really wanted Fire and Desire on there and felt it too distinctly colored for the masses. Did Barack really pick these tracks or was it Kori Schulmann (the staffer who wrote the press release) and a team of interns? Ya’ll let me know.

Brandon Harrison

Brandon lives in LA and has Hollywood stories that rival those of Rick James. He prides himself on staying righteous and knowing more about basketball than you.

  • eyecande

    Whenever I heard POTUS did this, I was concerned about the balance of making people comfortable as you were. But when I saw a few of the tracks on the Day list and a majority of that NIGHT list, I was like COME THRU, BARRY, SIR!!! Even if he didn’t hand pick every single track (I like to live in a world in which he did), he still approved it and I approve. I’m going to miss him as POTUS.

    A question for the people: Do you think POTUS doing things like making a Spotify playlist is just a sign o’ the times or an Obama (administration) thing? I mean, what would a Donald Trump playlist consist of? White noise?

    • Val

      First song on Trump’s playlist…

    • Barack Obama is the social media president, kinda how Kennedy was the TV president, whoever follows him is going to have to be at least familiar with these Internet streets (see: Hillary’s emojis debacle)

  • Jennifer

    “subpar struggle salsa”
    I dance salsa, so I knew exactly what that looked like (let ’em lead, FLOTUS!). Hilarious. Great post.

  • miss t-lee

    Ehh, can’t call it.

  • carlisias

    LOL @ Fire and Desire. I was looking for some Frankie Beverly & Maze but they aren’t bad playlists. Great article!

    • kid video

      Good to know there are a few Maze fans round here…

      So in tribute to the success of Straight Outta Compton…

      • Meanwhile, it’s funny that you think of Maze. Over the past few years, every time I hear Socialist political ideas, I think of “I Need You”. The song accurately describes how Socialists want people to look at the government, complete with the plaintive, needy tone. :)

        • But to be fair, the fight between socialism and capitalism has really destroyed the American economy. If America actually decided what it wanted to be, it would be better off, because at least you’d know what to expect. Mixed economy and pragmatism in politics make everyone focused on the short term, thus creating a nation, where the economic system makes absolutely no sense.

          FDR’s economic policies lasted for about 30 years and collapsed; Reagan economic policies lasted for about 30 years and then collapsed. American economic policy is pretty much two groups arguing about ideas that have both be proven to fail overtime, and at the same time guaranteeing debt upon debt in the process.

          • FDR’s policies didn’t collapse, they were destroyed by Reagan’s policies which was always built to ail.

            • The 70s would strongly disagree with you. While Reagan was far from a saint, there was a lot of BS that existed that no one thinks about. Like at one point, you needed government permission just for your already licensed firm to move produce in trucks.

              • I always give my hs economics teacher credit for showing me how presidents always get too much credit and blame for economic growth or lack thereof.

                The reason why America was able to rise to the top of the economic ladder after WW2 had to do with it having both the strongest consumer base and strongest manufacturing base in the World (We were China and ourselves at the same time). America took that advantage for granted and it eventually wore out by the 60’s and 70’s, when nations, copied what America was doing and became more competitive.

                The 80’s marked the era where the Federal Reserve and financial manipulation was used to artificially boost the economy via Wall Street, with the hope that this would lead to job growth. However, the fact was, as anyone with any economic sense knows, the last thing any business wants to do is hire more people and pay them more money than they have to. So, when the opportunity presented itself, big companies simply took all their capital and free tax money abroad and shipped American jobs overseas.

                Both parties like to act like their policies were destroyed by other groups, but the fact of the matter is that they did what they were supposed to do: solve short term problems, and leave the nation with long term problems that would become relevant a generation later.

            • You forget all the economic problems of the 70’s, and the end of 1960’s bubble during the go-go years, or the fact that America had to go off the gold standard in the 70’s, so it could continue government spending.

              • Val

                Republicans ALWAYS collapse the economy. Nixon collapsed the economy in the 70s and Carter had to deal with it. Reagan and then Bush one collapsed the economy in the 80s/ early 90s. Then Bush Two collapsed the economy.

                • This simply isn’t true, and it hands way too much credit to public policy on it’s own for being the sole cause of changes in the economy. It’s like people who were giving Obama props because Oil prices went down earlier in the year.

