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Obama Has a Song in His Heart … 40 of Them, on Spotify

The New York Times logo The New York Times 8/14/2015 By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
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CHILMARK, Mass. — President Obama’s musical tastes are still very much old-school.

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Halfway into his two-week summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Mr. Obama on Friday released his first-ever Spotify playlists, sharing a 20-song “daytime” list and another 20-song “evening” one. A White House blog post said the lists were “hand-created” by Mr. Obama.

If the lists are a guide to how the president rocks out, his days are spent mostly in the 1950s and ’60s, with songs like Bob Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues,” Stevie Wonder’s “Another Star,” the Isley Brothers’ “Live it Up” and “Rock Steady” by Aretha Franklin. The Rolling Stones are represented with “Gimme Shelter” and Bob Marley’s “So Much Trouble in the World” is a perfect title for a commander in chief.

And “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” by the Temptations, is an interesting choice for a president who faces an uphill battle in Congress persuading members of his own party to approve his nuclear deal with Iran.

President Obama played golf Wednesday during his summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard. © Steven Senne/Associated Press President Obama played golf Wednesday during his summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard. There are a few more recent hits on the daytime playlist: “Paradise,” by the British rock band Coldplay, and “Shake it Out,” by Florence and the Machine. But unlike Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose recent Spotify list was filled with current pop hits, Mr. Obama has no Katy Perry or Kelly Clarkson or Ariana Grande.

Mr. Obama’s evening list continues the pattern, with Al Green’s “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” and selections from Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Miles Davis and Billie Holiday. But the president’s playlist also includes a Beyoncé song, “Superpower,” and one called “Stubborn Love,” by a Denver-based folk rock group called the Lumineers.

He’s also got Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” which just might be a reflection of the last two months of his presidency, which have featured a series of foreign policy achievements, falling unemployment rates and rising approval numbers in the polls.

The presidential Spotify announcement is not the first musical reveal for Mr. Obama, who years ago talked about what songs were on his iPod. In 2008, that included the Rolling Stones, Sheryl Crow and Ludacris, as well as Stevie Wonder, who he called his ultimate musical hero when he was younger. In 2012, Mr. Obama said the iPod contained James Brown, the Stones, Jay Z, Eminem and the Fugees.

In a news release noting the new music lists, the president’s aides promise to use the new White House Spotify account to offer music playlists “curated around events and issues to engage the public.”

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