It’s noon and I have had Doug Ford’s original campaign song stuck in my head for 24 hours and I’m beginning to think all libraries should have a tanning bed in them.
It’s my fault. As a cable cutting millennial whose only interaction with cable is shouting at muted sports broadcasts in bars while the staff get increasingly annoyed, I had yet to actually hear the music being played under any of Ford’s ads. It was last week that I read about it in the paper and was immediately smitten with the idea that his campaign had commissioned an original piece of music. I’m assuming they did this to avoid that classic conservative pitfall of being told to cease and desist by an artist whose song they used because the artist disagrees with their policy that you should have to salute anytime you see a horse cop. To confirm the deep anti-conservative bias of songwriters, the Toronto composer of this tune has asked to remain anonymous, perhaps worried that they would never get asked to play the Cameron House again.
I was immediately tantalized by the prospects of this song. What kind of song would speak to the peroxide populist Doug and his campaign team made up of the dandruff from one of Stephen Harper’s suits? What is the preferred music of people who think that sex is some sort of dark magic ritual whose taboo rites must be kept secret from the youth?
First, what it’s not. This is not really the music for the common man that I was expecting. Doug Ford and his elite-bashing, sub-common sense revolution seems to demand a Classic Rawk track, a Randy Bachman approved riff-tastic tune that would perfectly soundtrack carpenters smashing their thumbs as they build a brand new deck paid for by a tax cut.
But unfortunately for the PCs, it’s the NDP that have grabbed the classic rock mantle this election, as Andrea Horwath takes to stage to “Feeling Good” by The Sheepdogs. The Sheepdogs, if you are unaware, are a Canadian rock band that won a contest to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone and have spent near decade since hoovering up Cancon money and Dragon Boat festival spots. They basically sound like if BBQ sauce wrote a song and it perfectly suits the NDP’s juke to the left and working-class concerns after a foolish attempt to out Liberal the Liberals in the last election.
Speaking of those doomed centrists, Wynne’s walkup music is “Just Like Fire” by Pink. It is the perfect pick, a bloodless top-40 pop anthem with generic lyrics about being yourself, overcoming obstacles and kicking that glass ceiling wrapped around an incredibly awkward rap breakdown. It is the perfect pick for a party mired in the insurmountable muck of voter fatigue, a stench of corruption and some vicious sexism and homophobia disguised as Ontario pride. It is the perfect soundtrack for a party staking its future on a banal pitch of Hey We’re Nice And Will Continue To Be Nice.
All fine and appropriate choices but then there is this bad boy:
Oh my god. Listen to it, listen to this glittering jewel of mediocrity. This is the sound of a million managers being asked for, the sound of of a thousand homeless shelters being kept out of a nice neighbourhood, the sound of a million dishes being sent back for being too spicy.
The style of the song, which my roommate accurately described as anthem pop, is familiar to anybody who has been unfortunate enough to leave the dial on Indie 88.1 for too long. It’s those interchangeable songs trafficked by bands like The Strumbellas, Imagine Dragons, X-Ambassadors and Walk Off The Earth or Moon or whatever the fuck they are called. They are degenerate children of The Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up.” It’s all simple chord progressions, white-flight guitar riffs, that incessant chug for the rhythm which sounds like the status-quo replicating itself and those gang vocals that sound like the moans of the damned, a generation promised the freedom to chase their most idiosyncratic dreams but instead were trapped in a precariously employed purgatory (or Montreal).
Then there are the lyrics hammering home the point that Ford is for the people. Who are these people? We know who it’s not. It’s not people with addictions, people who work for minimum wage or people who care about the environment. No, the people he’s fighting for are the people who don’t care about other people. He’s for the selfish, the small-minded, the uninterested. The people who think the government doesn’t know what to do with their money and then get in a fight with their wife about why buying a new 4-wheeler is a good idea. He’s fighting for those who find taxes an injustice unlike any other, an abhorrent offense that limits their ability to purchase a nicer trailer for their boat. People who are only comforted by their own myopia, who wish the entire world ended at the driveway of their cottage and are outraged whenever they are reminded that isn’t the case.
And to these people, the ones whose worship of the small business owner borders on the erotic and who think Ford will usher in a political revolution that will finally let all the little guys flourish, I say listen to that song again. In it you can hear the notes of your betrayal. If Ford really was what he says, a brash champion for the rude, crude dudes, the song would just sample Tommy Iommi coughing from a toke in Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” and that part in the “Love In The Elevator” when that woman ask Steve Tyler if, “He’s going down.” Instead he’s campaigning behind a song that is the musical equivalent of latte milk being steamed. It sounds like a song the guy from The Black Keys would write if he had to whip something up last minute for his kid’s private school.
No, if you listen to the corporate sheen of his by-the-numbers anthem you can hear the truth that beneath his stupidity and bluster, Ford is a huckster, a servant of the elites as much as anybody else. His anthem is the sound of bloodless austerity and if it becomes a hit all of us people are going to suffer for it.
Damn catchy though.
Follow Jordan Foisy on Twitter.
Sign up for the VICE Canada Newsletter to get the best of VICE Canada delivered to your inbox daily.