Ron Clark Academy Students — “You Can Vote However You Like”

Released: 10.24.08

Peak: Did not chart

Novelty tunes age poorly — for proof, listen no further than Weird Al’s own downscale version of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like.” Like most pop only more so, a novelty sinks deeper into its specific birth moment the more time passes, until age reduces it to a mere historical signifier. And yet, emerging from a presidential race that produced time-sensitive kitsch as ephemeral as Obama Girl’s videos and as epochal as Shepard Fairey’s posters, “You Can Vote However You Like” sounds no more dated to me than any of my 249 other selections. Rather than reminding me of warm feelings I once had, the exuberance of Ron Clark’s students stirs up the same warm feelings it did at the time.

As civics lessons go, “You Can Vote…” is more CNN than PBS, its lyrics recycled campaign slogans and allegations, with a chorus — “Obama on the left/ McCain on the right” – from which critics at either political pole would dissent. Still, not only have adults sung about politics much more stupidly, but the shouted debate here is downright articulate and lucid by Hardball standards. Politics has always been a form of entertainment in American culture; like too many of its fellow forms, though, it’s suffered at the hands of packagers who deem “entertainment” and “triviality” synonymous. The excitement with which these kids exclaim “We can talk politics all night” suggests that such a conversation can be fruitful, good-natured, and enjoyable.

“You Can Vote…” owes plenty of its vim to the tune it cops from the original “Whatever You Like.” T.I.’s charming bid to leave the trap behind for good casts the MC as a sort of mack Willy Wonka, laying out a spread of earthly delights for some lucky lady over a smoothed out Jim Jonsin beat. But the video, which recasts the song’s upscale excursion as a fast food cutie’s daydream, comes closer to exposing rap’s promise of luxury as the scam it is, even when T.I. drops a $100 tip (pun intended?) to pay off his guilty conscience. So yeah, I support T.I.’s desire for a legit life, but I support Ron Clark more. Besides, I like hearing happy kids shout. What, does that make me some kind of monster?

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  • Chris Molanphy  On August 16, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    I thought Weird Al repurposed his fall ’08 “Whatever” parody for his summer ’11 album because, sadly, in the intervening three years the economy hadn’t gotten any better, and the lyric was still relevant.


  • By switchfoot poster on October 23, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    switchfoot poster

    Ron Clark Academy Students – “You Can Vote However You Like” | Useful Noise

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