Continuing a tradition he began as president, Barack Obama just released his summer playlist. Like his previous efforts, this year’s collection of songs reflects a calculated balance of eras and genres. Billie Ellish and Otis Redding both made the cut, as did John Legend, Rhiana, Cheryl Crow, Billie Holiday, and War.
“As always, it’s a mix of genres that travels through various eras. I think there’s something in here for everybody––hope you enjoy it,” Obama wrote of the playlist. He’s not wrong, but the whole thing almost feels a little too balanced, as if consultants had a hand in picking these songs to appeal to different demographics. It could also be that Obama has diverse taste and wanted his playlist to reflect that. It’s probably a little of both.
The selection of eight songs by artists performing at this week’s Democratic National Convention (and the timing of its release during said convention) belie the fact that while Obama might not be in office anymore, but he’s still a politician.
Over the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to music with my family. I wanted to share some of my favorites from the summer—including songs from some of the artists at this week’s @DemConvention. Hope you enjoy it. pic.twitter.com/2ZFwdN46jR
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 17, 2020
Here are five of our favorite picks from this summer’s selection of songs.
“Liberation” by OutKast
CeeLo Green and Erykah Badu are featured on this nearly nine-minute track from Aquemini, a tour-de-force on the subject of freedom, particularly the freedom to express yourself without worrying about what others think.
“my future” by Billie Ellish
Ellish wrote this song at the beginning of quarantine, a time when Ellish was, in her words, “hopeful, excited and [experiencing] a craaaazy amount of self reflection and self growth.” Its lyrics suggest the optimism of being freed from a negative relationship but, as Ellish also pointed out, its lyrics have new meaning in a time of forced separation from other people.
“Goodbye Jimmy Reed” by Bob Dylan
Dylan’s late-career obsession with pre-rock and roll American music — swing and the blues in particular — continues on his latest album. This song goes a step further, as it says farewell to one of the blues musicians who made rock and roll possible. Like many of Dylan’s greatest songs, its lyrics are dense and full of allusion, but there’s plenty for the less literarily inclined to enjoy as well.
“Gaslighter” by The Chicks
The big, bold return of The Chicks (neé Dixie Chicks) is an excoriation of a dishonest husband, an anthem of anger whose power comes from its alternating soft and loud sections and cutting lyrics—”You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?” in particular.
“Do I Do” by Stevie Wonder
Obama included plenty of songs that are slower and softer than what you might imagine for a summer playlist. This bouncy, upbeat song from Stevie Wonder is not one of them.