Getting a WonkySexy Groove On
Monday, July 16, 2007
" I Got a Crush on Obama," the steamy-silly ballad that conquered YouTube in June, was designed to do one thing: conquer YouTube in June.
"We weren't really thinking about politics," says Ben Relles, 32, a marketing strategist in New York who created the video with Temple University senior Leah Kauffman. "We were just interested in making something really viral, getting a lot of attention." For, you know, them. Not presidential candidate Barack Obama.
No problem. The song scored a thousand hits within five hours of its posting, and shout-outs on shows from Leno to "The View." Then it became a crossover hit: "I Got a Crush on Obama" was referenced in . . . the Economist.
When the Economist writes about your creation, "It is hard to envisage any other candidate inspiring anything similar," that irresistible urge to wonk out just gets to you. "It made us more aware of the fact that these videos could actually impact candidates," says Relles. He and Kauffman, the singing voice of Obama Girl in the song, decided that their next video would have more than eye appeal.
The smackdown that is "Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl" premieres today on www.barelypolitical.com, again featuring Amber Lee Ettinger as the smokin' Barack supporter and introducing model Adelina Kristina as a ready-to-rumble Rudy fan. But the song, says Kauffman, "is less a love song than a debate song. We go into some serious issues, like the war in Iraq and Giuliani comparing himself to Ronald Reagan."
The girls engaging in this political debate are also having a pillow fight, choreography that causes them to twist every which way in their tight tees, short shorts and high heels. Which is, perhaps, to be expected: Before "I Got a Crush on Obama," Kauffman's most noteworthy credit was writing and singing the YouTube sensation "My Box in a Box," one girl's homage to Justin Timberlake's little ditty about his Christmas package. About the hardest-hitting lyric in the new video is "Nothing is worse than Giuliani in drag." This is less than convincing. These girls don't look like they'd mind that sort of thing at all. Unfortunately, the Republican candidate comes with some other negatives: "It turns out," says Kauffman, "nothing rhymes with Giuliani."
It's quintessential Internet: Someone starts out just trying to break through the noise, and frighteningly soon he's some cultural verifier -- trailed by scores of user-generated wannabes (check out "American Idol" loser Taryn Southern's Hillary Clinton video, Hott4Hill). There's now a standard to maintain, and the pair took it seriously during the writing of "Obama vs. Giuliani." Whenever they had a research question, they would "go to Wikipedia to make sure we had our bases covered."
The irony of all this is not lost on Relles and Kauffman, who admit to hearing criticisms that their pop songs make a mockery of the political process. In response they cite the protest songs of the 1960s and 1970s, which were both political and popular. Plus, says Relles, "humor has always been a part of campaigns. . . . When I was 12 I wasn't reading Newsweek. My exposure to politics was watching Dana Carvey do George Bush on 'Saturday Night Live.' He did his 'no new taxes' routine, and that's probably how I learned what taxes were."