If crazed metal frontmen are spewing made-up rhetoric and clueless candidates are using pop songs without the permission of the artists, then it must be an election season!
Last time around, it seemed like every week a candidate was chastised by a rock star for using a song without permission, and now comes one of the stranger ones in a long time. Recently, the Mitt Romney campaign used Los Angeles alt-rockers Silversun Pickups’ 2009 track “Panic Switch” at an event, and that did not sit well with the band.
“We don’t like people going behind our backs, using our music without asking, and we don’t like the Romney campaign,” Pickups frontman Brian Aubert said in a statement. “We’re nice, approachable people. We won’t bite. Unless you’re Mitt Romney! We were very close to just letting this go because the irony was too good. While he is inadvertently playing a song that describes his whole campaign, we doubt that ‘Panic Switch’ really sends the message he intends.”
The band has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Romney campaign, asking that they no longer use “Panic Switch.”
In response, a representative from the Romney campaign defended their use of the song. ”As anyone who attends Gov. Romney’s events knows, this is not a song we would have played intentionally,” Andrea Saul wrote in an e-mail to the Associated Press. “That said, it was covered under the campaign’s regular blanket license, but we will not play it again.”
That would be a sound choice, as the surrealistic lyrics invoke somebody “asleep with a panic switch,” which certainly doesn’t provide much of a positive image for a person who would be given the nuclear codes.
Silversun Pickups disagree that the song is covered under the licenses the campaign has acquired from BMI and ASCAP (the two largest music publishing services), though it’s pretty clear “Panic Switch” won’t make any more appearances at Romney events. Ever since Ronald Reagan misappropriated Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” the same question comes up every four years: How much control does an artist have in these situations? And don’t the people in charge of selecting music for these events ever pay attention to what’s being said in the songs (or by the artists in public)?
It’s been a weird week for the Romney campaign and pop music, as the candidate’s newly-minted running mate Paul Ryan was cited as a big fan of Rage Against the Machine, which means he totally doesn’t understand Rage Against the Machine.