Obama's playlist a hit on Spotify

United States President Barack Obama
United States President Barack Obama

EDGARTOWN (MASSACHUSETTS) • Some full-time music critics spend their lives curating playlists they hope become popular.

United States President Barack Obama (above) outdid them all last week in between briefings by senior aides and rounds of golf with friends on vacation here.

For the second year in a row, he released his summer vacation music and reading lists.

And within a day, his playlist was the most listened-to on Spotify, other than those organised by the global music streaming service itself.

That level of popularity occurs only when listeners do more than sample the songs, but actually enjoy the set, said a Spotify spokesman.

"For a playlist to hit No. 1 globally on its own out of nowhere is just bananas," he said. "If he wants a job curating music when this presidential gig is over, we'd take him in a second."

While the spokesman said Spotify could not yet measure how Mr Obama's selections this year had influenced the popularity of particular artists, his picks last year led streams of the band Low Cut Connie to increase 2,906 per cent overnight and those of the hip-hop duo Reflection Eternal to jump 798 per cent.

Perhaps because of the widespread disquiet over both major parties' presidential nominees, Mr Obama's own popularity has been steadily rising and is now above 50 per cent.

Admiration for him is particularly high among young adults, or those aged 18 to 29 who are so coveted by television and radio advertisers.

That popularity has made him unusually influential culturally. He got high marks from several music critics for his summer playlist choices, in part because he mostly avoided politically expedient selections.

There were no songs, for instance, from wildly popular artists such as Adele and Ariana Grande. Like last year, his summer daytime and night-time choices included classics by Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Miles Davis and The Beach Boys. He also picked Elevator Operator by Australian songwriter Courtney Barnett, and Home by indie rockers Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

The president's musical taste - which includes surf rock, soul, blues and hip-hop - is open-minded, even eclectic.

However, there is one notable exception: Missing for the second year in a row was even a nod to country music, widely played in Southern states where Mr Obama could benefit from more people relating to him.

"This is not a politician's playlist," said Rob Sheffield, a music columnist for Rolling Stone Magazine.

"It's a list of someone who, if he were a full-time music lover or a full-time music archivist, would be an extremely good playlist."

White House officials said that the picks were made solely by the president.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2016, with the headline 'Obama's playlist a hit on Spotify'. Print Edition | Subscribe