This October, the Onion informed the voting populace that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton likes fun. Thanks to a new, apparently non-satirical piece in Billboard, we now know that she has listened to music.
Clinton’s essay for the magazine’s annual “Women in Music” issue pays tribute to Billboard’s woman of the year (Lady Gaga), its inaugural legend award recipient (Loretta Lynn), and fellow honorees Selena Gomez, Lana Del Rey, Fifth Harmony, and other contemporary artists. Clinton argues that these musicians have, by virtue of their achievements, inspired women and girls around the world to achieve their most glorious, improbable dreams. Clinton’s a veteran playlist curator and, as she reveals of the pop stars in the magazine, “I’m a fan of them all.” The Demi Lovato demographic, the Alabama Shakes caucus, the Missy Elliot voting bloc: Clinton’s not leaving any voters on the table.
“Their talent is dazzling. So is their work ethic. None of these women had success handed to her. They all had to keep at it, even in the face of failure and discouragement,” writes Clinton of the musicians, presumably recycling the talking points from her last address about women lawyers, or undocumented scholars, or members of a Lean In book club. Musicians, though—they do a specific thing, right? “They kept singing, kept writing, kept getting better and better,” Clinton writes. “They knew their stories and points of view were worth sharing. And they were absolutely right about that.” What’s the word count on this thing, again?
The best part of Clinton’s “I Listen to Music” treatise is her description of what, exactly, these women are good at: “fronting a raucous soul band, writing hypnotic dance anthems, unspooling intricate rap lyrics about female empowerment or crooning ballads about heartbreak and young love.” Picture the Hillary Clinton of the Osama Bin Laden assassination, the Hillary Clinton of the Benghazi hearings and the 3 a.m. phone call, hearing Fifth Harmony’s hypnotic dance anthem, removing her glasses, closing her eyes, and breaking into a meditative sway. After watching her attempt at a whip and a nae nae, that is what I imagine.
Maybe Clinton’s staff really did brief her on Missy Elliott’s Internet-rattling comeback jam when it dropped, and maybe the candidate marveled at the rapper’s ability to unspool intricate rhymes on how she’s “so fat in the back, make the boys all collapse.” Why is it so hard to imagine political figures having actual fun and actual #relevant cultural awareness? With every word and gesture scrutinized for partisan intel, is there any room for a carefree bop-around to “Good For You”? If Clinton’s weird, stilted essay is any indication, the answer, alas, is probably nae.