How to Pick the Right Song for the Moment

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


What’s in a song? More than you might suspect, says Dana Gorzelany-Mostak, Ph.D., an assistant professor of music at Georgia College. She recently launched the nonpartisan website Trax on the Trail where scholars, educators, journalists, students and the general public can learn about American presidential campaign music. The idea is to gain insight into how sound participates in forming candidates’ identities.

The site contains more than 8,000 tracked instances of music on the 2016 presidential campaign trail. In general, the music at the two conventions followed predictable paths: the Republicans relied upon their allegiances with rock and country, while the Democrats tended towards pop sounds. But the list of walk-on songs by candidates throughout the primaries is fun and often unpredictable:

Jeb Bush:            “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars
Ben Carson:        “Life Is a Highway” by Rascal Flatts
Martin O’Malley: “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
Bernie Sanders:  “The Bernie Sanders Monster Mash-Up” by Bloomberg Business

As interesting as what political candidates use, music has the same ability to boost your confidence before a meeting or lift your spirits after a bad day. But it’s not always effective to simply play your favorite tune.

When looking for that go-to song, Gorzelany-Mostak says an infectious hook, an energetic beat and inspirational lyrics are must-haves. Her examples:

  1. Infectious hook:
    • “Rock & Roll Band” by Boston
    • “I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin
    • “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
  2. Energetic beat:
    • “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz
    • “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars
    • “The Power” by Snap!
  3. Inspirational lyrics:
    • “Doubt” by Mary J. Blige
    • “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey
    • “Beautiful Day” by U2

The best of all three categories? Get ready for it … “Bye Bye Bye” by NSYNC.

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