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Listen to Donald Trump’s “authoritarian hold music” rally playlist

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

If Donald Trump's rallies have become synonymous with anything lately, it's violence: Supporters and protesters have clashed, and those clashes have ended with protesters bloodied.

All this is happening against an incongruous and often very loud backdrop of the greatest hits of the '60s, '70s, and '80s — as if you were stuck between a classic rock station and a conservative talk show host on the radio and ended up getting both at once. Here's what Trump played at his rally in Cleveland over the weekend:

The Washington Post's pop music critic, Chris Richards, who assembled the playlist from Trump's Cleveland rally, calls it "authoritarian hold music":

These songs don’t pump people up. They make everyone feel comfortable — in their indignation, in their suspicion, in their hostility. The songs that Trump has chosen couldn’t be more banal, yet it’s precisely their banality that makes them so in­cred­ibly effective. They infuse the hateful atmosphere he cultivates with an air of utter normalcy.

The outlier on the Cleveland playlist is Luciano Pavarotti singing, "Nessun dorma," one of the most famous opera arias of all time. Its final lines translate to, "I will win, I will win, I will win" — a very Donald Trump refrain. But Trump seems to be moving away from the musical theater he played at earlier rallies.

Go deeper:

  • The best explanation you will ever read of how Donald Trump's taste in musicals help explain his campaign, by Vox's Dara Lind.
  • The Washington Post's Rebecca Sinderbrand tackled Trump's music choices earlier this year, when they were a bit more eclectic.
  • Adele told Donald Trump to stop using her music earlier this year. This keeps happening, particularly to Republicans, and FiveThirtyEight's Walt Hickey explained the history.