Barack Obama Stunted On Us (Part 1)

I decided to sit down and see just what this Obama guy knows about making summer-themed playlists unique to the time of day it is. This is my story.

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When Washed’s very own Deege Sutton released the first installment of Don’s Playlist Of The Week, I breathed a sigh of relief. We made it. I was sure nothing could overshadow our tastefully curated selection. Washed was primed to own the rest of the summer, maybe even beyond.

Of course, the U.S.A’s own Barack Obama had to drop not just one, but two high-profile big-dicked summer playlists less than a week later. As if we haven’t had our hands full fending off Spotify’s data-fueled personalized algorithmic playlists and Apple Music’s prolific Beats One radio hosts. Good grief.

Still, there’s no need to turn this one-upsmanship into a total pissing contest. Here at Washed, we’re secure in the quality of our playlists and don’t feel the need to rush to bring in Vladamir Putin to contribute a guest playlist to the blog. We’re not mad. In fact, we’re so not mad, we’re laughing.

Anyway, I decided to sit down and see just what this Obama guy knows about making summer-themed playlists unique to the time of day it is. This is my story.

President Obama’s 2016 Summer Playlist: Songs For The Daytime

LoveHate Thing – Wale

Sweet start Barack, a Wale song. Really throwing it back to 2012 here. I’ve admittedly never been a Wale fan, but this song…is actually pretty nice. Beautiful instrumentation and a great chorus from Sam Dew, this song is summer day as fuck. Okay, this is fine. I can appreciate Barack showing some love to a D.C. artist too. Also, it’s hard to imagine any other president kicking off a playlist with a hip-hop artist. Okay, I totally dig this pick.

Notable lyrics: Champagne I’mma spill it until we all fill up/Maybe it stopped me from giving a fuck about opinions/And probably not, but I’m temporarily out of fizzucks/So tell the post to leave propaganda to politicians

Smooth Sailin’ – Leon Bridges

A safe pick, but a good one. Smooth, breezy, and stylishly retro, everything Barack brings to the table. Also very summer day.

Elevator Operator – Courtney Barnett

Barack reads Pitchfork! Well, I guess Courtney Barnett’s latest album was pretty universally lauded, but it didn’t penetrate the general American pop music awareness. This is a sneaky-good summer day pick.

Notable lyrics: I come up here for perception and clarity/I like to imagine I’m playing SimCity

Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

This is an oldie but a goodie. This song is bursting with nostalgia and love and hope, and it would be a pretty good choice for either day or night. I think that Obama put this in the “day” category reinforces that he’s a hopeful guy.

Many the Miles – Sara Bareilles

Okay, I take slight issue with this pick. This feels like blatant pandering to Middle America. It’s fine, but it’s also a serious drop off in quality.

Tightrope – Janelle Monae

A return to form for Barry O! Summery, bouncy horns carry the tune, a funky, danceable groove, a solid Left Foot verse – what’s not to like? Janelle Monae is great.

Notable lyrics: When you get elevated/They love it or they hate it/You dance up on them haters

Classic Man – Jidenna

This is a middling pick. It’s catchy, it was popular, and it’s just a fine song. If I was an executive producer on this playlist, I would’ve made Barack really convince me this deserved to be on here. It probably is more satisfying to sing the chorus when you’re stunting in a presidential-quality suit, I don’t know.

So Ambitious – Jay-Z feat. Pharrell

This is an iffy pick, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with the actual song. Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 is only available on Tidal. How out of touch are you, Barack? It’s not one month after the release of The Life of Pablo, Lemonade, or ANTI – no one has Tidal anymore! How do you expect anyone to listen to this on Spotify or Apple Music? This is a big question mark on a so-far solid playlist.

Me Gustas Tu – Manu Chao

I’d never heard of Manu Chao before, but “Me Gustas Tu” has over 40 million plays on Spotify. Barack caught me sleepin’! I like this pick right here. Very heavy tropical island vibes, a hypnotic song structure, and I think the lyrics are mostly Spanish with a dash of French included. A diverse and successful pick.

