Earlier this week, indie darlings Death Cab for Cutie released an anti-Trump song called “Million Dollar Loan.” Now, I’m a woman of few words when it comes to politics. Not because I don’t know or don’t care, but because I think everyone has differing opinions when it comes to politics and I often see the worst parts of people shine through when I hear or see them talk about politics. It’s hard not to make things personal when you talk about politics, I think. I usually don’t like blatantly political protest songs, especially when you’ve got songs like “Dear Mr. President,” “When the President Talks to God,” or my personal least favorite, “Edge of a Revolution” (ugh).
But somehow, “Million Dollar Loan” is a political song that doesn’t seem overtly political or cheesy, and it might be the first political song I’ve heard that makes its point gracefully. I mean, without context, the title of the song doesn’t give anything away about the political nature of the song. And Ben Gibbard & co. didn’t go out of their way to switch up their sound to make it clear they’re trying to send a message, which is something that is hard to do.
Sidenote: I’m not a fan of this video, but also realize that there’s nothing else that would have really worked.
The song could really be about anyone. And that’s what makes it such a great song. Of all of the flaws that Donald Trump seems to have as a presidential candidate, many people focus on racism and misogyny, which are important things to focus on, but Death Cab choose to focus on a major flaw that seems to have been forgotten in the whirlwind of the campaign. Donald Trump isn’t relatable. I mean, most politicians aren’t really, but as Ben Gibbard himself put it: “To refer to an amount of money most working class people will never see in their lifetime as ‘small’ illustrates a shocking lack of perspective.” It’s funny that Death Cab for Cutie were able to write a song about how unrelatable Donald Trump is that, lyrically, sounds like it could be about anyone. They made the unrelatable relatable.
The first verse:
“From a great height
He’s looking down on his city at night
From gilded room
Of gold, marble, and soft perfume
And he’s proud to say
He built his fortune the old fashioned way”
It could describe any number of rich, white, old men that I’ve met in my life.
Ben Gibbard isn’t the first public figure to speak out about this presidential election, but as an indie icon, and with this subtly political anthem by his side, maybe he can motivate some of us young and apathetic hip people to vote. I think that’s the problem: some people are just too cool to care about politics. But when you’ve got someone who is the OG voice of our hipster generation saying, “Hey, it’s actually cool and really important to care about this” maybe some things will change.