Any Summer 2015 party playlist that doesn't include Fetty Wap's Trap Queen is immediately suspect. But considering this one's source, I'll let the omission slide.
The White House on Friday released "The President's Summer Playlist," a compendium of "20 picks for a summer day" and "20 picks for a summer night" hand-curated by Mixmaster-in-Chief Barack Obama. After appearing on WTF with Marc Maron, Spotify was a logical next step.
As you might expect, the playlists tryto straddle the political aisle, featuring boldface names for both Baby Boomers (Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra) and Millennials (Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Florence and the Machine, Frank Ocean). And like everyone who's ever put together a Spotify playlist, Obama tosses in a couple of deep cuts to make himself look hipper than a guy who wears dad jeans probably is.
The daytime playlist kicks off with the Temptations' classic but eye-rollingly obvious Ain't Too Proud to Beg, Obama wisely digs slightly deeper as the playlist rolls on. Franklin's Rock Steady is an oft-overlooked gem of funky soul, as is the Isley Brothers' Live It Up, Pts. 1 & 2. Both were hits, but at least he didn't choose Respect and It's Your Thing, a classic rookie-DJ mistake. (Van Morrison's Moondance on the nighttime playlist, though, unfortunately made the cut.)
The daytime playlist hits a nice pace pretty quickly with 2000 Memories Live, a slinky slice of uplifting hip-hop consciousness by Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek, a.k.a. Reflection Eternal. (Memories Live is one of only three songs bearing Spotify's "explicit" tag. Another is the Nappy Roots' bright 'n' snappy Good Day, and it conjures the enjoyable image of Obama cruising in the presidential limo, rapping: "Hairline fresh, new cologne on / geelin' so good, changed the color to my phone / Orange Kool-Aid go good with Patron.")
As with all good playlists, these work best when the Prez picks a style or theme and sticks with it. It feels weird to go directly from Memories Live to Dylan's Tombstone Blues, or John Legend and Andre 3000's Green Light into the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter. This is why it's never a good idea to set your iPod to "random" at parties.
The night playlist is more low-key, but still better across the board, leaning more toward classic soul, jazz and R&B acts like Miles Davis (Flamenco Sketches), Ray Charles (You Don't Know Me), Leonard Cohen (Suzanne), Otis Redding (I've Got Dreams To Remember). This is a collection you could put on for a dinner party without worries, although no one would envy the Lumineers (Stubborn Love) for having to follow Nina Simone (Feeling Good).
Red-staters might bristle at the playlist's absence of country music, although the freewheeling, piano-driven Boozophilia by Philly bar-rockers Low Cut Connie comes close. And alt-country fans will dig Brandi Carlile's strutting Wherever Is Your Heart and Aoife O'Donovan's gentle Red & White & Blue & Gold.
Other pleasant surprises: Okkervil River's Down Down the Deep River, an aural homage of sorts to late-'80s Springsteen; Mala Rodriguez's groovy Spanish rap Tengo Un Trato; and Howlin Wolf's blazing boogie-woogie jam Wang Dang Doodle.
Some tweaks I'd make: Trade Florence and the Machine's 2011 single Shake It Out for this year's new jam How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Swap Timberlake's interminable Pusher Love Girl for the magnificent DFA remix of My Love. Move Erykah Badu's Woo from night to day. And while no playlist that includes Coldplay is going to make you look cool (and I say that as a huge Coldplay fan), absolutely nothing about Paradise screams party song. Also: Isn't Obama like a gigantic Prince fan? Where's the Purple One? Where the heck is Let's Go Crazy?
But I do give him credit for leaving off OMI's Cheerleader, a song no American needs to hear again anytime soon. That's true presidential leadership.
-- Jay Cridlin