There's a Glaring Flaw With Each of the 2020 Candidates' Rally Playlists

A collage of former Vice President Joe Biden, recording artist Billie Eilish, and California Sen. Kamala Harris
Photo: Stephen Maturen/AP, Leon Neal/Getty, Leon Neal/Getty

The New York Times has a big interactive out today about the playlists the 2020 Democrats (and President Donald Trump) play at their campaign rallies. Immediately, there were several glaring issues, among them being: Where, oh where, is beloved teen superstar Billie Eilish, who currently has the No. 1 song in the country?

Sure, no one may be jumping at the chance to have a song titled “bad guy” act as a representation of their campaign, but anyone attending a Kirsten Gillibrand or Pete Buttigieg campaign stop would surely get the idea about who the “bad guy” in the 2020 race is.

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And what about “you should see me in a crown”? It’s a bop, all the while sending a very presidential message with the song title. Even “bury a friend” and “my strange addiction,” eyebrow-raising titles, to be sure, would earn points with the Gen Z’ers in the crowd, the latter tune signaling to people who habitually binge The Office on Netflix you’re not like the other Democrats—you’re a cool Democrat.

Another alarming, if not disqualifying, omission from all of these candidates’ campaign playlists? “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. I don’t care how overplayed you think this song is—it would kill at an Elizabeth Warren campaign stop! Warren walking out to the line, “Can’t nobody tell me nothin’ (You can’t tell me nothin’)”? Iconique!

There are, however, a few other great tracks that made candidates’ playlists—Lizzo and Selena (Quintanilla-Pérez, not Gomez) appear across several lists, and Cardi B is on Kamala Harris’ playlist, though she loses points for her corny inclusion of “My Shot” from the Hamilton musical.

All (very serious and good) suggestions aside, the Times didn’t totally stick the landing, claiming Bernie Sanders’ fairly short list of tunes was made up of 100 percent male artists. Not great! However, I immediately noticed glancing at Sanders’ playlist that it includes “Unconditional Love” by Against Me! If you are unfamiliar with the band, lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in 2012. The song is from their album Transgender Dysphoria Blues. A simple search could have saved the Times from erasing Grace’s gender identity.

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On Twitter, Times national politics reporter Astead Herndon shared they updated the piece to reflect that Against Me! has a female performer (and that Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign had removed a song featuring the late rapper XXXTentacion). That correction made Beto O’Rourke the frontrunner for candidates whose playlists have the most men, although the former congressman’s playlist is quite a bit longer.

As my deputy editor Jack Mirkinson put it, glancing at O’Rourke’s playlist makes clear “we get it you are a punk you stupid fuck.” At least he missed the group memo on using Panic! At The Disco’s “High Hopes”—which appeared on three candidates’ lists.

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About the author

Samantha Grasso

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan