Commentary: May the best singing candidate win

The Rock Hill HeraldMarch 18, 2012 

Barack Obama or Mitt Romney? Can't make up your mind based on their contrasting tax policies, views on the Middle East, ideas for reducing the deficit or whether they put their dogs inside the car or on the roof?

If you're still among the undecideds, I have a suggestion. First, find the video of Obama singing a line from the Al Green song "Let's Stay Together." Then, go to the video of Romney singing "America the Beautiful."

If you still can't make up your mind, check out the video of Obama singing a stanza from "Sweet Home Chicago" at a White House blues concert. Then, watch the video of Romney reciting the lyrics from the "Davy Crockett" theme song.

Once you've seen all these performances, you should have a pretty good idea of the vocal styles of both candidates, and you can decide which you prefer. No question, they are quite different.

Obama received an enthusiastic response to his falsetto interpretation of the line, "I-I-I-I'm sooo in love with you." People all over the country were using it as a ring tone on their phones, and sales of the song jumped 490 percent overnight.

Romney's rendering of "America the Beautiful" didn't appear to have the same impact. No one I know is turning it into a ring tone, and I don't think sales of the song have skyrocketed after Romney performed it.

Since then, he seems to have abandoned singing for recitative. He now speaks the lyrics of "America the Beautiful" as part of his standard stump speech instead of singing them, and while campaigning in Tennessee, he soliloquized the lyrics from "Davy Crockett."

For those who have forgotten or are too young to remember:

"Born on a mountain top in Tennessee

Greenest state in the land of the free

Raised in the woods so's he'd know every tree

Killed him a bear when he was only three -

Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier"

The lyrics were well delivered in Romney's breathless, animated fashion. My only complaint is that when he got to the fourth line, he pronounced "bear" like "bare." Everyone, except Romney apparently, knows it's "bar."

I'm not sure how this vocal duel will play out. Obama certainly gets points for hipness and smooth delivery.

It's hard to imagine Romney, if he's elected, singing lines from an Al Green song at the Apollo Theater or knowing the words to "Sweet Home Chicago." In fact, it's hard to imagine him even having a blues concert in the White House, much less joining in.

But Romney's song - or lyric - choices were more openly patriotic and nostalgic. What he may have lacked in vocal virtuosity, he made up for in enthusiasm.

And, who am I to judge. I have been called vocally impaired by some harsh critics (my family). I know better; I have heard myself in the shower. (Righteous Brothers, eat your hearts out!)

As for the two candidates, it may not come down to who is the better singer but rather to their willingness to sing at all. Many of us, unless completely smashed in a karaoke bar, would be reluctant to grab a microphone and sing to a packed house.

It's nice to know that the often stiff Romney and the sometimes professorial Obama are willing to burst forth with a song - in full view of the public. It put them both in a pretty vulnerable position, while also revealing something about what kind of people they really are.

It is trite to say that their singing humanized them. We should be well aware by now that our presidents and any who aspire to the presidency are all too human.

But watching them take a whack at singing does take some of the starch out of them, lightens them up a bit. I'm not sure if that will win them millions of votes, but it probably can't hurt.

Just to be safe, though, they should stay away from opera, show tunes and karaoke bars.

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