Gary Coleman desperately needs a campaign theme song. A rallying cry, an ode, a mantra, an anthem. A trumpet call that will hail his glorious victory.
By now you're undoubtedly on intimate terms with Mr. Coleman's gubernatorial campaign. He's dazzled you with his rhetoric, his incisiveness, his awe-inspiring vision for the state of California. Politically, you're sold. But modern politics is an image game, a chess match of cultural hipness and public perception. Out-thinking his hapless, mouth-breathing opponents will no longer suffice. Gary's gotta out-charm 'em, too.
The campaign theme song -- a catchy, poignant pop-music blast that embodies the candidate and invigorates his supporters -- is crucial to the process. Bill Clinton clearly understood this, using Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" to devastating effect in '92, though he ignored far more appropriate Mac tunes ("Everybody Finds Out," "Little Lies," "You Make Loving Fun") in the process.
But perhaps the abject failures in this regard are even more instructive. Bob Dole flopped between hilariously inappropriate party tunes ("Soul Man," "Play That Funky Music") and Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," an unauthorized and unwanted plug that horrified the left-leaning Boss.
Al Gore, by contrast, took the whole "act hip" concept entirely too far, posing for a ludicrous "casual" Rolling Stone cover photo that prominently featured an airbrushed hard-on. The nation's collective consciousness fled in terror.
Gary will avoid a similar fate only through careful planning. His theme song must perfectly combine intelligence, sass, vulnerability, charm, aggression, humility, and confidence. Fortunately, Down in Front has prepared a list of musical candidates.
Skee-Lo, "I Wish"
I wish I was a little bit taller
I wish I was a baller
I wish I had a girl
who looked good
I would call her
I wish I had a rabbit in a hat with a bat
and a '64 Impala
By immediately admitting to his shortcomings, Coleman positions himself as a man who knows his limitations, yet constantly strives to overcome them. His struggle inspires us. Furthermore, who among us wouldn't vote for a dude who drives a '64 Impala?
Randy Newman, "Short People"
Or, taking another approach, Gary could simply appeal to that classic Californian overreliance on irony and bitter sarcasm. (Don't even think about bringing up "I Love L.A." "I Love L.A." is the worst song ever written.)
Michael Jackson, "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"
In addition to recalling Coleman's early-'80s cultural zenith, this Thriller smash strikes the perfect confrontational note. Darrell Issa, meet your worst enemy: Too high to get over (yeah, yeah), too low to get under (yeah, yeah).
The Diff'rent Strokes theme (sorry Gary, couldn't resist)
Everybody's got a special kind of story
Everybody finds a way to shine
It don't matter that you got, not a lot
They'll have theirs, and you'll have yours, and I'll have mine
And together we'll be fine!!!!
(Warning: Degree of fineness may vary, particularly if you live in East Oakland.)
A splendid populist message to deliver to the embittered minions of California. Unfortunately, this classic sitcom jingle only lasts a minute or so -- not nearly enough time for Gary to enter the auditorium, kiss babies, shake hands, and stride up to the podium. He'd have to put the tune on repeat, which may incite unfortunate mob violence.
The Prodigy, "Firestarter"
It's tempting to lie and pass this off as an elaborate metaphor: As the ultimate representation of the late-'90s electronica craze, "Firestarter" represents heavily hyped but ultimately ill-suited cultural movements that Gary acknowledges as such and thus avoids in favor of good ol'-fashioned hard-workin' rock 'n' roll government. But really, we threw this in solely as an excuse to mention the 1985 ultra-serious made-for-TV flick Playing with Fire, in which Gary played an out-of-control teenage arsonist. Fantastic, fascinating. Track it down by all means.
Gary Coleman: He's the bitch you hated. Filth infatuated. Yeah.
Kylie Minogue, "Can't Get You Out of My Head"
Because maybe if we use one of Kylie's songs she'll, well, you know, want to possibly hang out with us, maybe.
50 Cent, "21 Questions"
Gary Coleman: He loves you like the fat kid loves cake.
Elton John, "Tiny Dancer"
For those sensitive group-hug moments aboard the "Coleman 4 Guv" campaign tour bus.
Sly and the Family Stone, "Everyday People"
We have a winner.
Several tunes on 1969's Stand! work fabulously as inspiring campaign slogans, particularly "I Want to Take You Higher" and "You Can Make It If You Try." (Just don't cue up "Sex Machine" by accident.) For Gary's purposes the title track might even work, with its David and Goliath foreshadowing: "Stand! There's a midget standing tall/And a giant beside him about to fall."
But no, no, it's all about "Everyday People."
First of all, it includes the words "different strokes." And honestly, all the lyrics dovetail perfectly with Gary's politics and personality. Immediately it strives for honesty and humility: "Sometimes I'm right/And I can be wrong/My own beliefs are in my song." It freely acknowledges the bridges Governor Coleman must build amid California's stunning diversity: "There is a blue one/Who can't accept the green one/For living with a fat one/Trying to be a skinny one."
Who among us is better equipped to unite the blue, the green, the fat, the skinny, the butcher, the banker, the drummer, and then? "Oh, sha sha/We got to live together," Sly sagely informs us.
Gary Coleman: Diff'rent Strokes for different folks. So on and so on and scooby-dooby-doo.
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