The inauguration team for president-elect Joe Biden and VP-to-be Kamala Harris has released an official inaugural playlist, with 46 songs to represent the incoming 46th president, ranging from Steely Dan’s golden oldies (“Do It Again”) to SZA’s very latest, “Good Days,” which was just released on Christmas Day.
As you might expect, it’s in the same eclectic, inclusive, aspirational spirit as former president Barack Obama’s signature playlists (if not quite as outlandishly hep as some of Obama’s post-presidency roundups have been, without Malia and Sasha around to pack it with their picks).
Now available on all the major streaming services, the playlist goes free-range at times, with vintage and contemporary inclusions that haven’t necessarily been staples of the pre-election campaign, from the Average White Band’s classic instrumental “Pick Up the Pieces” to the modern Black Lives Matter-centric group Sault’s “Free.” Current Grammy nominees Dua Lipa and Kaytranada show up, as do such relatively of-the-moment artists as Burna Boy, the Internet, MF Doom, Major Lazer and Tame Impala. Boomer tunes are well represented, too, between Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley.
The key ingredients, though, of course, are the walk-up or walk-off music for Biden, Harris and their spouses, familiar to those who followed the 2020 campaign closely.
Biden’s personal campaign music is reprised in the form of Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own.” Mary J. Blige’s “Work That,” of course, has been a staple of her campaigning since the night she was announced as Biden’s VP choice. Dr. Jill Biden has Daryl Hall and John Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” as her theme; the New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give” is the pick of Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.
Many of the songs were clearly picked for their uplifting spirit, even if they weren’t substantial hits, like Sounds of Blackness’ “Optimistic.” As for the Doobie Brothers’ sad “What a Fool Believes,” it can only be assumed that someone on the committee felt it would be assumed that that one applies to the other side, since the Biden team’s picks have generally not been as tone-deaf as Trump picking the gay anthem “YMCA” and the cynical “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Although the 46 songs are notable for being demographically broad, the playlist is oddly missing any country, Americana or roots-music selections — one hole that Obama does not leave in any of his playlists.
Said Presidential Inaugural Committee CEO Tony Allen, in a statement: “During a tumultuous year that has kept so many loved ones apart, music has been a consistent vehicle that has kept us connected. Whether you are a country soul, a jazz enthusiast, a hip-hop head, a classical sort, or just love that old-time rock ‘n’ roll, music clarifies, inspires, unites, and heals. Today we are excited to share President-elect Biden’s and Vice-President Elect Harris’ official inaugural playlist with the nation. These songs and artists reflect the relentless spirit and rich diversity of America. They are the score to a new chapter and will help bring people together as the Biden-Harris Administration begins its important work to unite our country.”
The committee said it is partnering with D Nice and Raedio, Issa Rae’s label, to release the playlist. It’s being put up on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon Music, with a different, “special mix” prepared for Soundcloud.
Find the Spotify version here.