Donald Trump has weirdly OK taste in music.
Since he started holding political rallies in 2015, Trump has been using music without permission, by artists you probably like, and receiving legal threats, or at least public disavowals, in return. It’s become a bit of a badge of honor to send Trump a cease-and-desist letter, as Pharrell Williams did this week after his song “Happy” was played at an Indiana rally, joining ranks that include Neil Young, Adele, Elton John, and R.E.M.
If you put all the songs that artists have told him he cannot play together, they make a playlist that you probably wouldn’t be embarrassed to fire up during a dinner party—though to be fair, it could be much improved upon by picking different songs by the same artists. Here is that playlist:
It’s not blue-state snobbery to question where the president’s seemingly eclectic taste in music comes from. He’s made gutting the National Endowment for the Arts a pet project, and his dominant personal aesthetic could be described as “shiny.” His MAGA atavism signals more of an interest in The Andrews Sisters than electric guitars.
Some of his choices are unsurprising. As a baby boomer, it makes sense that Trump would think The Rolling Stones are still the coolest band on the planet. And of course he played “We Are the Champions”—you just can’t stop high school basketball teams and would-be autocrats from loving that song.
R.E.M. though? The almost unbearably earnest, distinctly nerdy band hardly seems in the president’s wheelhouse, even if you take into consideration that an extremely literal reading of the lyrics “It’s the end of the world as we know, and I feel fine,” could potentially speak to his signature smugness.
Being a New Yorker, Trump seems more like a Billy Joel guy than an Elton John type of dude, but you know, no one needs permission to love Elton John. “Tiny Dancer” is a weird choice of a song to play at a political rally, though. Does Trump cry every time he happens upon Almost Famous on cable too?
The biggest stumper though is “Purple Rain.“ No one can really touch this song except for Prince. “Purple Rain” is Prince. Was this some sort of, again, painfully literal call to undecided “purple” libertarian voters? On some enlightened plane somewhere, maybe Prince and Freddie Mercury are having a good laugh. Maybe.