Superstar performances have filled the final days of the presidential campaigns as big name artists take the stage to galvanize support behind their favorite candidates. Compared to 2008, stars have shined their lights more reluctantly this year, with fewer performing and many waiting until later into the campaign cycle to do so. A recent single by Peter Buffett (the son of Warren Buffett) may explain the frustration of America’s musicians — and Americans in general — with this year’s presidential campaigns.
Pop stars played a major role in generating buzz around the 2008 presidential election, a constellation of stars spelling out H-O-P-E in America’s skies. Hip-hop artist Will.i.am was one of the most actively engaged. He wrote the song “Yes We Can,” whose video included a who’s who of Hollywood stars, with actors like Scarlett Johansson and musicians like Common and Nick Cannon uniting to endorse President Obama.
This year, stars have been slower to materialize before the frontrunner presidential candidates. While no new hip-hop anthems have been presented to the president, country star Trace Adkins produced what became the unintentional theme of the Romney campaign with his “Tough People Do,” which he performed at the Republican National Convention and at a Virginia rally for Romney.
This weekend saw a brief return of Hollywood’s stars to the political stage. Katy Perry performed at a rally in Wisconsin on Saturday in an eye-catching blue mini-dress with the Obama slogan “Forward” on the front. Bruce Springsteen performed for the president at a rally in the same state later in the day. The Marshall Trucker Band, a southern classic rock group, will perform at Romney’s final rally in Ohio on Monday.
The slow participation of stars may be emblematic of feelings shared by many Americans this year, as excitement about hope and change has been replaced by the realities of the political and economic situation in this country. A recent single by the Emmy-award winning composer Peter Buffett, the son of investor Warren Buffett, suggests that the problem might lay in the absence of a real choice between the candidates.
Buffett’s song, “How Would You Know?,” creatively clips together sound bites and speeches from presidents on both sides of the aisle over the past 30 years. His sound curation draws attention to how similar our elected officials seem. In collecting sound bites for his song, Buffet says he was surprised by the circularity of American politics, finding clips from Republicans and Democrats saying things so similar, it was as if “they were almost completing each other’s sentences.”
While Buffett’s father has long supported Democratic candidates and causes, Peter Buffett reminds us that leaders of both major parties can get us into and out of wars and economic problems, and that choosing the “right” candidate may not be as easy as voting along party lines.
While not endorsing either presidential candidate, Buffett is encouraging people to vote on Tuesday, saying in a press release, “no matter the party line, we have the power to decide who will lead this country, and that’s a power we should not take for granted.”
Buffett’s new single does not tell Americans what to think this election, but encourages people to think, perhaps the best advice a star can give on the eve of Election Day.