Quite a few bands whose music has been used along Donald Trump’s campaign trail have made their unhappiness very public: The O’Jays. The surviving members of Queen. George Harrison‘s estate. Adele. Earth, Wind & Fire. REM’s Michael Stipe. The Turtles. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler (though he said his objection was financial, not ideological). Neil Young (though he, like Tyler, eventually said he was concerned about money and permission). And perhaps most famously now, The Rolling Stones — more on them later.
Legally, however, the GOP and the Trump campaign can use all those songs, as Melinda Newman (a former colleague of mine at Billboard) explained in Forbes this week, as long as the rights holders are paid: “The sad truth is for many artists, they can not keep their songs from being used in this context even if they vehemently disagree with the politician who is using the song.”
They can keep their music out of paid political advertising, but this is not that.
As the balloons and confetti (eventually) began to rain down last night at the Quicken Loans arena, however, rock ‘n’ roll had the last word on Trump — or maybe exactly the inverse happened. The evening’s last musical selection was the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Commenters on Twitter last night made hay of the seeming disconnects in meaning between the song and the convention’s spectacle of unity. But Trump has long used that tune in particular as one of his campaign’s anthems, despite the band’s fury and a request the band sent to the GOP candidate’s team earlier this year to stop using it.
No one from the Trump campaign has explained exactly why “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” has become such a staple selection at his events — at one rally in Carmel, Ind. back in May, for example, the song was played at least four times at that single campaign stop.
He’s probably taunting us. We want a world where Trump is just a loud, vulgar real-estate profiteer. We’re Losers, and he’s taunting us.