Music and politics go together surprisingly well. In fact, political campaign music playlists have a surprisingly long history. Candidates have used music to boost awareness of their campaigns for over a hundred years. Whether it’s songs about politics or music meant to inspire a specific mood, campaign music has long been an important part of generating buzz about a candidate.
Much like the protest songs used to unify movements and drive social change, political campaign music has a simple goal—to endear you, the candidate, to your constituents and raise awareness about your campaign platform. A well-chosen campaign song can even make you seem more approachable and relatable.
And today, thanks to social media and streaming services, this exchange of music isn’t just confined to hit songs on the campaign trail or theme songs at rallies. Political campaigns can now just put together playlists and share collections of their favorite songs or songs they feel align well with their platforms.
Putting together your own campaign playlist can help you connect with and energize voters to get out and vote for you. Need inspiration? Here’s a roundup of 10 of the best political campaign music playlists that Democrats have to offer in 2021:
- Joe Biden – President Biden’s campaign playlist includes tracks from iconic performers—Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, and Lady Gaga, to name a few.
- Biden/Harris – This song list is filled with timeless classics. “Everyday People” by Sly & The Family Stone and “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross are just a few of the goodies in the list. Other artists featured include The Jackson 5, Elton John, Coldplay, and Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyonce.
- Jon Ossoff – Though shorter than other lists, Senator Ossoff’s campaign playlist offers a unique approach to collecting campaign music. Where others aim for energetic and uplifting (mostly) big-name songs, Ossoff’s musical list features takes a different approach: lo-fi tunes to help you unwind and feel hopeful. If you’re looking for a calming 20 minutes of hip-hop, look no further.
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s political campaign playlist is a cool and lively mix of classic and modern music. Artists like M.I.A., Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Kanye are arranged alongside the likes of Michael Jackson, TLC, and the Isley Brothers. There’s even a song from Hamilton in this list, which includes a hardy 94 total songs.
- Sarah Gideon – The former state representative for the state of Maine and the woman who gave Susan Collins a run for her money in the 2020 senatorial election, Gideon’s playlist has a slightly folksier feel than other campaign song lists featured here. Her playlist features big names (e.g., Tom Petty, Nina Simone, and Dolly Parton) right alongside more independent artists, such as Noah Kahan and Maggie Rogers, who both, like Gideon herself, hail from New England.
- Cory Booker (Unofficial) – Though not directly curated by Cory Booker, this playlist tees up a powerhouse of upbeat and invigorating songs from wide-ranging artists, including Whitney Houston, Panic! at the Disco, Lizzo, and Florence and the Machine. You’ll also find classic songs from Marvin Gaye, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Wonder.
- Barack Obama – Obama’s campaign playlist is a collection of upbeat songs from various genres and eras. Featuring music from Ricky Martin, Willow Smith, Montgomery Gentry, and Electric Lights Orchestra, this list has a little something for everyone.
- 2020 Dem Primary Entrance Music – This collection offers the list most directly and specifically related to political campaign music via a playlist of all the entrance songs from different Democratic campaigns throughout 2020. It’s the shortest playlist on the list, but it packs a powerful collection of songs, including music from The Clash, Dolly Parton, and Alabama Shakes.
- Kamala Harris – Vice President Harris’ campaign playlist is a tribute to many artists in rap, hip hop, and R&B. In this list, you’ll find artists such as Childish Gambino, India.Arie, 2Pac, and Nicki Minaj.
- Bernie Sanders – Bernie’s playlist is longer than most and leans more toward the classics, featuring bands such as Simon & Garfunkel, Marvin Gaye, and the Beatles. More modern bands—Pearl Jam, Killer Mike (from Run the Jewels), Rage Against the Machine, and others—do make an appearance, though. The most noteworthy song on the list? A ‘70s protest song: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott-Heron.
These top 10 playlists help emphasize a key point: campaign music has a lot of power to persuade people—to take action, to organize, and to vote.
Ultimately, sharing a collection of your favorite songs and using the power of music for your political campaign is a quick and easy way to reach voters and helps them feel connected to you as a candidate.
What songs best represent you and your campaign?