Forever Begins – Common

Barack throws it back to his Chicago roots with a Common cut. I enjoy making fun of Common’s relatively corny modern verses as much as the next guy, but the Kanye West executive-produced Finding Forever is nice. This is a fine track, but it doesn’t really uphold the summer vibes Barry has been extolling to this point. I would’ve liked to see something from Common’s Be here instead. Feels like a missed opportunity.

Notable lyrics: On tree by jury, together we hung/Now we let our chains hang and gang bang to maintain/’Ghanistan goin’ through the same thing

The Man – Aloe Blacc

I don’t have much to say here that I didn’t say on “Classic Man”. This is a song Barack can relate and vibe to more than any other human. This one is for him.

As We Enter – Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley

HOLY HELL OBAMA JUST TURNED THE DIAL TO ELEVEN. There’s so much to unpack here. First, Distant Relatives is an outstanding album, and it’s an even better summer day party album. This song is probably the most hype on the record too. Is this a nod to Malia’s Lollapalooza smoke break? A smirk to the haters who bash the pictures of young Barry lighting up? A wink to his friends Key & Peele and the Obama College Years? This song won me over, the rest of the playlist is just icing on the cake at this point. Honestly, this selection has Biden’s fingerprints all over it.

Notable lyrics: (Nas) I got the guns/(Marley) and I got the ganja

Sinnerman – Nina Simone

Nina Simone is timeless. Following up “As We Enter” with a traditional African-American song is a great move too. At ten-plus minutes, this isn’t really a summer day party jam, but it absolutely radiates warmth and energy. I was actually unfamiliar with this track, and I need to thank Barack here for the introduction. This is an auteur-playlist composer move.

U Got The Look – Prince

I couldn’t listen to this track without buying it, but I’m not putting this in quite the same category as “So Ambitious”. I respect people’s love for Prince, particularly those of Barack’s generation, so I’ll assume this is a power pick for 45-65 year-olds and leave it at that.

Notable lyrics: Your face is jammin’/Your body’s heck-a-slammin’/If love is good, let’s get to rammin’ (Note: did Anthony Kiedis write these lyrics?)

Rock Steady – Aretha Franklin

More good stuff, also the second song in a row that feels at least moderately sexual. This picks up the groovy, summer day vibe where “Tightrope” left off. No complaints here, but it feels like Barack heavily frontloaded the modern artists he’s familiar with and fell back on classics here. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s definitely changing the vibe.

Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys

Ah, more pandering, this time to the Baby Boomers. I understand many people consider The Beach Boys to be one of the finest musical groups in modern history, but I personally do not want to be at any summer day party that is bumping “Good Vibrations”. Barack lured in the Millennials Leon Bridges and Courtney Barnett and abandoned us for the Boomers when the going got tough. Not a great look.

Don’t Owe You A Thang – Gary Clark Jr.

I thought you abandoned us Barry! The playlist is alive and jumping again. Gary Clark Jr. is a modern gem and fun for all ages. It’s good to see the back end of the playlist get a little young blood mixed into it.

Man Like That – Gin Wigmore

I’d never heard of Gin Wigmore, so I did a little research (one Google search). Turns out she’s a New Zealand artist, and they’re somewhat excited about her inclusion on the playlist. Way to remember the little people, Barack. This is a fine choice. It’s upbeat, it has loud guitar, and it’s an under-the-radar pick. It holds an important role, as it leads in to his final pick…

II B.S. (Edit)– Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus! Barack Obama, you are a man of impeccable taste. Choosing a legendary jazz musician to close out your summer day playlist is a move that exudes confidence. You don’t get it? It’s probably because your taste isn’t on a presidential level. The song is fun, it meanders, it’s energetic, and it’s timeless. What a closer.

Damn this playlist is good

So, Barack stunted on Washed, hard. That’s no knock on our magnificent staff, but sometimes you’re destined to be demolished doing what you love by someone who is just a natural. I’m sure if I stepped in the Oval Office, I would blow Barack’s performance out of the water. It’s neither here nor there. The point is, the man gave the people what they needed, and we are grateful for that.  It remains to be seen if Obama can close out the performance with his “Songs For The Nighttime” playlist.

This was Part 1 of “Barack Obama Stunted On Us”. Check back soon for Part 2.

By Jake Ramirez

 

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