May 05, 2005

Not-So-Bright Eyes

Just when you thought nothing edgy or controversial would ever happen on “The Tonight Show” for as long as Jay Leno was the host, a minor hubbub emerged earlier this week that I’m frankly surprised hasn’t been even bigger.

The young singer known as Bright Eyes (real name: Conor Oberst) appeared on the show Monday night and sang a song of his called “When the President Talks to God.” The mostly spoken-word piece contains a list of questions about things George W. Bush might ask the Almighty during their frequent conversations, and in the process attributing such positions to the president as being in favor of “raping our womens’ rights” and wanting ghetto areas to have “more liquor stores and dirty coke,” while later suggesting that Bush and God “pick which countries to invade” while debating the question of “which Muslim souls still can be saved.”

Considering that Omaha native Oberst went after two of Red America’s favorite things (God and the president), and because he did it on a totally mainstream late night program that I’d imagine even some of Our Children watch, you’d think this would have whipped up all sorts of conservative outrage, the kind that inspires 15 “O’Reilly Factor” segments in the ensuing three weeks. But you’d be wrong. Google News currently returns one result for the song’s title (the left-wing website Alternet), and I’ve barely seen it talked about on blogs either (except for this woman, who fisked it). Even Karol- herself a Republican political strategist and self-described fan of the singer- hadn’t heard about this before I mentioned it to her today.

Even though the lyrics are about ten times more incendiary than the Dixie Chicks’ benign anti-Bush comments that got them in so much trouble a couple years back, I don’t consider myself offended or outraged by the song. I just think it’s a terrible song, both as music and as political commentary. I say this as someone who has enjoyed Oberst’s music, but this song sounds like it was written on the fly for an eighth-grade talent show. Consider this an example of what I call Tony Kushner’s Law: “Leftists Will Always Respond Positively To Bad Art, Provided They Agree With Its Politics.”

Posted by Stephen Silver at May 5, 2005 10:57 PM

Not to say anything about Steve Jobs' politics, but that song seems to have been free on iTunes for the last 3 months. Perhaps Oberst made it available to them in exchange for it being a free download. One may never know.

Posted by: Dan at May 6, 2005 10:23 AM

oberst cannot even get arrest, can he? LOL
You know what? We don't care what some twit singer's opinion of our president is. Ditto actors. Lincoln had bigger problems with actors in his day. If some minor celeb wants to cut the president, go right ahead. Red State has bigger worries

Posted by: don surber at May 6, 2005 12:59 PM

That song sucks and it doesn't suck because it's anti-Bush. His last two albums were mediocre and the song is more attention-getting than anything. The song came out before the election but even major Bush hater Dawn Summers hated it. So, I don't know. I think the fact that it's clear this song won't make him famous is letting everyone give him a pass.

Posted by: Karol at May 6, 2005 11:51 PM

Steve, nobody west of the Hudson or east of San Bernardino has heard of this Oberst person. Oh, sure, he's from Omaha -- but you need someone famous to mouth off before Flyover Country gets upset. Also, the guy's from Omaha -- the guy could, a la Ernst Stavro Blofeld, do a lot worse and nobody would hear about it for years.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at May 7, 2005 08:37 AM

Hey, thanks for the link. Minor correction, I'm a girl. I didn't see the performance on the Tonight Show, but someone in a forum I hang out on, did, and posted the lyrics, and all the lefties came out of the closet to say "Wow!" and I just had to comment that it wasn't one of free speech's finest moments, IYKWIM. I hope the fact that the lyrics are so stupid explains its lack of popularity.

Tony Kushner's Law -- yes, unfortunately, it's true -- remember "Piss Christ"?

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