With a new playlist, Barack Obama does some self-inflicted damage on his reputation as the coolest U.S. president. The set of 20 songs released to accompany his new memoir, A Promised Land, is divided between overfamiliar do-gooder inspirational pop rock anthems and turgidly sentimental strum-along ballads.
It has been described by Obama as “memorable songs for my administration,” yet somehow makes the historic rule of America’s first black president sound about as interesting as a big family wedding disco. Perhaps that is not so far from the truth, albeit scaled up from a marquee in the garden to an entire nation.
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With Obama at the decks, this is the kind of thing you might expect from a DJ tasked with keeping everyone from hip-hop kids to jazzy grandmas in a mood of agreeable torpor, and avoid fights breaking out on the dance floor.
It is packed with big names delivering some of their least interesting songs. Beyonce is featured twice, with by-the-numbers inspirational power ballad Halo and an easy-on-the-soul version of Etta James’s classic At Last, rather than the fierce political groove of Formation or dance floor feminism of Run the World (Girls). Bruce Springsteen is heard in post 9-11 gospel healing mode on The Rising, which is, honestly, nobody’s favourite Springsteen anthem, with none of the tense patriotism that burns through Born in the USA.