In honor of President’s Day, LyricFind calculated every song that mentions a U.S. president, both positively and negatively, and counted the results. Barack Obama is officially the most name-dropped president in music, reports Billboard.
With a total of 309 mentions, Obama's musical mentions are overwhelmingly positive compared to the other presidents making of the top five which are George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump respectively. In fact, Obama was name-dropped in nearly as many songs as the other four combined. Why is that?
Well, there are a number of variables at play. According to Vox, the billboard charts of this current decade show a resurgence in interest in artists that address social issues in their music. People are again becoming more politically and socially-minded and it is reflected in their musical tastes. Aside from being the first Black president, the years of Obama's presidency represented a time of progressive change. He invested in education, environmental research, and healthcare reform which is perhaps one of the things that will be most prominently a part of his legacy. If you combine those two factors, Obama as music's favorite president makes a lot of sense. He made history and represented change.
Additionally, many of the songs that mention a president are hip hop. Many of the presidents mentioned were in office during hip hop's rise to popularity, beginning with its ascent in 1973. Music has a storied tradition of taking inspiration from social and political issues of the times and wrestling with these problems in song. Artists like Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne join the ranks of music legends like Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, and Stevie Wonder when they use their talents to draw attention to current events. One of the very first lessons Jack Black as Dewey Finn tries to teach his students in School of Rock is to "stick it to the man." Questioning the system is Music 101. Where would music be if it didn't challenge power structures and question concepts we believe to be part of the societal norm?
Surprisingly, Donald Trump only appears in 33 songs. Granted, nearly half of them were written before he became president and he was merely a controversial businessman and reality star; however, to have that many after one year in the White House is quite a lot. It seems like artists have a lot to say about Trump and his policies. That might be a bit of an understatement.
Barack Obama has been one of the most musically fluent presidents by far, especially when it comes to popular music. Who else still loves his 2017 playlist? Anyone that can put Harry Styles, SZA, Kendrick Lamar, Portugal. The Man, and Brandi Carlile on the same playlist is alright by me. From hosting politically conscious hip hop at White House poetry shows, knowing the latest news about Drake and Kanye West, to having a private Prince and Stevie Wonder concert at the White House, Obama has shown his love for music and music has shown it right back.
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