Oprah Winfrey, who invested her considerable star power in Barack Obama’s campaign, now wants to give the new president a theme song.
The talk show queen used her inaugural-eve show from Washington to trot out a bevy of music stars to sing the Obama-inspired “America’s Song” – and she’s even giving away free downloads of the tune through Tuesday afternoon at Oprah.com.
But will the syrupy song stick – or will it just be swept away with the confetti Wednesday morning?
The song was penned by David Foster and will.i.am, the Black Eyed Peas star behind Obama’s unofficial campaign theme song, “Yes We Can.” He sings on the latest track with a line-up that includes Bono, Mary J. Blige, Seal and Faith Hill.
But unlike “Yes We Can,” which captured the excitement and energy of a movement – and added momentum to it – “America’s Song” feels a tad manufactured. We’ve seen the formula before: Big stars write song for a cause. An all-star cast of musicians record the song. There’s a big premier and the song soars or crashes.
These celebrity sing-a-longs have a spotty record, especially when it comes to lasting power. Today, listening to the granddaddy of them all, “We are the World,” generates the mix of smiles and cringing that comes with looking at old prom pictures (“Well, we had some good times back then – but what were we thinking when we got those wacky haircuts?”).
“America’s Song” is heartfelt enough, and it’s hard to argue against the sentiment behind lyrics like, “Let your dreams stand tall,” and the chorus of “America, America, America is beautiful.” But it’s even harder to argue that the words and tune pack the emotional impact to match the moment.
Given Winfrey’s reach, there will no doubt be a record number of downloads – but how many will make it from the computer to the iPod playlist?
Still, never underestimate the attraction of free stuff.
And never, ever underestimate Oprah.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.