News & Politics

In Which We Improve Democrats’ Walk-Out Music

Kirsten Gillibrand speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Celebration, Sunday, June 9, 2019, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Washingtonian analysis of the walk-out music Time journalist Lissandra Villa reports the Democrats running for President chose for an event in Iowa on Sunday shows clear room for improvement. While many of the contenders made some solid picks, a worrying number picked songs that were hackish or overused—or wouldn’t be out of place on Joe Biden’s playlist. Herewith, we have attempted to make improvements to many of their selections.

Cory Booker: Bill Withers’s “Lovely Day” is a fine song if you’re shopping for clothes, but it’s not so great if you’re shopping for a leader. We suggest “From a Motel 6” by New Jersey’s Yo La Tengo, whose rousing beginning would stand up for your local industry and make everyone in the room take notice.

Eric Swalwell: Rodney Atkins is a fine choice, but for sheer entrance power we like “Up Around the Bend” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, written by El Cerrito native John Fogerty.

Bernie Sanders: Come on, it’s got to be “Burning Down the House.”

Tulsi Gabbard: We’re not clear on whether the Hawaiian member of Congress used Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s version of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” or Diana Ross’s (and knowing most politics people’s taste in music, it could just as easily be Michael McDonald’s), but either way, she can do better. We offer the Sunday Manoa’s “Kawika” instead—its blend of traditional Hawaiian slack key and psychedelic haze says something the worn-out Motown chestnut just cannot. (Note to Gabbard’s sound person: Start the song at 2:50.)

Pete Buttigieg: Already nailed it.

Kamala Harris: No complaints with this one.

Delaney: The Maryland member of Congress emphasizes his willingness to go anywhere with Johnny Cash’s road warrior anthem, but he could spice things up considerably with Delaney & Bonnie’s “Only You Know and I Know,” which offers a clever reference to his name and is so inspiring we can already feel the Delaneymentum!

Jay Inslee: ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” is a decent choice for the Washington state governor’s climate-focused campaign. But why not go all the way and use Nelly’s “Hot in Herre”?

Kirsten Gillibrand: How could anyone argue with this song?

Tim Ryan: We see what he’s going for here–the marriage of urban and country, bringing red and blue together, etc. But considering the bruising path to a nomination, maybe “Go All the Way” by northern Ohio’s own Raspberries is a little more aspirational?

Andrew Yang: Actually this is already a pretty bold pick.

Marianne Williamson: We’re assuming she’s using Stevie Wonder’s original, but we suggest switching to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ cover version to lock in the Gen-X vote Beto O’Rourke is leaving on the table (more on this later).

Elizabeth Warren: Great tune, and it’s on message. Don’t change anything.

John Hickenlooper: The only thing we want to do less than listen to One Republic is try to come up with someone better from Denver. So we’re going to recommend “Sloop John B,” because that would be a pretty fun choice for him.

Amy Klobuchar: Klobuchar’s staff might suggest Ramin Djawadi’s theme for Game of Thrones, but honestly, this is an inspired choice.

Steve Bullock: You know what’s worse than listening to John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” for the 9,000th time? Trying to come up with an artist from Montana who’d be a better choice. We threw up our hands and picked “Wild Montana Skies” by John Denver, who was not from Montana, but damn there are a lot of candidates.

Bill de Blasio: We’re sort of blown away by how good a choice this song is. But: It is pretty weird for a New York mayor to choose a song with the name that sounds like “Rudy” in the title.

Michael Bennet: Oh great, someone else from Colorado. We are not going through this again: Trying to remember if Neutral Milk Hotel recorded its most famous record in Denver, trying to pick something recorded at Red Rocks, trying to remember what the String Cheese Incident sounds like. Let’s just go with this play on his last name.

Beto O’Rourke: Mr. Punk Rock Skateboarder has the hopes and dreams of all us forgotten Gen-Xers on his shoulder, and he  picks a song released when he was 7 years old. Dammit, man, we know you’ve sung along to this one during your late-night car rides through the vanishing American dream.

Additional reporting by Rob Brunner.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.