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Only Thing Weirder Than a Trump Rally Is the Pre-Show

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Big-time political rallies, more than anything, are about waiting. Doesn't matter if the crowd is there to see a Republican or a Democrat, the president or the next big thing, they're going to wait. To park, to get to the door, to get through the door and security, to find an empty seat among a sea of saved ones and then, finally, to see the candidate.

Thursday night in Dallas was no different. As the 18,000-plus who'd eventually cheer on President Donald Trump filed into the American Airlines Center, Trump's advance team did its best to keep the restless crowd entertained.

President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Oct. 17, 2019.
President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Oct. 17, 2019.
Melissa Hennings

As the audience filed in, above their heads, on the arena's quadruplet video boards, Trump's web video channel played. Lara Trump, wife of the president's third-born, Eric Trump, interviewed Trumpworld stars Diamond and Silk. Thankfully, the interview was only seen and not heard. The video was muted.

What those in the arena heard instead was a playlist that, if it was playing in the background at your neighbor's barbecue, wouldn't make you hate that neighbor. It's better than the stuff Hillary Clinton's staff played at the former secretary of state's rallies during the 2016 campaign, and worse than what's on offer at Sen. Bernie Sanders' events — at least from a musical perspective.

It's the lyrical content that makes things interesting. Whoever's making Trump's playlists is either in on the cosmic joke that is his or her boss' having been given the reins to the free world, or completely oblivious.

More than any other band, Team Trump leans on Hot Rocks-era Rolling Stones. "Time Is on My Side" and "Play With Fire" are both in heavy rotation, as is "Sympathy for the Devil," which, as the Observer noted Thursday night, is a little on the nose. As has become Trump's custom, the president also leaves the stage to "You Can't Always Get What You Want," which, yeah OK, we get it.

While the Trump Show clearly prefers the Stones to the Beatles — although that probably has more to do with licensing requirements than picking sides — it shows no such favoritism with regard to late-'90s and early-aughts boy bands. Both ’N Sync and the Backstreet Boys waft out of the PA system before Trump's opening acts take the stage, with the crowd seeming a little more into "Bye, Bye, Bye" than "I Want It That Way."

The crowd doesn't have a problem with anything on the playlist, but clearly plays favorites. It really kicks itself into gear during the Village People's "YMCA," a song about the New York City cruising scene in the '70s.

Seeing a man in full MAGA gear singing along with Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" is equally disorienting.

Beyond the weird, there is plenty of obvious. Frank Sinatra's "My Way," the misunderstood anthem of assholes everywhere, makes the rotation. So does Tina Turner's "Simply the Best." The president walks out to the worst song in America's patriotic hymnal, Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA," and the crowd loves it almost as much as "YMCA."

There's no hip-hop. That's expected. But there's no country, either. The playlist is full of white artists, but Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie make appearances, too. For all of Trump and sidekicks' raving about the coastal elites, they certainly seem to like music that's right in the middle of the pop culture mainstream.

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