What happens when you publicly profess your fandom, and the musical object of your affection just-as-publicly rejects your love?
In breaking news, Paul Ryan, the nearly official vice-presidential candidate, has been turned down by his favorite band, "Rage Against the Machine," just days after citing the hard-rock band as a longtime soundtrack to his days on the front lines in the battle against gay marriage, abortion rights, and America's social safety net.
As much as musicians must cultivate adoration, politicians have an even trickier time courting a healthy balance of deification and relatability. Songs often provide a symbolic, poetic means of proving their "real world-iness."
We suspect Ryan's musical name drop wasn't just phony political posturing, though. After all, there are a slew of more obvious choices for this straight-edge Wisconsin to name; many of which would be more fitting, and carry a more universal appeal than "RATM," the band famously played to Guantanamo prisoners. The irony is particularly potent as we approach the four year anniversary of RATM's attempt to perform a guerrilla protest concert at the 2008 Republican National Convention.
Ryan's boyish adoration for the heavy metal group (he likes the music, but the lyrics, not so much) recalls Reagan's attempt to co-opt Springsteen back in the '80s, in hopes that the then-president's popularity would trickle all the way down to the Boss's less-corporate fans.
Springsteen loudly and proudly rejected Reagan's fandom. So, it was no real surprise when history repeated itself. RATM's guitarist, Tom Morello, wrote a stinging Rolling Stone editorial
, in which he declared said of Ryan "I don't care for Paul Ryan's sound or his lyrics. He can like whatever bands he wants, but his guiding vision of shifting revenue more radically to the one percent is antithetical to the message of Rage."
The Ryan camp is probably frantically brainstorming a new iPod shuffle playlist for the undoubtedly heartbroken fan boy. But we're left wondering whether popular music can ever safely align with the political. Art's a mirror of society, so it has the luxury of avoiding the practicalities of Senate hearings and GDP numbers. Unless you're writing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," -- which, incidentally, was Reagan's very favorite "traditional" tune -- you're probably writing something a little anti-establishment. So nearly any politician's attempt to reappropriate popular music is likely a bit hypocritical and problematic. Politicians just don't always get called out so harshly when they do it.
As for Ryan; we hear Hank Williams Jr.
is looking for a new groupie.