Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jingle All The Way

I have to say this.  If those running for public office in the May 2013 general elections would put the same degree of effort, creativity and ingenuity into the creation of their campaign jingles that they would pour into finding permanent solutions to the problems of their constituents when and if they do get elected into office then perhaps this country would finally be able to get back on the long, hard road to lasting peace, progress and prosperity.

In Lianga nowadays, there is nary an hour that passes by when everyone's ears and sentiments are not assaulted by the loud and intrusive beat of campaign songs and jingles being blasted out of passing cars or tricycles sporting loudspeakers mounted on their roofs or strapped to their sides.  A quick listen to the town's new FM radio station, Heart FM, also forces the listener to suffer and endure minutes of the same thing.  With a total of at least nineteen candidates vying for local office and with each one of them compelled to come out with a catchy jingle for himself or herself (many have more than one version playing somewhere), the incurious listener is often left with no choice but live with the jarring cacophony of what amounts to political advertising on a musical albeit more visceral level.

The typical campaign jingle, of course, most often borrows the melody of some durable or contemporary chart-busting pop music song.  "Gangnam Style", the K-pop sensational hit by Psy, remains the most used or, to be blithely jocular about it, abused tune as far as local politics is concerned.  Another is "Call Me Maybe" by Canadian singer and songwriter Carly Rae Jepson.  Jun Lala, Lianga's current vice-mayor, who is setting his sights on a second full term, uses a jaunty campaign ditty based on the latter to get his message across in his barangay sorties.

Other candidates prefer OPM (original Filipino music) inspired political slogans.  Brian Synchangco, a first time aspirant to the municipal council has a version based on a popular dancing song, "Ocho-ocho", popularized by comedian Bayano Agbayani.  But then he also has another loosely mimicking the popular Beatles hit, "Obladi-oblada", which only proves that with campaign songs and jingles anything goes and what candidates and their handlers think is precisely that illusive melodic and rhythmic beat which will catch the ears and attention of the electorate is that which then gets morphed (borrowed, mangled and mutilated if you ask some musical purists) irregardless of who sang the original song, how it came to be and where it came from.

Still other politicians go for original compositions by either well established songwriters and composers or amateur, aspiring song-makers.  Ricky Layno, another new entry into the world of local politics who is also eyeing a municipal councilor's seat, has one well made ditty being sang surprisingly in Tagalog that has been loudly blared through loudspeakers within our immediate neighborhood many times the past few days.  In my travels all around Lianga and elsewhere in the region, I have heard all kinds and types of campaign songs and slogans.  The sheer number together with the dizzying variety and the wide range of distinctive styles and genres represented would probably put to shame the most prolific, creative musical crafting skills of the top ranked talents of today's professional recording companies put together whether here or abroad.

In many ways, the proliferation of campaign jingles and ditties in Lianga and elsewhere in the country today is a clear recognition by not only the present crop of politicians but also by their campaign managers that the voting public nowadays is no longer composed of the same deaf and dumb voters whose hunger for information about their prospective leaders and their political parties were quickly and easily satiated by the static and sensually boring  pictures, posters and billboards that was the mainstay of the political campaigns of the not so distant past.  The present day electorate is internet savvy, and multimedia hungry.  They prefer their information and data handed to them in a way that engrosses not just one but multiple senses.

The idea is ultimately to build and enhance name recognition, to use a catchy tune to imprint a candidate's specific and individual identity into the voters' consciousness.  In this functional sense, the political jingle is superior to that of poster and billboard.  A politician's name and image on a poster can be quickly lost in the sea of printed campaign materials but an effective jingle through constant repetition will force voters to remember a specific candidate hopefully long enough to carry over into election day.

The key here, of course, is finding a tune with a melody and rhythm that in the words of a Lianga oldtimer I recently talked to is "easy to remember, pleasing to the ears and lively enough to dance to."  It also means lyrics and a message that extols a politician's name, personal virtues and program of government without being too boringly repetitious and obviously heavy-handed about it.

In truth, I have nothing against campaign jingles and have an open mind about them despite the often the loud and intrusive way they tend to disrupt the placid and quiet comfort of my provincial life.  If they are an integral part of the evolution and development of our still raucous, disorderly and infantile political culture and democratic way of life then I am more than willing to endure what must be endured.

What is more critically important to me is that voters will hopefully be willing to spend the extra effort to go beyond the song and dance, the slick marketing techniques and clever packaging to the truth and reality behind the same men and women who are all asking to be given the mandate to lead their communities and the entire country for the near future.  After all, in politics as well as in the larger world of consumer marketing, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating.

Inversely, if the thing or idea being pushed so aggressively does not hold up to the all the hype and the slick advertising then everyone ends up feeling cheated, swindled and scammed.  By that time, of course, all the regrets and finger pointing will be tragically too late and will merely be an exercise in abject and shamefaced futility.


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