Ontario party leaders carefully pick campaign songs

TORONTO — Head to an election campaign rally in Ontario and you’ll find the NDP leader “Feeling Good,” the Liberal premier “Just Like Fire” and the Tories’ top man “For the People.”

The carefully chosen songs are played before the politicians address crowds of supporters — and they hint at the messages the parties want to send.

The songs politicians pick are usually upbeat — intended to energize their supporters, said Henry Jacek, a political science professor at McMaster University.

“If you pack in a lot of your party workers and you want to motivate them, having a good song — even if they go to a number of rallies and they hear it over and over again — it does essentially start to send psychological messages … that they ought to be working harder for the campaign,” he said. “For the people that are there it is very important.”

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath has chosen “Feeling Good” by The Sheepdogs to enter her campaign events and “Young & Wild” by The Strumbellas sometimes to exit. She chose those two songs because they are by Canadian bands, a spokeswoman said.

“She is proud to promote Canadian artists as she tours the province during the campaign,” Rebecca Elming said in a statement.

The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, have opted for an original song composed for Doug Ford’s campaign called “For the People.”

The title is one of Ford’s campaign slogans and his team commissioned the tune from a Toronto composer, who the campaign said doesn’t want to be named because he doesn’t want any credit for it.

The 30-second song, with a stadium rock, anthem feel plays at rallies, in Ford’s ads, and some staffers have even made it their cellphone ringtone.

“For what’s best, for our lives, for the people,” the unnamed artist sings. “Gotta fight for what’s right for the people. Right now is the time, we gotta speak our minds. Bring us hope, bring us change for the people.”

Before the campaign, Ford had been using “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor at his events, but he and his team wanted to go in a new direction, said spokeswoman Melissa Lantsman.

“We commissioned a song because people wanted something different,” she said. “They want change. They want a new kind of candidate with a new kind of campaign. This is an exciting time for Ontario and we wanted to tap into that feeling.”

Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne is using “Just Like Fire,” a song by Pink for the movie “Alice Through the Looking Glass.”

Her team wanted a song performed by a strong, female artist “with a positive message about aiming high and working hard to achieve success,” said spokeswoman Drew Davidson.

“This has consistently been her message to young women looking to enter politics and public life and something she hopes to push throughout this campaign. Plus, it’s catchy!”

The Liberals only settled on the song about a week into the campaign, trying out various options through the first days on the trail. One of those songs was “Brave” by Sara Bareilles — a song that critics accused pop singer Katy Perry of copying for her song “Roar,” which Wynne used as her campaign song in 2014.

The campaigns tend to use short clips of the songs, usually just the chorus, but a copyright lawyer says that doesn’t actually negate the legal need to get consent from the artist or license the song.

Fair dealing exemptions are for personal use for study and research, educational use, news reporting, and parody and satire, said Ken Thompson.

“If you go ahead and do it and nobody complains, then I guess they’re not that concerned — however, you could hit on (an artist) who doesn’t want to be represented by one of the political parties,” he said.

“The appropriate thing to do would be to respect the artist and at least ask for the use of it and ask for a moral rights waiver.”

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