Politicians who dare to sing: A video roundup
As Americans swoon over President Obama's impressive pipes, here's a look back at other statesman who have crooned in public — with often embarrassing results
Judging by the adulation inspired by viral video clips of Barack Obama singing, the president could easily snag a record deal. Most recently, the melodic world leader was captured crooning a few snatches of a blues classic alongside an all-star roster of performers while filming an upcoming PBS special. Of course, not every politician is blessed with Obama's pipes. Here, a look at statesmen who've dared — and most often failed — to carry a tune:
1. Barack Obama: "Sweet Home Chicago""President Obama had his own entry for The Voice this week," says Slate, holding his own against blues giants Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Mick Jagger during the filming of In Performance at the White House: Red White and Blues. After those music legends cajoled him into joining in, Obama reluctantly sang a few lines of the standard "Sweet Home Chicago." "His voice was smooth as ever," says Cassie Murdoch at Jezebel, "but the best part is the sly smile he gives as he's singing."
2. Barack Obama: "Let's Stay Together"At a fundraiser earlier this year at the Apollo theater in Harlem, Obama surprised the crowd by crooning the opening lines to Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," exhibiting an impressive falsetto. "For eight seconds, we saw the president we had craved for three years," says Maureen Dowd at The New York Times. "Cool, joyous, funny, connected." It became such a watercooler moment that Green's version of the song enjoyed a 490 percent increase in sales following Obama's brief performance.
3. Mitt Romney: "America the Beautiful"Obama's most likely political rival entered the musical race in January by leading a (would-be) sing-a-long of "America the Beautiful" at a Florida retirement center. Romney started out strong, "with an entertaining lounge vibe," says Tommy Christopher at Mediaite, but the performance quickly grew uncomfortably pitchy and the crowd hung Mitt out to dry by declining to sing along. The much-mocked performance did elicit at least one positive review: "It's beautiful," Michelle Obama said on The Tonight Show.
4. John McCain: Barbra Streisand medleySen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) proved to be a game performer when he hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live in 2002. Among the night's highlights was his "no-holds-barred rendition" of Barbra Streisand's greatest hits, says The Daily Beast. "We talk about tone-deaf politicians," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, "but rarely do we see the literal example so clearly." Still, credit McCain for bravery.
5. Hillary Clinton: "Star Spangled Banner" During the 2008 presidential campaign in Iowa, Hillary Clinton unwittingly warbled the National Anthem into a live microphone, believing it had been shut off. The Democrat's "frightful attempt" proves there are two things that Clinton can't do, says Soda Head: "Get herself elected president, and carry a tune." Still, the "clip is charming" and "humanizing," says The Huffington Post. Considering Clinton's reputation for being "calculating and controlled, this unguarded moment presents Hillary at her patriotic best."
6. John Ashcroft: "Let the Eagle Soar"After a 2002 speech in North Carolina, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft felt moved to sing — straight-faced and full-voiced — a four-minute patriotic anthem titled "Let the Eagle Soar," which he had written himself. The tune is "shockingly awful," says Mark Morford at the San Francisco Chronicle, and suggests that the politically divisive Ashcroft "is quite possibly insane."
7. Dennis Kucinich: "Sixteen Tons"During a luncheon speech in 2007, erstwhile presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich decided to drive home a point by singing Tennessee Ernie Ford's country classic "Sixteen Tons" — and "embarrassing everyone" in the room in the process, says NME. Oh, I don't know, says Abby Schreiber at Paper Mag. The slight Ohio Democrat "has a surprisingly good voice."
8. Colin Powell: "YMCA" parodyIt's a moment that would be inconceivable if video proof didn't exist. At the end of 2004's ASEAN Regional Forum, one of Asia's largest security meetings, the retired four-star general and widely-respected statesman Colin Powell donned a hard hart and tool belt and danced alongside costumed U.S. officials for a parody of the '70s disco classic "YMCA." Suffice it to say that Powell "would now prefer that all copies of this performance be destroyed," says Business Insider.