There’s one area of a political campaign that just about everyone, at some point, falls afoul of. The campaign song. I’m not sure quite why it is, but it seems to be almost impossible for political parties to come up with a musical oeuvre that’s simultaneously accessible to a broad swathe of the population, resonates with key demographics, embodies the narrative themes of your campaign, AND won’t create some sort of bizarre blowback later.
I was therefore pretty surprised when National went with what was pretty clearly a slightly orchestrally elevator music version of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”. It was broadly accessible (just about everyone’s heard it in the decade or so since 8Mile came out); it resonated with key demographics (youth; the sort of upper-middle-class person who thinks Eminem is “edgy”); embodied the narrative theme of National’s campaign (tough times, but a way forward out of them thanks to a visionary genius) … and then it created some sort of bizarre blowback.
See, when viewing the Opening Night broadcasts, I thought that this election could be summed up as Eminem vs Coldplay (as Labour’s ad featured a similarly elevator music’d Viva La Vida … which quite possibly makes elevator music squared); although when researching this piece, it turned out that National vs Coldplay has, in fact, happened before… (they’ve also previously been sued by Warner Brothers, in 1984, for using the theme to Chariots of Fire.)
I’m not quite sure why there’s such a pattern of right-wing parties using music they’re not entitled to and which contains polemical points they don’t understand; but it’s not like National’s the only offender.
Previous examples of this include the Republican Party borrowing the Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These” to herald George W Bush, then doing the same thing four years later with “My Hero” for John McCain; although for the truly absolutely bizarre, look no further than the elected quasi-fascists of the British National Party using The Manic Street Preachers’ If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next.
Yes, that’s right, an actual quasi-fascist party used a song written in tribute to the International Brigades which fought in the Spanish Civil War … and EVEN INCLUDES THE LITERAL LINE “So if I can shoot rabbits/ then I can shoot fascists!” … as their electoral anthem. Really, really logical there, people.
But let’s take a step back for a moment and consider the associations and themes of the song National’s actually chosen to herald the #BrighterFuture this time around. What’s Lose Yourself really about? (Apart from Mum’s Spaghetti)
From where I’m sitting, the entire ethos and vibe of both the song, and the accompanying movie/vehicle it’s drawn from is about a man and his community that’s suffering from some considerable economic marginalization. That’s why he’s living in a “mobile home”. That’s why he “can’t get by with my 9 to 5 [to] provide the right type of life for my family / Coz man these food stamps don’t buy diapers” … seriously, let’s just pause for a minute and consider the fact that National’s official campaign theme contains lines about how state welfare/assistance recipients can’t access items they need because we refuse to trust them with money – food stamps not buying diapers is eerily similar to WINZ deciding tampons were a “luxury item” that couldn’t be bought with a food grant… and then we wind up with “and these times are so hard – and its’ getting even harder”.
Now just remind yourself, for a moment, which political party it is which has taken the song about the man struggling to be able to provide for his child because wages aren’t enough to sustain a family, and state assistance has been pared back too much to help him. For some strange reason, it’s the party that *opposes* a Living Wage and which has done more than any government since Ruthanasia to slash state assistance to beneficiaries. And then, to add insult to injury, the ads featuring Lose Yourself in the background have a team of rowers – a sport more usually associated with Cambridge and Oxford or our best boys’ schools down the Maadi Cup, rather than “Struggle Street” (or, if you prefer, McGehan Close)
“Curwen Ares Rolinson is a firebrand young nationalist presently engaged in acts of political resistance deep behind enemy lines amidst the leafy boughs of Epsom. He is affiliated with the New Zealand First Party; although his postings here should not necessarily be taken as indicative or representative of NZF’s policy or views.”