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Donald Trump and the GOP's controversial convention playlist

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump introduces his wife Melania on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump introduces his wife Melania on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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The Republican National Convention is underway and, on top of Melania Trump stealing portions of her speech from Michelle Obama, the GOP has also received complaints from two bands for using songs at the convention without their permission.

On Monday night, Donald Trump walked to the podium with Queen’s “We Are The Champions” playing in the background.

Trump Queen

That band made its displeasure known, saying it doesn’t want the song to be used "as an endorsement of Mr. Trump and the political views of the Republican Party.”

Then, on Tuesday night, Earth, Wind & Fire tweeted about the use of one of its songs.

The Frame's John Horn spoke with Alex Pappademas —  executive editor at MTV News — about how Trump and the GOP can get away with using songs without permission, and what other memorable songs have been used at past conventions.


How is it possible that Donald Trump can continue to use songs during his campaign without the rights and permission from the bands? 

Any venue large enough to have a major party's political convention in it, such as the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, they all have ASCAP and BMI licenses, which entitle you to use anything in the ASCAP and BMI catalogs. 

If they pay a fee, right?

Yeah, but it's a blanket fee. You have to pay ASCAP, but it's never a transaction with the band. It's always with those two publishing companies. 

So the real issue is whether or not the bands can claim trademark, if there's some sort of implied endorsement. I guess if Donald Trump is using "We Are The Champions" in a television ad he'd be in hot water, but if it's background music or introduction music at the convention it's okay? 

They can sue for false endorsement and I imagine it's a fairly complicated process, but you can't just shut it down by saying, Stop using my song. Technically, Donald Trump doesn't have to. 

So let's talk about a president who actually did get rights to use a song in his campaign. Bill Clinton used Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" during his 1993 inaugural ball.

Fleetwood Mac

What does a campaign song choice say about a candidate? 

What these songs really do, aside from getting everybody pumped up in the arena, they send a message about what kind of person the candidate is, almost demographically. We love when a candidate seems to have human qualities like having a favorite song that they would plausibly and actually enjoy. 

For Clinton, that was a generational statement. It showed that it was somebody who lived through the '70s rather than the '50s and this was the music of his youth that he was bringing up. 

If you look at a lot of Obama's choices, that's the same thing. There's something exciting about that where it seems like it came off his actual iPod. 

What are the kinds of things that he likes that he has used? 

There's soul music [like] Aretha Franklin and Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher." 

He also used the indie-rock band The National, so he has very broad taste. 

The National

Yeah, and I think it's plausible, like when he's pulled out his iPod in interviews about what he's listening to, it seems like, Oh, this is actually a person with musical taste

Here's another one about somebody using a piece of music that is almost so spot on that it's a little creepy. I'm talking about Ross Perot who was the third party candidate who ran in 1992. A lot of people thought his whole campaign and his attempt to be a president was a little nutty. So he personally chose the Patsy Cline 1961 ballad, "Crazy." 

Patsy Cline

Ross Perot and "Crazy" seems like a pretty good match. 

Yeah, and didn't he dance with his wife to that song in this kind of Texas wedding dance? It's perfect because it's human and homey and it says something about where he's from. But then, it's a comment on the absurdity of the campaign itself. I always enjoyed that. I thought it was witty even if I didn't really understand why you want to make that comment if you're running for president. 

Assuming if he could get the rights, if Donald Trump is going to use some iconic rock song going forward, what do you think is a good match? 

I think "Elected" by Alice Cooper. I'm going metal right there, like "Billion Dollar Babies." Something from that era — the real theatrical Alice Cooper stuff, because I feel like there's a real sort of theatrical horror show vibe to Cleveland right now. 

Alice Cooper


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