Monday, 31 October 2016

reprise or i know what my people are thinking tonight

The doggedly diligent campaign reporters of Nation Public Radio’s Politics Podcast have been working virtually non-stop during this entire physically and emotional taxing election cycle in America, serving up a refreshingly thoughtful and reflective reporting on the election despite the usual common discourse and the pace of change. Now they’re working even harder with daily broadcasts, but recently to bridge the weekend presented a really interesting episode from this summer that I’d missed before—before all these dread realities began to coalesce and was not a regular listener. Encore examines the role of music—specifically musical theatre in the shaping of campaigns and presidencies.
I knew that FDR with “Happy Days are Here Again” (Chasing Rainbows, 1930) and Truman with “I’m just Wild about Harry” (Shuffle Along, 1921—for addressing social justice questions) had capitalized on popular, feel-good songs of their day—just like other rallying standards, but I didn’t realise that the Kennedy White House did not become characterised as Camelot organically but rather became known as such because the Lerner and Loewe Broadway production about to be adapted to film was so popular. Musical numbers might not have the same purchase on cultural currency as they did in decades past—at least not one that’s immediately recognisable—having been replaced by other power-ballads, but it’s interesting how the discussion touches on one candidate’s invoking of songs from The Phantom of the Opera as part of his regular playlist (plus some number with those damn dancing cats, whereas perhaps “Tomorrow belongs to Me” from Cabaret may work better) because of his connection to New York and the Great White Way, and the other who backed away from her rather accidental though intended as flattering comparison to Eva Perón.