                  Republicans and Democrats, especially since the great depression, are usually using PR to focus America’s attention on domestic policy, while people continue to be ignorant of monetary policy. America’s bond market is currently over-invested which is why the Dow is as high as it is, when it crashes, which always happens, whoever is president at the time, whether it’s a republican or democrat is going to get the blame. That’s how the game works.

  • The existence of this list is entirely a push from the interns, but I don’t doubt this is all the music he personally listens to. There are plenty of 50 year old men that actively listen to new music and don’t have bizarre attachment to the “good ol’ days.”

    • I agree. This definitely sounds like the list of a 50 year old who’s “with it” with the kids.

    • Yeah, I know some folks in that age range who aren’t culturally tone def. The “good ol’ days” were seldom that good.

    • Brandon Allen

      I just can’t imagine he has the time…

    • Sparger

      speaking as someone over 50 who hangs with old people. We are stuck in the past. This is an intern approved playlist.

      • Dougie

        My pops is 58 and hangs with old people and I steal from his playlist. Your story isn’t the only story. I’d like to think Barack is more like my pops than like you, with respect to his music choice.

      • I doubt any of your jobs hinge on knowing and relating to young people in any capacity. A TON of old high school and middle school teachers across the country are in tune with whatever kids are no listening to because they are around them the majority of the time.

    • JamesInstagram

      Especially a man with teenage daughters he still wants to stay connected to. Malia and Sasha are his connections.

  • Val

    I hate to be the cynic, okay, not really, but, I would be shocked if the President compiled this playlist. I’d also be shocked if he’s actually heard more than a handful of these songs.

      • Buddy is that dude.

      • Cleojonz

        This is great. Thanks for sharing. Blues does still exist but it’s mostly hipster white bands that are doing it. It will never be a mainstream art form again, it gets relegated to adult alternative. There is nothing like live blues.

        • I only know of a few young(ish) Black artists that still do the Blues like Benjamin Booker and Willis Earl Beal. It’s a shame. Willis really does have that voice. Benjamin is like that blurred line between blues and rock n’ roll.

          • Val

            Have you seen Memphis?

            • I have not.

              • Val

                If you are a Blues fan then you must see it. It is a quintessential Blues film.

        • Val

          Actually I think Blues is all over the radio and is a major part of pop music. It’s just that no one calls it the Blues. But, I agree that it’s White hipster bands that are doing it, at least they are the ones getting the most recognition for doing it. Hozier is nothing but a hipster Blues but are categorized as Alternative.

      • Val

        Interesting. But, Like I said to Cleo, there are plenty of popular Blues bands/ artists they just aren’t categorized as Blues. There is less money in being a Blues artist so they perform as Alternative bands.

        • True. That’s similar with jazz.

    • Brandon Allen

      I’ve got colored ears so I actually listened to all the songs to confirm and there is NO WAY he knows all this soft alternative pop/rock. That has young hipster girl intern written al over it.

      • JamesInstagram

        Unless he listens to KCRW. Really, I just hit play on whatever DJ I like. Then I hear about Dirty Projectors, Toro y Moi, Brandi Carlile, Jamie XX, Haitus Kaiyote. Music has become so independent that it’s not as segregrated as it was in the late 20th century. Music listening has almost reverted back to time when radio DJs played whatever they felt was hot: pop, rock, alt, blues, jazz, funk, punk.

  • Personally, I find how Black people are interested in the minutiae of what the president does disturbing. We’ve gone from F*ck the President when the president is a White guy to jumping all over his nuts when it’s a White guy? I know White people do it too, but I find it just as disturbing. Besides, it makes it a lot easier for the president to do some f*cksh*t…like Obamacare. :)

    Anyway, the playlist sounds like what a 50-ish upper middle class Black guy would listen to, give or take. Some of his classics, a few song he likes from his kids, plus a throw-in from whatever intern helped generate the list. Then again, I’m glad they didn’t ask me. My playlist is a base of East Coast hip-hop with Lord Knows What Else from the African Diaspora. Plus, it’s heavily dependent on what happened to me recently. Yeah…nothing says mainstream America like M.O.P. and Bumpy Knuckles. :)

  • Barack is like my pops age, so while I don’t think these are all songs he listens to, I can imagine most of them being songs he heard in passing and liked and had no idea who actually sang it. This whole playlist is the staffers basically saying here Barack, now stop asking us. There’s no way my President knows who Brandi Carlile is.

    • “Barack is like my pops age…” I think I was like seven when my pops was Baracks age. As for Brandi Carlile “The Story” is a good ***king song.

