For close to a decade now, Barack Hussein Obama has been sharing a melodic part of his life with the world at large.
As the saying goes, the 44th President of the United States of America has used music as his universal language to connect with people across ages and regions. Through what have come to be collectively called the Presidential Playlists, Obama has helped many a person unearth artists and also honoured some beyond their own imaginations. The lowering of the veneer to allow the public to imagine what it might be like to casually hang out with someone who was once considered the most powerful man in the world, it provides soundtracks for different settings. As is standard practice, the Summer Playlist was gifted to the world via Spotify, the music streaming service valued at USD 23.52 billion, according to macrotrends.net, once the former president had had his fill of jams.
The curated list taps into the social influencer power of the world leader’s profile, qualifying why Chris Willman called him the “R&B president” in a 2015 article for Billboard magazine. Sitting in the collection as the centrepiece, it always offers a selection of contemporary radio hits and classics from generations past. “Every year, I get excited to share my summer playlist because I learn about so many new artists from your replies,” writes Obama in his introduction to this year’s playlist on Spotify. “It’s an example of how music really can bring us all together.”
While those in the northern hemisphere miss out on dancing under the sun’s warm rays or gazing out at a sunset while the hot selection plays, the inverse is true as the onset of the southern hemisphere spring-summer invites listeners to engage and unite. For those in Botswana, there is one artist of particular interest featured in the 2022 list as she has historical ties to the country. Sampa the Great is a poet and singer-songwriter born in Zambia and raised in Botswana. Currently based in Australia, she is a cultural juggernaut whose professional development in the music industry has seen her grow from strength to strength, garnering noteworthy attention along the way.
Making her inaugural appearance on Obama’s playlist comes as she prepares to release a new album titled “As Above So Below.” The song that made it to the playlist, “Energy,” features Nadeem Din-Gabisi and has Sampa effortlessly articulating punchy rhymes over a boom-bap hip-hop beat. Unlike the 2015 and 2016 editions of the summer playlist which were divided into ‘daytime’ and ‘nighttime,’ this year’s tracks come as a single pot of treasure. The 44 songs span country, jazz, funk, dance, pop, soul, R&B, folk, dancehall, blues, hip-hop and Afrobeats.
Nigerian Grammy-winners Tems and Burna Boy feature on the list alongside artsists like Joe Cocker, Aretha Franklin, D’Angelo, Fatboy Slim, Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill. Returning to the playlist are Beyoncé, with her chart-topper, “Break My Soul,” Kendrick Lamar, SZA and Jamaican superstar, Koffee. This playlist lives up to the heritage set by its predecessors in that it has punctuated cadences throughout. It serves as a perfect project for friends and family of all ages to build a common vocabulary of music through time and across genres. Whichever mood you start in, this playlist is certain to take any listener on a wild summer ride. It’s time to party, presidential style.