PEOPLE: Electing a President Is (kind of) Like Recording a Song

How did you spend your Tuesday night? Chances are at least 50% of your Tuesday night was spent just like mine. If you are an even remotely politically aware American, that is.

I spent my Tuesday night knee-deep in CNN updates and election forecasts.
I spent my Tuesday night cramped in a refurbished closet, as we laid down drum tracks.
I soaked my mind in concern for two futures: the nation’s and my own. And when my mind was wrinkled like a prune, having lounged too long in worry, I found the fate of both futures had perhaps different ends, but similar processes. The process of electing a president is very much like that of recording a song.
I’m a singer-songwriter, in case you missed my bio. I spend any free moment I have thinking of poetic ways to rephrase clichés and recording little ditties that swirl around my head on my iTalk app. People probably think I’m allergic to daylight with the amount of time I spend in the basement practice rooms at Vandy. But the result of my basement-dwelling, never-silent brain is a song. And right now, a song the best thing I am capable of creating, so it’s a joyous event. Sometimes I think about naming them and yelling “It’s a girl!” …Too over the top?  But a song is nothing if it is never heard. It might as well not exist. You must record the song – add different instruments, layer the voices, tailor it to a certain style or genre if you wish.

So the recording process begins.

Though I have recorded demos before, this is my first experience recording full band tracking for my songs. I’ve got an EP in the works! More on that here. With modern technology, the recording process has become both simpler and more in-depth. For my EP, we are recording one instrument at a time (in that little closet I mentioned). First, you get a clean take of the guitar track, playing to a click. Then you lay down some scratch vocals over the top so that all of the other instruments have some sense of a flow of the song. And this is where it gets fun! You bring in different instruments and have them each record unique complementary parts.
Layer upon layer upon layer.
Hour upon hour upon hour.
Then you’ve got to decide what you like and what you don’t. You can decide that along the way, weeding out the parts that clash early on. But in the very end, there comes a point where you add finishing touches, artistic flare to make your song unique, catchy, appealing, and standout.
At last, you have a masterpiece. You’re about to introduce something new and revolutionary to the ears of the universe. You’re welcome, world.
And just before you send the song to iTunes, somebody suggests you mute all of the tracks except for the original acoustic guitar and lead vocals, just like it was when you first wrote it. Sounds like a fun idea. Just for kicks, you do it. You scroll back to the beginning of the tracks and push play.
Ah. That sound! It fills the room and resonates in your mind. It sounds so pure. So true. It sounds like the song you created in the basement with all of its promise, all of its sincerity, all of its simplicity. So just like that, you scrap all of the other layers of tracks on tracks and send just the acoustic version to iTunes.
Was all of that work for nothing? No! It was the process.
You had to go through it to realize that you wanted what you had all along.
 So, sometimes, I spend my Tuesday nights recording things that will never be heard, all to realize that I had what I wanted all along. And that’s the 50% of my Tuesday night that probably doesn’t match yours. Once every four years, however, there comes a Tuesday night on which you and I are undoubtedly doing exactly the same thing.
The election process comes to an end. Finally.
And whether you are knee-deep with me in politics, or you are wading in political ads, or you are drowning in the vast ocean of information that is available and pertinent during the presidential election season, we are all in the same pool.
Guess this makes me a real adult. #yeahright

This election is the first in which I’ve had my own ballot. A real ballot! For all of the years I’d been a US government student and somewhat of a poli-sci geek, I’d never imagined opening that giant envelope to find the contents so disappointing. Don’t get me wrong. The official statements are important and I read every word of every one of them. Can you believe some candidates don’t turn one in? WHAT. It just didn’t measure up to the proclamation of democracy I’d learned to expect it to be.

From studying the history of the presidency, here’s what I’d imagined: A couple of good-natured people decide that their best way to create positive change in the world is to govern the nation, they run for the presidency, and one wins.
Now, I’m not naïve. It was impossible to maintain this “founding fathers” perspective on the process of presidential elections. My democratic dreams were squashed with the first television campaign ad I saw.
But I do still hope that those politicians who manage to work their way up the bureaucracy high enough to run for the presidency have some sense of ethical and moral responsibility. I imagine that both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have good intentions and ideas for bettering the American people.
They probably each started off as regular guys; grew up with an interest in politics and realized that social change through policy was the best thing that they were capable of creating. They jumped through the hoops and passed the tests, and along the way they picked up ideas to make them each unique, catchy, appealing, and standout.
Plan upon plan upon plan.
Promise upon promise upon promise.
At last, you have the presidential candidates we know today. And, Republican or Democrat, they’re each about to introduce something new and revolutionary to the universe. You’re welcome, world.
Somewhere hidden in all of the political rhetoric and debate, there must be a remnant of the original person who is now the candidate. You’ve researched the hot-button issues and you’ve decided on a candidate because they have a new, interesting approach to solving America’s problems.
And just before you put the ballot in the mail, somebody suggests you mute all of the media sources yelling in your head, evaluating the candidates’ actual ability to carry out the role. Sounds like a good idea. And it is. So just like that, we scrap all of the political nonsense and choose someone we deem reliable and true to his word.
Was all of that work for nothing? No! It was the process.
You had to go through it to realize that you wanted what you had all along. In this case, America wanted Obama.

PS Just as a song is nothing if it is never heard, so is an opinion nothing if it is not voiced. Thank you to all of you who voiced your opinion in this election. And remember that the presidential election isn’t the only important election!

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