DJ Albo vs Scomo MC: It’s time to drop the cringe pop culture references

This weekend marked the first time in my life that I had something in common with an aspiring candidate for the prime ministership. On Sunday, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese experienced the same thing I did after I dropped a Justin Bieber song during my DJ set at Meredith in 2015: getting booed at a music festival.

While Sky News has been having a field day with the less than enthusiastic response to Albanese’s well-intentioned prelude to Jimmy Barnes’ set at Bluesfest, I can only imagine how much less enthusiastic the crowd would have been if it was Prime Minister Scott Morrison on stage instead, complete with ukulele in hand, ready to butcher another Australian classic.

Both candidates are in a tight race to ruin some of our most beloved songs this year, from embarrassing covers on 60 Minutes to way too on-the-nose lyric references in campaign speeches.

Morrison’s cover of April Sun in Cuba not only angered Dragon, the original writers of the 1970s hit, who released a press release condemning Morrison’s rendition as “a cynical move for a politician to co-opt music in an attempt to humanise themselves come election time,” but also inspired a group of Hawaiian-shirt-clad protestors to sing a (slightly) better cover of the song during the PM’s recent visit to the bushfire affected town of Gilmore.

Albanese, meanwhile, has been dropping lyrics in his speeches with the same amount of subtlety of a high schooler trying to make friends at a house party. He ended his opening pitch to voters on the first day of campaigning with the cringeworthy, “In the words of the great Ramones, ‘Hey ho, let’s go’,” then doubled down on cringe later that week by adding, “But as I quoted the Ramones on day one of the campaign, here is a Taylor Swift comment for you: my theory is ‘shake it off’”. The only thing cringier than these references is reminding everyone you made them.

I expect slightly more of the Labor leader than just name-checking a popular artist and their most popular song, given his history. As DJ Albo he’s the disc jockey of choice for party fundraisers, and he even made an appearance as recently as a couple of weeks ago, when he played at Brisbane Labor candidate Madonna Jarrett’s campaign launch party.

While DJ Albo knows how to play the hits, his specialty is ’80s and ’90s rock. And we’ve all witnessed what happens when the vibe generated by a song from The Killers is suddenly interrupted by an obscure album cut from a British post-punk band.

I’ve never been lucky enough to experience a DJ Albo set myself, however he has been lucky enough to experience one of mine. I was DJing a wedding in 2017 when about 20 minutes into my five-hour set, Albanese approached me and asked what else I’d be playing.

Not approving of the Beyonce hits specifically requested by the bride and groom, he poked at a Deee-Lite song on my laptop. “Groove Is in the Heart will do,” he told me, then stared at me from his seat until I played it. Once I eventually did, he stood up shortly afterwards and left the wedding altogether. Not a particularly pleasant experience, but just like Bluesfest on Sunday, It could have been worse: imagine a ukulele-swinging Morrison, demanding that he needs the mic for a bit.

Both Albanese and Morrison have made their Spotify profiles public, meaning that you can listen to the former’s ‘Corona Playlist’ and the latter’s ‘How good is Oz Rock!’ playlist before voting next month, if you want to base your vote entirely on which daggy man in his 50s has the least basic music taste.

Of course if our prime ministerial contenders really wanted to demonstrate their affinity to culture and the arts they could do it through their policies, rather than desperate attempts to look cool.

On that front, for what it’s worth, Albanese has promised support to Australia’s live music industry, vowing to back a potential expansion of radio station Double J.

That kind of policy would play a serious role in supporting Australia’s local music ecosystem, and it’s really the least both parties can do for one of the industries most affected by the last two years of the pandemic, and the industry most affected by this embarrassing election campaign.

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