'Don't use our songs': musicians join John Oliver for anti-politician singalong
Last Week Tonight host rails against political candidates’ unauthorized use of artists’ work – and ridicules Republican convention that put ‘feelings over facts’
Donald Trump emerged at the Republican national convention last Monday to the sound of Queen’s We Are the Champions. Unsurprisingly , the band was displeased. “An unauthorised use at the Republican Convention against our wishes,” the band tweeted.
It certainly wasn’t the first time Trump, or any politician for that matter, has used music without the blessing of an artist. But it was enough to get Last Week Tonight host John Oliver and musicians fired up.
“If artists want to lend their music to politicians, that’s fine, but it is not OK for politicians to just take their songs,” Oliver said on his show on Sunday night. “This happens every single election and it is time for musicians to come together and take a stand.”
After their songs were used during the convention in Cleveland last week, a host of artists released statements against the Republican nominee. The Rolling Stones denounced Trump in a seemingly deleted tweet after You Can’t Always Get What You Want was played as Trump accepted the nomination and dropped “an almost sarcastic amount of balloons”, according to Oliver. Earth, Wind & Fire also tweeted their displeasure over the use of their song September at the convention. According to the Associated Press, the O’Jays called Trump the “anti-Christ” while denouncing his use of Love Train.
During a speech denouncing the Iran deal, Trump used REM’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It – which Oliver lampooned as almost too perfect. “Trump may as well have been riding out on stage with the three other horsemen of the apocalypse,” Oliver said.
Other offenders Oliver pointed out were Mike Huckabee with Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, Sarah Palin with Heart’s Barracuda, John McCain with two John Mellencamp songs, the Democratic National Committee with Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors and Ronald Reagan for his misunderstanding of Bruce Springsteen’s quietly critical hit Born in the USA. Scott Walker’s unauthorized use of music by the Dropkick Murphys had Oliver cracking up. The band tweeted at the governor of Wisconsin, saying: “please stop using our music in any way…we literally hate you !!!”
In response to the countless instances, Oliver gathered Usher, Michael Bolton, Cyndi Lauper, Josh Groban, John Mellencamp, the band Heart, Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons and Sheryl Crow to make a music video with an overly patriotic backdrop.
“Don’t use our songs / For real, come on / You’re lucky we don’t sue / And what’s the deal with all those balloons?” they sang in unison.
“And just to be clear, you can’t use this song either,” Reynolds sang.
“Here’s one tune we all agree / That you can use any time for free,” Mellencamp added. The video then cut to a cat walking across a piano.
The music video was just one segment on Oliver’s broadcast in which he skewered the “mismanaged shit show” that was the Republican national convention in Cleveland. He called it “the most apocalyptic thing to ever happen to that city, and bear in mind their river has repeatedly caught fire”. The convention brought Oliver’s former colleague Jon Stewart temporarily out of retirement to do a monologue.
The theme of the convention was feelings, Oliver said.
He showed a supercut of speeches from the event talking about feelings – including one from the House speaker, Paul Ryan, who said the “whole economy feels stuck” – and a particularly painful interview of Newt Gingrich arguing over “liberal” crime statistics on CNN.
“It was a four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over facts,” Oliver said.