On inaugural music

Beyoncé. Mary J. Blige. Bono. Garth Brooks. Sheryl Crow. Renee Fleming. Josh Groban. Herbie Hancock. Heather Headley. John Legend. Jennifer Nettles. John Mellencamp. Usher Raymond IV. Shakira. Bruce Springsteen. James Taylor. will.i.am. Jonas Brothers. Stevie Wonder.

Throw in a hundred marching bands, Yo-Yo Ma, and a pheasant in a sour cherry chutney, and you’ve got yourself an inauguration. Slate’s Jack Shafer recently described Barack Obama as “an ocean that refuses no river,” and the smorgasbord of inaugural music seems to confirm that appraisal. Obama’s also been called the first president of the iPod generation, thanks to the eclecticism of his musical taste (first revealed in Rolling Stone last summer) and his popularity among blog darlings like The Arcade Fire and their fans. Don’t doubt the shrewdness of this particular medley, though: Obama is gunning for the pleasure centers of pretty much every demographic except metalheads and noiseniks. My parents will nod approvingly to the crooning of James Taylor and Garth Brooks — Garth Brooks?! — even though it’s likely that my dad wouldn’t know Beyoncé from Blagojevich. “If you liked it [the Ill. Senate seat], then you shoulda put a ring on it [my corrupt gubernatorial finger]!” My sister and I will suffer through Sheryl Crow and Josh Groban for the sake of Mary J. Blige.

A lot of the pundit chatter since Nov. 4 has been speculation about what kind of president Obama will be — liberal? centrist? spendthrift? pragmatist? — much of which has been fueled by supposed discord in the blogosphere regarding his Cabinet choices. With these musical selections, I think we can see yet again that Obama’s initial strategy is to cast his net wide, pitch a rather gigantic tent, and build his coalition big. No red states, no blue states… Ladies and gentlemen, The United Playlist of America!

Perhaps all of this is just inaugural bluster that will dissipate as soon as the president-elect is done high-fiving the Lincoln Bible. We will all retreat to our respective Blogspots and Twitters — Republicans to lick their raw electoral wounds, Democrats to gloat and hope. But for now, I think it’s worth noting that for at least a few days, the Beltway has become the click wheel of the world’s largest iPod: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States … so help me Steve Jobs.”

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