What's in a song? For Doug Ford's campaign, a whole lot

·4 min read
Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford is the only main party leader campaigning with an original song. It's called 'Get It Done,' which is also the PC campaign slogan. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford is the only main party leader campaigning with an original song. It's called 'Get It Done,' which is also the PC campaign slogan. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press - image credit)

What's in a song? For Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives, there is a lot, apparently.

This election is the second time the PCs were the only Ontario party to hit the trail to the sound of an original ditty written for the campaign.

Those keeping even one ear on the election can probably guess its name. Yup, you got it. It's called Get It Done, the same slogan slathered all over PC campaign materials.

And you may have heard it already without realizing. The song is the ubiquitous soundtrack for Ford's rallies, stops and positive ads on television, radio and online.

Since it is the successor to Ford's 2018 song, For The People, CBC News decided to get some impromptu reviews from, well, the people — before revealing exactly what they were listening to.

"It's poppy. It's got a good vibe to it. It sounds very positive," said Chris Beck on a sidewalk in downtown Toronto. "It's very catchy."

Ali Mohammed and Freda Bizimana, also in Toronto, said it "sounded hopeful." Bizimana had a nagging feeling she'd heard it somewhere before. "I like that energy," Mohammed said.

Reactions were slightly more muted after they learned it was a PC campaign song.

"I didn't see that coming," Mohammed said. "Pretty surprising," Beck quipped.

CBC
CBC

The song is really an ad itself and the lyrics undoubtedly paint an overtly rosy picture of Ford's vision for Ontario.

But those initial reactions from listeners — PC voters or not — are the kinds of feelings his camp is hoping to elicit, according to a campaign source who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity.

The "Get It Done" branding is deliberately about looking forward. The PCs are betting big on the proposition that many voters simply want to move on after more than two dark years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The song is trying to capture that sentiment in audio form, the source said.

Like kissing a baby, in song form

Shana Almeida, a professor of communications at Toronto Metropolitan University, thinks the song could serve as a "strategic tool to tap into a particular kind of emotion that's specific to the pandemic.

"I think when you can tap into that, you tap into a larger pool of people, people on the fence, people who are undecided."

It allows the party to control the message in a way that existing music would not. And a small sampling of the lyrics ("Nobody said it was an easy road / And we won't stop, we won't ever fold") show they are vague enough to potentially appeal to more than just typical PC voters, said Almeida, who worked for former NDP MP Olivia Chow during her time as a Toronto city councillor.

WATCH | Listen to a snippet of the PC campaign song:

She said it's sort of like an auditory version of a politician holding and kissing a baby.

"When you see a politician holding a baby, you tend to forget some of the bad things that they've done."

The PC campaign has cut versions of various lengths to use in different contexts, so that parts of the song appear across all media.

There is an advertising concept called "sonic branding" — creating an auditory experience that a listener immediately associates with a brand. Think the McDonald's jingle (Ba da ba ba ba). That's part of what the PCs hope to achieve with an original song, the campaign source said.

"Voters, and audiences more generally, are really distracted right now," the insider said. "They're only seeing and hearing bits and pieces of your campaign. That consistent sound helps them tie it all together."

Of course, producing an original song requires a campaign with the machinery and money to do so. Just how much money the PCs won't say. They also declined to reveal who composed and recorded the song.

Sidestepping any blowback from artists

Eric Alper, a music publicist and radio host, said he thinks it was a "smart move" with no obvious downside for the Ford campaign to commission the work.

"They get to claim this song as their own, so they know they're not going to have any issues with copyright or artists coming out and saying they don't want a song being used," he said from Toronto.

He pointed to instances of musicians denouncing politicians, most typically those who are right-of-centre. Canadian rocker Neil Young publicly demanded former U.S. president Donald Trump stop playing Rockin' in the Free World on the campaign trail, for example.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press
Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Alper said the song's structure makes good sense, even if it features elements "clearly taken from the advertising world." It's emotion-driven rather than fact-based, and is easy enough to remember, he said.

"You want those diehard followers to know the song and sing it when they're sitting in the car. Because it's free advertising for the politician the minute they start to have that song in their head," Alper continued.

CBC News reached out to the Ontario NDP, Liberal and Green campaigns for their takes on the tune. None responded before publication.

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