Rock the Vote

Michael Soller is a PhD candidate in history at UCLA.

Iraq is consumed ... by a bizarre brand of election fever as it prepares to reelect President Saddam Hussein.... Party officials have chosen the Whitney Houston song “I Will Always Love You” as the campaign theme tune.--The Times of London, October 10, 2002


To: Kim Jong Il

From: First Foreign Minister Kang Sok Joo

Re: Campaign theme song

At your direction, I announced to the world earlier this month that North Korea has “a nuclear weapons program and more.” I would strongly urge now, Honored Leader, that we devote all our energies to realizing that “more.”

I speak, of course, of our theme song selection program. With the recent success of Saddam Hussein’s campaign song, “I Will Always Love You,” this program becomes an urgent priority. If Saddam can reach his election goal of 100% of the vote, imagine what a well-chosen theme song could do for you, who are even more lovable and telegenic.


I know, Dear Leader, that you favor something decisive, something that, as you so aptly put it, will “let the tortoise know it should not take on the dragon.” “Give Peace a Chance” is all wrong. But so is the Eagles’ “Take It to the Limit.” We must blend humility and strength. The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” would have been a perfect choice had not the Ayatollah Khamenei recently chosen it for his next campaign.

Still, you have many choices.

Sugary, big-hearted pop can certainly help our image in the West. Imagine our May Day stadium filled with the Great Proletariat Masses, lifting their voices in unison to Peter Cetera’s “You’re the Inspiration” or Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You.” As you once said, “If the country was glorious, the song’s voice would be high.”

You can’t underestimate the impact of the power ballad. Nazareth’s “Love Hurts” fits with our campaign theme of “The Heroes of the People Demand Sacrifice.” Such a song could drive the People to ever greater sacrifice for our Glorious Socialist Revolution.

Some of your advisors suggest that goth music or an industrial dance remix would be the proper choice, to honor the peasants and workers. Let me remind you that these advisors are among your most marginal and emotionally troubled. The people, who labored long under the feudal yoke, know your words: “Great ideology creates great times.”

A caution: Just as a good theme song can boost the chances of even the most unopposed candidate, the wrong song can give ammunition to cultural enemies. Idi Amin got some bad advice when he picked “Tainted Love” for his comeback campaign. Blame disco daughter Marija for Slobodan Milosevic’s ill-fated “Last Dance.” And what was Nicolae Ceausescu thinking with “I Eat Cannibals”? Let’s avoid songs with obvious double messages, like Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

Your father, President for Life Kim Il Sung, had his signature song. But “My Way” is not your way. You need something contemporary, something now, something that expresses, in a single word, the world’s view of you. It can only be Michael Jackson’s “Invincible.”


Soon I will tell the world: We have a campaign theme song -- and more! Remember, if Saddam can get 100% of the vote, we can get 101%. (How? See my memo about restarting the Japanese Heroes of the Glorious Revolution voluntary expatriation program.)