Watch a Clever Bit of Youth-Vote Campaigning by the President

Slate's Culture Blog
April 25 2012 12:57 PM

Obama "Slow Jams" a Campaign Ad

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A still from "Slow Jam the News with Barack Obama."

Unless you're just getting online now, chances are good you've already seen the video below, "Slow Jam the News with Barack Obama," a clip from last night's episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

It's a fun bit, and shows once again that a sure hand with R&B is a handy little weapon in Obama's campaign arsenal. (Obama has also sung the blues. His imminent opponent, on the other hand, does less well with the singing.)

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But Obama didn't really "slow jam the news," as the title of the segment promises, and as many websites have happily reported this morning. (Jason Kottke, for instance, used that title for his headline, and suggested the segment "might be the coolest thing a sitting President has ever done"—before quickly poking fun at himself for that bit of hyperbole.) What he did was deliver a campaign ad with a fairly standard script, painting himself as an ally of middle-class students, and Republicans as the playthings of billionaires. Obama left the dirty work of the comedy to Fallon, who obliged by singing silly double entendres in a gravelly voice over The Roots' soulful stylings. A more accurate description of the sketch might be "Orate a Campaign Platform with Barack Obama."

Of course, while Obama's performance may have been inert (compared to Brian Williams' usual arch delivery), that alone doesn't make the appearance uncool. Merely by putting himself in the same room as a comedian crooning political jargon as though it were pillow talk, Obama takes on an aura of hip knowingness. It's not a bad pay-off for what was, all in all, a pretty tame stunt.

Previously
Did You See This? Obama Sings the Blues

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong.