We’re halfway through the 2019 federal election campaign, and boy howdy has it been a race so far. There’s been policy announcements, debates, a global climate march and the revelation that our sitting prime minister wore brownface and blackface at least three times. And we still have three weeks to go.
So now it is time to do the obvious most important thing of all: talk about the music.
Like every year, the federal party leaders have selected the song that they want voters to associate with them. It’s a mood-setter, if you will. A way of pumping up a crowd and communicating a message. Some are better than others.
A good campaign song can make or break a campaign. In the 2016 American election, Donald Trump used “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones, which feels oddly accurate in light of recent incidents.
My personal pick for best campaign song is Bill Clinton’s 1992 use of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop.” It’s a banger. It gets a crowd pumped up and it inspired the sort of message Clinton was hoping for that year — don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.
With that in mind, here are the Canadian 2019 federal election songs, ranked from worst to most boppin’.
4. Bloc Quebecois - “Le Québec c’est nous (Quebec, it’s us)” by Eric Lapointe
Background: Lapointe is the lead singer of a French hard rock group that bears his name.
Catchiness: To be honest? Not that catchy. I do admire the Bloc’s choice to lean into heavier rock when parties usually stick to straight-up dad rock (see the Conservatives below). But the song seems harsh for federal politics.
Tie to the campaign: Well, I mean literally speaking, the Bloc is only running candidates in Quebec, so the line “Quebec, it’s us” makes sense. It makes sense that they’d use a Quebec singer, singing a song about Quebec. That’s sort of the Bloc’s thing. The heavier tone seems out of place with the political messages, though.
Bop/Banger/Jam/Groove?: Definitely a jam. A hard rock, French jam. A “confiture,” if you will.
3. Liberal Party of Canada - “One Hand Up” by The Strumbellas
Background: The Strumbellas are a Canadian rock band with, based on my preliminary research, a lot of members? There’s like six of them? Anyways, this track comes from their fourth album “Rattlesnake,” which came out in May. The French-language version for the Liberals had to be rerecorded after the translations was ... less than perfect.
Catchiness: This is an advertising song through and through, and the Liberals are smart to use it. In any other setting, this would slot perfectly into one of those inspirational “power of the movies” ads that play before Cineplex screenings, or a TV advertisement for Loblaws or whatever.
Tie to the campaign: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau really loves to put “one hand up” doesn’t he? The official music video is packed with images of Trudeau raising his hand in the air. Why does he do that? Seriously, he’s always doing that. Once you start to see it, you can’t unsee it. Maybe it’s from his past as a teacher …
Bop/Banger/Jam/Groove?: A groove. It never really picks up in a super meaningful way, but the low-level vibe doesn’t quit.
2. Conservative Party of Canada - “It’s Time For You To Get Ahead” by Jim Vallance
Background: Vallance is best known as the former songwriter for Canadian rock legend Bryan Adams and helped write hits “Cuts Like a Knife,” “Run to You” and “Summer of ’69.” This track is an original for Scheer and the Conservatives.
Catchiness: I’ve got to admit that it’s pretty darn catchy. Not necessarily in a sing-along way, but more like something you’d hear between whistles to pump up the crowd at a minor league hockey game while you’re waiting in line for a $10 plastic cup of Bud Light.
Tie to the campaign: The most literal of the literal. I’m trying to imagine the pitch meeting where it all went down.
Staffer 1: “Ok, we need a campaign song and a slogan.”
Staffer 2: “Hmmm, well we all seem to like ‘It’s Time For You To Get Ahead’.”
Staffer 1: “But should that be the song or the slogan?”
Staffer 3 [from the shadows]: “Why not …. BOTH?”
Staffer 1: “....THAT IS THE MOST BRILLIANT IDEA I’VE EVER HEARD.”
Bop/Banger/Jam/Groove?: An old-school “your 45-year-old uncle Tim just started a garage rock band called Feral Destiny” jam in the truest sense of the word.
1. New Democratic Party - “Differentology (Ready For De Road)” by Bunji Garlin
Background: Bunji Garlin is a Trinidadian ragga soca artist. His song, “Brrt,” is also featured on the Grand Theft Auto IV soundtrack, which is probably the coolest fun fact for any of these campaign songs.
Catchiness: Hella catchy. Since first hearing it, I’ve found myself humming, “We ready, we ready, we ready” in completely unrelated situations. Getting on the bus? We ready. Buying milk? We ready. Ordering coffee? We ready.
Ties to the campaign: Nothing direct, though the repeated line of “we ready” definitely inspires the sort of youthful upstart nature NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is going for with his campaign. “De road,” for Singh’s purposes, likely refers to the campaign trail, which to be fair is a bit of a stretch. Could it be a cheeky reference to the fact the NDP couldn’t afford a campaign plane and have to take a bus — the road — instead?
Bop/Banger/Jam/Groove?: Oh, it’s a hell of a bop. This one’s going right onto my “hyping myself up for a big presentation” playlist for sure.
BONUS: Green Party of Canada - “We Are the Greens”
Now, the Green Party hasn’t released an official campaign song. But while I was covering their pre-writ-drop rally in Victoria a few weeks ago, I did witness the recording of what is for all intents and purposes their campaign song — a catchy folk number called “We Are The Greens.”
It’s got lyrics about cutting greenhouse gases, stopping pipelines and the dream of leader Elizabeth May as prime minister.
Five takes were done for what I imagine will become a campaign video — though nothing of the sort has been released yet. In one, May can be heard shouting “young people come to the front so you’re in the video!” Though as a young person, I will admit that this definitely is a bop. A low-key bop, but a bop nonetheless. Stay tuned if it gets to see the light of day.
WATCH: Translating the meaning of presidential campaign songs.