Opinion

Eminem, Ramaswamy, and the slim pickings from shady politicians

Anybody who performs a song, perfectly and fully committed, should be granted some latitude... even politicians

Vivek Ramaswamy

Vivek Ramaswamy's rendition of Eminem's 'Lose Yourself' didn't hit the right note with its creator. Image: Photo by Fritz Nordengren/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock (14069460e)

You can tell the US presidential election is under way because the cease-and-desist letters are going out. As the circus pitches the big tent the number of annoyed music stars grows. This week Eminem made his feelings clear. It was Vivek Ramaswamy, the young Republican would-be leader of the free world, who has the air of a Black Mirror version of a would-be leader of the free world, who was slapped down. He performed Eminem’s Lose Yourself at a campaign event and Eminem didn’t like it. Ramaswamy is now not allowed to use any Eminem track during his campaign. 

There is a long list of artists, from Springsteen to Neil Young, who have demanded that, mostly Republican, candidates don’t use their music. This grows as the campaigning intensifies.

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I do have some sympathy with Ramaswamy. Anybody who performs a song, perfectly and fully committed, should be granted some latitude. It’s always very cool to see anyone perfectly deliver a much-loved track with no notes and no prompts. I have an old friend who can still do Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby perfectly; it never fails to impress. 

In fact, if this were introduced as a requirement of all candidates it would make the election run-ins better, on both sides of the Atlantic. At every PM hustings Rishi Sunak has to carry off I Am the Walrus. Have Keir Starmer get ripped right into Dennis Waterman’s classic Minder theme tune I Could Be So Good for You. Get Donald Trump to do the evergreen football favourite World in Motion. This will mean nothing to American voters, but we could tell him some charges will be dropped if he carried the John Barnes rap flawlessly.  

According to the YouGov British mood tracker (I do like to keep an eye on the British mood tracker) 24% of Brits describe their mood at present as sad and 30% as frustrated. We’re leaving the summer on a downbeat note. It is easy to see why. There is a general feeling that things are grinding to a halt and nothing is changing for the better. Interest rates are keeping food prices high, winter is coming and fuel bills will rise, the nation’s transport infrastructure is not moving because of strikes and a lack of investment and Manchester United remain obstinately ordinary. There is a government in office so bereft of ideas and a plan that it’s not ruling out ankle tags to track asylum seekers. 

Parliament is back this week. We will hear much of boats being stopped and five pledges and ULEZ working to destroy the fabric of all that we hold dear. But that isn’t going to make Britain feel less sad or frustrated. Details of the songs senior politicians will bring in their election campaigns – THAT would change the mood. This is not a flippant suggestion. Well, it KIND of is. But at least it’s a positive deliverable. And politicians are desperate for those. 

Besides, the current incumbent in the White House drops his beats at every opportunity. Granted, it’s poetry that Joe Biden quotes, and mostly Irish, and mostly Seamus Heaney. But then Heaney was a great fan of Eminem and talked up Eminem’s rich lyrical skills. And that hasn’t gone so badly for Biden. 

It was the 10th anniversary of Heaney’s death last week. You don’t really need an excuse to dive back into his work – as big Joe can attest – but an anniversary is a useful moment. And when wandering around through his poetry it is frequently the hope and the knowledge that nothing is stuck or
inalterable that chimes. 

He sees the chance of something better, a chance of catching the heart off guard, as he says, and blowing it open. We’re not locked forever into where we find ourselves just now. Actually, it may be in Heaney’s lines that we will find the means to lift the national mood. Though I still want to see Starmer hammering through the Minder theme. 

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter

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