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Liz and Dick. Romeo and Juliet. Celebrities and Obama.
The love affair between the rich and famous and he of hope and change is as storied as any of the most famous romances. But while it’s en vogue for Hollywood to support and raise money for President Obama, only a brave few have set their endorsement to song.
On the occasion of Mimi herself, Mariah Carey, releasing her own musical ode to the commander in chief, here’s a look at the best—and worst—of Obama tribute songs.
Mariah Carey: FAIL
Mimi’s treacly ballad “Bring It on Home” clocks in at almost three minutes ... but there’s only one verse. Set to what sounds like the default backing track on a Casio keyboard, the song has Carey lilting meaningless platitudes like “We just everyday people trying to make it through the pain” before transitioning into two minutes of wailing various combinations of the phrase “Bring it on home.” The freshman American Idol judge first performed the track live at a campaign event earlier this year, but producer Jermaine Dupri released the official version of the slow jam on his website Wednesday, after Obama’s victory.
Young Jeezy: WIN
Back in April, rapper Young Jeezy received quite the ego boost from the president, who said at a White House dinner, “In my first term, I sang Al Green. In my second term, I’m going with Young Jeezy.” It’s no surprise, then, that the soundbite opens Jeezy’s latest Obama love song, “We Done It Again,” on which he praises the president while touching on controversial issues in the black community, including Trayvon Martin’s shooting and Hurricane Katrina. Really, it’s Jeezy who has “done it again,” too. His “My President,” an homage to Obama’s landmark election that was released in 2008, was widely celebrated by the hip-hop community.
Far East Movement: WIN
One can only imagine how flattered the president was upon learning that the wunderkind rappers behind the seminal track “Like a G6” recorded a song in his honor. “For All” is kind of a classy jam, setting snippets of Obama’s speeches to synth beats and featuring a chanting chorus that’s perfectly radio-ready. Jessica Alba, Don Cheadle, Jared Leto, and Scarlett Johansson make cameos. (Score, Obama!) But so does convicted felon Snoop Dogg.
Bruce Springsteen: FAIL
The Boss’s entire last record essentially served as an extended campaign song for Obama. But when Springsteen appeared with the president at an Ohio fundraiser in October, he unveiled “Forward and Away We Go,” his only song written expressly for the campaign. He appears to be joking as he sings lyrics like, “I kissed your sister, then I kissed your mama/Usually this time of day I’m in my pajamas/Let’s vote for the man who got Osama.” We hope he really was.
Iconic lines from Obama’s victory speech are sampled—“They said this day would never come”—and his slogan is co-opted for the chorus—“Yes we can ... change the world”—in Nas’s “Black President.” A driving snare drumbeat marches behind Nas’s raps, which includes lines like, “I think Obama provides hope and challenges minds/Of all races and colors to erase the hate.” Many lyrics require a parental advisory, but the song’s hot-button content is legitimately powerful.
Stevie Wonder: FAIL
All that needs to be said about Stevie Wonder’s bizarrely Middle Eastern–themed Obama support song, “Keep Moving Forward,” is that when the first family paraded across stage on election night to celebrate the president’s reelection, they were stepping in time to the beat of Wonder’s classic “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours,” not this original tribute track.
R. Kelly: WIN
“I Believe” originally appeared on the soundtrack for the flop animated film Osmosis Jones and was rearranged in order to fete Obama in 2008. But despite its auspicious beginnings, the track is typical R. Kelly take-it-to-church, I-really-do-believe-I-can-fly soaring melody and inspiration. By the time the climactic key change kicks in at minute four, you’re already standing up with one arm in the sky screaming, “Hallelujah!”
Will.i.am: WIN and FAIL
Will.i.am is, often, quite insufferable. So when he announced plans for a star-studded homage to Obama titled “Yes We Can,” eyes rolled because of course he was doing that. The Black Eyed Pea assembled an eclectic list of celebrities from all lists A through D: Scarlett Johansson, John Legend, Joan’s husband on Mad Men, the deaf girl from the early seasons of Weeds. But the scrappy hodgepodge-ness of it all—with some people singing, some rapping, some reciting—is all kind of affecting despite itself.
Of course, Will.i.am doesn’t know how to quit while he’s ahead. He quickly released another clip with the same idea—Jessica Alba and all-grown-up Theo Huxtable talking about why they love Obama while bass thumps threaten to down them out—and announced another tribute to come out now that the president has been reelected.
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