The Slatest

The Correct Ranking of the Presidential Candidates’ Song Choices at the Iowa Democrats’ Hall of Fame Event

Elizabeth Warren holding and speaking into a mic onstage, campaigning in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“They let you dream just to watch them shatter” — Dolly Parton, not Elizabeth Warren’s stump speech. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Nineteen of the Democratic candidates for president gathered for a dinner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sunday to pitch themselves to party heavyweights in the Hawkeye State. Each politician had just five minutes to speak—enough for an elevator pitch and a zinger or two. (Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “I can see Iowa from my porch.”) Fortunately, Iowans were offered another important data point by which they might judge these presidential bids: the candidates’ walk-on music.


Who won the first contest of the 2020 Music Primary? Based on our criteria—points for relevance and quality, demerits for obviousness and/or lameness—the top prize goes to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whose selection of Dolly Parton’s country-pop classic “9 to 5” works perfectly with her detail-steeped platform for leveling the economic playing field. Klobuchar takes second place for boosting a lesser-known artist from her home state. John Hickenlooper should try harder.

Here is the correct order of every candidate’s song selection. Pour yourself a cup of ambition and debate me.

1. Elizabeth Warren: Dolly Parton, “9 to 5”

2. Amy Klobuchar: Dessa, “The Bullpen”

3. Marianne Williamson: Stevie Wonder, “Higher Ground”*

4. Cory Booker: Bill Withers, “Lovely Day”


5. Bernie Sanders: John Lennon, “Power to the People”

6. Kirsten Gillibrand: Lizzo, “Good as Hell”

7. Andrew Yang: Mark Morrison, “Return of the Mack”

8. John Delaney: Johnny Cash, “I’ve Been Everywhere”

9. Kamala Harris: Mary J. Blige, “Work That”

10. Jay Inslee: Electric Light Orchestra, “Mr. Blue Sky”

11. Tim Ryan: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road”

12. Tulsi Gabbard: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

13. Pete Buttigieg: Batchelor, “Never Giving Up”

14. Beto O’Rourke: The Clash, “Clampdown”

15. Bill “I love ska” de Blasio: The Clash, “Rudie Can’t Fail”

16. Eric Swalwell: Rodney Atkins, “Caught Up in the Country”

17. Michael Bennet: Bruce Springsteen, “The Rising”*

18. Steve Bullock: John Mellencamp, “Small Town”

19. John Hickenlooper: OneRepublic, “Good Life”

Correction, June 10, 2019: This post originally misspelled Stevie Wonder as Steve Wonder. It also misidentified Michael Bennet as Bill Bennet.