Has Obama Ever Listened to Punk? An Investigation

The president loves all kinds of music, but never includes anything close to punk on his playlists. What gives, Barack?

by Allie Conti
Aug 12 2016, 3:20pm

Image by Adam Mignanelli. Follow him on Instagram

On Thursday, President Barack Obama dropped a 39-track, genre-spanning summer playlist. It's divided between daytime and nighttime songs, and includes songs by Fiona Apple, D'Angelo, and Chance the Rapper. Clearly, the president's tastes are wide-ranging and he (or his staff, anyway) keep relatively up-to-date on new musical trends. Good for him!

Still, there was one genre of music notably absent from both the "day" and "night" playlists: There's nothing that could be called punk, or even post-punk or new wave, on there. What gives?

Why should the president be into punk? you ask. Well, why not? Obama is 55 years old and was 18 in 1979, right smack dab in the middle of the post-punk era. He grew up in Hawaii, which is not known for its 70s punk scene, but was in LA for college, which means he could have caught a show by the Germs, or Black Flag, or the Circle Jerks, or a host of other bands while he was studying at Occidental College.

Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine is an avowed fan of the the Replacements, which is sick, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that Sandanista! is his favorite record, which is kind of like saying Finnegan's Wake is your favorite book, but whatever. Meanwhile, this is the eighth summer playlist that Obama has released, and not a single one has contained a track that could be considered "punk." That should pretty clearly suggest that the answer is no, Obama does not like punk. But it also seems impossible that he would not?

To for-real figure out if the president has ever listened to punk, I got in touch with Ebs Burnough, the former deputy social secretary to the Obama administration and someone who is very familiar with the POTUS's taste in music. Upon introducing himself, he described synching iPods with Michelle Obama and how the first lady used to mercilessly mock someone on staff who loved Barry Manilow. An edited version of our conversation is below:

VICE: Does Obama listen to punk?
Ebs Burnough: You know what, I think in terms of punk specifically, nothing is coming to mind.

So there you have it: Obama does not like punk.

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