21 Sadly Appropriate RNC-Themed Karaoke Songs
After an unusually tragic month, and a Republican National Convention proving to be both a figurative and literal shitshow, we could all use some levity. The non-sober among us can get sloshed to GOP drinking games from The Root, Politico, Complex, and Time Out. Stephen Colbert’s RNC Bingo will make convention viewing less painful, and Tulsa racial justice leader Mana Tahaie’s more specific “law enforcement apologist bingo” was perfect for Rudy Giuliani & co.’s jingoistic, fear-drenched “Make America safe again” opening night.
But what if you don’t want to drink away your sorrows, or you can’t stomach the dumpster fire long enough to check off “all lives matter” on your bingo card? Never fear, I’ve got you covered with — drumroll by Queen (who protested Trump walking out to “We Are the Champions”), please — #RNCkaraoke! Game-tested last night by yours truly along with The Establishment’s own Nikki Gloudeman, Kelley Calkins, and Katie Tandy, #RNCkaraoke lets you literally drop the mic on what may be the most irrational, racist, and misogynistic political convention in modern American history. I’ve written about the dual fiasco of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and corporate media coverage of it, and I’ll continue to monitor journalistic mangling of Election 2016 for The Establishment’s Media Watch column and in media literacy talks, but for now, join me on a Magical Musical Mockery Tour.
From hip hop to metal, Motown to Weird Al, there’s something for everyone’s taste and vocal range; the musical styles on this playlist are as diverse as the GOP is homogeneous. Use this playlist to survive the last two nights of the RNC, and again all the way through November!
Kick off #RNCkaraoke the way we did last night, with an iconic R.E.M. anthem so perfect for this year’s RNC that it even includes the verse:
“Team by team, reporters baffled
TRUMPED, tethered, cropped.”
If that wasn’t enough reason to belt this one out with gusto, consider that after Trump walked into a September campaign event with Ted Cruz to this song, R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe tweeted, “Go fuck yourselves, the lot of you — you sad, attention-grabbing, power-hungry little men . . . Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.” Bassist Mike Mills added, “I think the Orange Clown will do anything for attention. I hate giving it to him,” before releasing the band’s statement asking Trump, Cruz, and others to “cease and desist” using their music.
2. Your Racist Friend, They Might Be Giants
When even George Will leaves the GOP over Trump, you know the Republican party is in a bad way. Every time you hear Trump brand Mexicans as rapists and criminals, bash Black Lives Matter as racist, or ramble about a ludicrously unenforceable and amoral ban on all Muslim immigrants, superimpose this tune as a backing track and it’ll be a little easier to swallow. Just one suggestion for a lyric change, in ALL CAPS: “This is where the [GRAND OLD] party ends/ I can’t stand here listening to you/ And your racist friend/ I know politics bore you/ But I feel like a hypocrite talking to you/ And your racist friend.”
3. You’re So Vain, Carly Simon
Rockers keep exhorting Donald Trump not to use their music, but something tells me Carly Simon would enjoy seeing the GOP’s POTUS candidate shuffling along to this classic.
Trump has filed for bankruptcy numerous times and has suffered fraud lawsuits, yet spent a decade as the star of a reality show framed around his supposed exceptional business savvy. He can’t seem to speak for more than five minutes without insulting someone, yet he is notoriously thin-skinned and lashes out viciously at even the slightest criticism. He has zero political expertise (unless we consider his efforts to gin up hysterical Birtherism) and has offered almost no details for how he’d govern, yet he feels entitled to the Oval Office. As a journalist, I hesitate to assign a mental health diagnosis to anyone without clinical confirmation. Yet it’s impossible to read the following from the Mayo Clinic without immediately recognizing the GOP’s presidential candidate:
“If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having ‘the best’ of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care. At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior.”
4. For the Love Of Money, The O’Jays
The Apprentice debuted in 2004 and aired until NBC canceled Celebrity Apprentice over Trump’s ugly, racist campaign rhetoric about Mexicans. During its run, the series provided endless evidence of its star’s egotism, his discriminatory behavior that would be illegal in an actual boardroom, and his generally smarmy attitude. Even the opening credits offers useful insight into The Donald’s venal mindset: Instead of the cautionary tale the O’Jays intended, The Apprentice co-opted this song as its theme, framing it with an aspirational visual backdrop of expensive cars, grand buildings, and seven images of Trump himself, along with block captions asking, “What if you could have it all? It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.” Conveniently omitted from the credits? These original lyrics: “For the love of money/People will lie, Lord, they will cheat/For the love of money/People don’t care who they hurt or beat.” Think of that the next time you hear Trump promising to run America like he runs his business.
5. Highway to Hell, AC/DC
There is no better transportation metaphor for this year’s election cycle than this. Get ready to headbang, people!
6. Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today), The Temptations
Released in 1970, the details may have changed but the tumultuous litany of troubles facing America is still relevant today. White fear — and the vengeful, violent rhetoric the GOP has used to rouse it to serve their own ends — are front and center in this tune: “People moving out/ people moving in/ Why, because of the color of their skin./ Run, run, run but you sure can’t hide./ An eye for an eye/ A tooth for a tooth/Vote for me and I’ll set you free.”
