As the American election draws to a merciful close, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. A bright field, where the sun is shining, kittens romp in packs, and we can go for more than three minutes without mentioning Wikileaks or tiny hands. (Side note: Americans, how do you stand a nearly two-year election cycle? Are you not completely burned out by now? The best part of this last month was when David Pumpkins took over the news cycle, giving everyone a few hours of relief from the endless shouting.)
But there is one thing I’ll miss about elections. In fact, it might be the second-best part of elections, after Bill Clinton’s delightful balloon reaction.
The rallying cry of the candidate, the song that becomes synonymous with hope or change or power or even “build that wall!” From Fleetwood Mac to Broadway musicals, the music a candidate picks can define their campaign.
You’d think that during Canadian elections, the parties would stick with Canadian artists, but that’s not always the case. Stephen Harper played a Collective Soul song for eight years, while in the 1980s, the Liberals swore by Van Halen. But there are a few standout Canadian artists whose songs seem to find their way into campaign trails. Sometimes they work, and other times….you get a top five list of odd song choices from Canadian artists.
Celine Dion, “Love Can Move Mountains”
Used by Kim Campbell and the Conservatives in 1993
First, this music video is peak ‘90s. The entire thing looks like a montage from Sister Act Two, with Celine as Whoopi. Second, it’s a slow jam disguised as a pump-up song. You see people clapping, Celine jumps around a lot in the video, but it’s a pretty serene 4/4 beat. I’m not saying Celine is responsible for the Liberals winning, but the PCs did fall to two seats after the votes were cast.
Celine Dion, “You and I”
Used by Hillary Clinton in her presidential bid in 2008
Another Celine song, and she really got a payday off this one. It came about from a partnership with Air Canada (check the not-so-subtle branding in the video) and Clinton used it for a two-month web campaign during her first run at the presidency. With lyrics like “You and I/ were meant to fly/ higher than the clouds/ we’ll sail across the sky” it’s just inspiring enough to apply to nearly any situation. Like Katy Perry’s “Roar” or nearly anything that comes out of American Idol, it’s blandly positive. It’s an inspirational Instagram post in song form, perfect for an election.
K’Naan, “Wavin Flag”
Used by Mitt Romney in 2012
This choice is a little confusing – K’Naan’s song was an anthem for his birthplace of Somalia. It’s a song about people living and struggling in a war-torn country, striving to find peace and a better way of life. It seems more than a little out of place in the Republican campaign of Mitt Romney, a wealthy, white, American Mormon, who was fighting to keep taxes low. Doesn’t have quite the same emotional punch, does it? K’Naan didn’t think so either. He requested the campaign quit using the song, which they did.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive, “Taking Care of Business”
Used by Stephen Harper to open Parliament in 2014
In another example of artists not approving of the use of their song, Randy Bachman was livid that Harper used his song several times. At the time, he told reporters “I don’t think he’s taking care of business for the right people.” Burn.
Sloan, “Believe in Me”
Used by Jack Layton and the NDP during the 2011 election
I concede that this song is teetering on the edge for me. Layton and his brand of optimism works pretty well with lyrics like:
“If you believe everyone is the future/ If you believe that nothing ever goes wrong/ If you believe that deep down inside you’re falling apart/ Know that everybody’s weak and everyone can be strong.”
There’s just something about Sloan’s heavy guitars and crashing cymbals that seems at odds with the NDP. Shouldn’t they be the party of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and twangy, earnest singer/songwriters? Either way, the song worked, as the NDP hit an all-time high and became the official opposition.
Now, there are just a few short days to go before the current election grinds to a close. While it might be maddening, if you need a break from political tunes, why not turn up Queen, Adele, R.E.M, The Rolling Stones, Luciano Pavarotti, George Harrison, or the King of Folk Himself, Neil Young. They’ve all forbidden Trump from using their songs in his rallies.
Emily Baron Cadloff is a television reporter/reader/writer/binge-watcher. Currently based in New Brunswick, she has lived all over Canada, and credits the Winnipeg Folk Festival with her love of Canadian music. She is always up for dessert.