News & Politics

From Pharrell to Alicia Keys, Mayoral Candidates Queue Up Campaign Music

Their selections also include original go-go music about bike lanes.

Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” is being used by Vincent Orange’s campaign. Photograph by arvzdix /

Council member Vincent Orange started his mayoral campaign later than most of his opponents and lags in the polls, but he’s trying to get an edge in a very important aspect of any political race—the campaign song.

In a press release Thursday, Orange says his campaign’s theme song will be Pharrell Williams’s “Happy,” a song Williams recorded for the soundtrack of Despicable Me 2. (The singer’s other recent work—guesting on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”—is better music, but probably less appropriate for the campaign trail.)

Orange has already used the song as the soundtrack of a video (below) recapping his black-tie campaign launch last month. But in an email to Washingtonian, Orange explains why he picked the track: “A $12 Billion government, 17 years of consecutive balanced budgets, a Housing Production Trust Fund, a future of projected surpluses, a high disposal income city, a Heavenly Father that looks out for my family and me, makes me happy,” he writes. “In addition, the HAPPY groove and beat is awesome.”

The pop charts have been mined by the other candidates as well. Mayor Vince Gray’s re-election bid, meanwhile, has adopted “Wake Up Everybody” by John Legend and The Roots, while council member Muriel Bowser likes to walk on stage to Alicia Keys’s “Girl on Fire.”

Council member Tommy Wells appears to be the only one to commission an original campaign theme. His theme, in the go-go style, boasts lyrics that fit his platform of clean, urban living and multimodal transportation. Chuck Brown probably never figured the genre he invented would one day include rhymes about bike lanes and dog parks, but it does now.

The soundscape of DC’s mayoral election isn’t limited to candidates. Longtime Adrian Fenty ally and frequent Gray critic Ron Moten finally released some music—previous political tracks include unforgettable titles like “Don’t Leave Us, Fenty”—with “We’re Coming Out,” a rewrite of Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” that avoids endorsing any of the current candidates, but features an appearance by The Wire’s Anwan “Big G” Glover.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.