7. I Think I’m a Clone Now, Weird Al
I know what you’re thinking: “Karaoke joints don’t have Weird Al!” That’s where you’re wrong, my friend, as we found out at BINY last night, singing “Born in a science lab late one night/ Without a mother or a father/ just a test tube and a womb with a view,” because we knew that the concept would piss off Mike Pence.
8. Big Time, Peter Gabriel
Was Peter Gabriel psychic? Listen to this send-up of a self-important blowhard and try not to think about a candidate who uses stump speeches to brag about how rich he is, how he has the classiest, most luxurious cars/buildings/wives, and how large his penis is.
9. Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode
This one goes out to evangelical voters, who may be rethinking their endorsement of a candidate who recently explained to 60 Minutes that getting Christian voters’ support is the same as being religious.
10. I’m Afraid of Americans, David Bowie
World leaders are reportedly deeply disturbed by the rise of Donald Trump and the unhinged nature of Election 2016. Who can blame them?
11. Mississippi Goddam, Nina Simone
In April, I wrote here about Trump’s racist dog whistles catapulting him to the status of Recruiter in Chief for white supremacist groups (see “plague six”). If the GOP’s nominee for POTUS resembles Alabama Governor George Wallace circa 1963, then Nina Simone’s 1964 protest song is as relevant as ever — especially in a year that has continued to see law enforcement officers repeatedly killing unarmed African Americans, and ducking almost all legal accountability.
12. Kiss Me, Son of God, They Might Be Giants
Producer Mark Burnett preferred “For the Love of Money” as the theme for “The Apprentice,” but for my money, TMBG’s “Kiss Me, Son of God” is a far more fitting theme song for the man himself… especially now that he’s running for the most important office in the country. “I built a little empire out of some crazy garbage/ Called the blood of the exploited working class/ But they’ve overcome their shyness/ Now they’re calling me Your Highness/ And a world screams, “Kiss me, Son of God!”
13. The Party’s Over, Willie Nelson
#ProTip: this one’s more fun if you imagine Paul Ryan listening in the dark, crying into his Miller Lite.
14. Subdivision, Ani DiFranco
“White people are so scared of Black people,” Ani sang in this 2001 song about white flight. Fifteen years later, those fears have been masterfully manipulated by a GOP nominee who promises to make America great “again” (ie, to regress to a time before people of color — nor women for that matter — had anything remotely akin to civil rights). “I’m wondering what it will take/ For my country to rise/ First we admit our mistakes/ And then we open our eyes/ Or nature succumbs to one last dumb decision/ And America the beautiful/ Is just one big subdivision.”
15. Head Like a Hole, Nine Inch Nails
It’s damn cathartic to sing-scream, “Head like a hole! Black as your soul! I’d rather die than give you control!” while imagining a political revolution rising up against the Cheetos-frosted garbage barge masquerading as a politician.
16. Running With the Devil, Van Halen
What was running through Chris Christie’s mind during that infamous press conference at which he stood behind the man he repeatedly claimed was unfit for office, his eyes silently screaming? Pretty sure it was this chorus, on loop.
17. Join the Parade, Project Planet P
The darkest track on this #RNCkaraoke playlist is also the closest, most literal interpretation of Trump’s rise to power. “Are people pushing you around?/ Like you don’t belong here in your town?/ Are strange new people closing in?/ They got funny eyes and different skin./ Well we’ve got the answer for you/ How the many can be led by the few./ And here’s something totally new/ Grab your hat and get your gun/ We’ll be marching out to light the midnight sun/ If you join the parade.”
Note: This (and some of the rest of this playlist) may be hard to find at a karaoke joint, so find a friend who’s good at music editing and make your own mp3, like so many people do on YouTube under Fair Use.
18. Bonzo Goes to Bitburg, The Ramones
“You’re a politician. Don’t become one of Hitler’s children.” ‘Nough said.
19. Springtime for Hitler, The Producers
Did you find yourself humming “Springtime for Hitler” in an unforgivably bad Mel Brooks impression throughout the primaries? No? Just me? Your loss, then; far better to have this satire rattling around in my brain than the discordant Trump/Cruz/Rubio/Christie chorus. “It ain’t no myst’ry/ If it’s politics or hist’ry/ The thing you gotta know is/ Ev’rything is show biz/ Heil myself/ Watch my show.”
20. Where Do We Go From Here?, Once More With Feeling/Buffy Musical Soundtrack
This bit of Buffy geekery goes out to Colorado’s delegation, the only Never Trumpers to actually walk out of the convention when they couldn’t force the presumptive nominee out of power via procedural hocus-pocus.
“But Jenn,” I know you’re asking, “how should I end my #RNCkaraoke [or #GOPkaraoke if you play throughout the general election] night?” Well, my friends, that’s easy:
21. Fuck This Shit, I’m Out, The Theme Song
Thanks to my hilarious and politically savvy Facebook community for suggesting many of these tunes.
Lead image: Pixabay