    • You’d be surprised. I learned to expected the unexpected when I got in his car one day and my dad was bumping Dido.

  • You would think conservatives love rap…. Guns, misogyny, shaming the broke

    • I remember Mother Jones magazine did a online quiz where you had to guess whether something was from rap or from Ayn Rand. Considering I’m a fan of both (and named my fantasy football team after a chapter in Atlas Shrugged), I love it. Guns… Shaming the broke… Right up my alley.

    • LeeLee

      I think some of them do! I can’t tell you how many times, riding around in conservative parts of Virginia, that I hear some rap blasting from a car only to look and see some young or *gasp* middle aged white man nodding his head to the beat.

    • Considering how corporate rap and the music industry thrive on unchecked capitalism you would think it would be “money, cash, hoes” at the GOP convention but they have to play to the evangelicals.

      • Hey, I like money, cash, hoes. Am I a closet conservative? LOL

      • Seriously though, unchecked capitalism of the kind I favor eventually leads to the destruction of traditional social structures. That is incompatible with traditional social values. However, Republicans try to thread that needle. Eventually they’ll come to Jesus and see that capitalism tends to lead to h0es giving head. I like that. It’s better than the alternative.

        • I generally like to read the works of British conservatives, they tend to be rational, compared to American conservatives, who are really just anti-communist: Pro-religious, because the communists were against religion; pro-capitalist because the communists, were communists; pro-family, because the communists were anti-family; anti-globalization because the communists were for globalization…the list goes on. American conservatives don’t have any thoughts or ideas that are self-generated, they are merely reactive, which is why no matter how hard they try, they continue to lose influence from one generation to the next.

          • Which is why the libertarian movement (or at least the intellectual minded cosmotarian types found in Reason and the Cato Institute) appeal to me. At least it’s for something as opposed to being a player haters ball for anticommunists. Plus there are fewer hugs and appeals to emotion.

            • I have problems with the Reason and Cato people, but for most the part, we’re in closer agreement when it comes to economics than other groups. I think an Economy functions when it is consistent and people know what to expect, which is why the Scandinavian countries do well, and why even Signapore functions with pretty much a dictatorship. In America, there is little consistency in the economy, or in policy, thus if you are heavily invested in the economy, you have to pay close attention to the whim of politicians and the social zeitgeist (which is at the core of why there is so much money flowing in the political system from corporations, NGOs, Non-profit organization etc), rather than just handle your business, which is already stressful as is, to anyone who is in business for a living, even if it’s a mom and pop store.

            • Question

              But its (it = Libertarianism) for something that can’t exist in reality. Leaving all facets of society to the choice of individual people is a utopian ideal, not one that can exist in a country of ~300MM+ people and the economy that drives the rest of the world…

              • To be fair, this is one of the reasons why I’m not really a libertarian. Not because, I don’t agree with such an ideal, it’s more a matter of it’s undefinability. Somehow, both Noam Chomsky and Milton Friedman are both identified as libertarians.

                However, i think it’s evasive to say libertarianism is somehow oriented towards utopian idealism. American Liberalism is based off the utopian ideal that a society can come about, where poverty does not exist, and privileges based on wealth are eventually exterminated or cancelled out by law.

                American conservatism is based on the ideal, that you can systematically use tradition to control and direct change, without ever being a threat to society. Every ideology or political philosophy is based on a utopian ideal, what matters is the reasoning or logic behind it and how it seeks to get there.

                Without an ideal, there’s no purpose. I think when people say other approaches to politics in this country are idealistic in their nature or utopian, they are really just proclaiming that it’s hard, if nor impossible for them to see our politics changing from what it currently is, and that all other beliefs or approaches are pretty much futile. The ideal of individual freedom, over political, economic, societal, local community, federal freedom etc, is still the best and greatest contribution America has had on the world, as far as I’m concerned…too bad few Americans actually believe in it in reality anymore.

    • Brandon Allen

      I like every jerk wall street guy listens to Dirty Sprite 2 in his office.

      • I may or may not have ended a meeting with “iight let’s eff up some commas”

        • Ah the accountant game!

        • Brandon Allen

          Let me add…especially the old curmudgeonly white ones lol

      • MostlyMax

        As someone who worked with Wall St douches for years too long I’m gonna cosign this.

  • Baemie St. Patrick

    “Memories Live” by Talib Kweli and Hi Tek

    Michelle resumes reading. Barack opens a book of his own. Nods off.


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