Last week, small town cosplayer and small minded country musician Jason Aldean’s music video for “Try That In a Small Town” became the deserved subject of backlash for promoting racist violence (along with being a bad song). And, as is the natural order of things, a gaggle of clout-hungry politicians proceeded to embrace the song, eager to position themselves as anti-woke. Presidential hopeful Nikki Haley tweeted that she was adding the song to her rally playlist because “you all know I love music...”
I can guarantee you, however, that that is not something we “all know”—I certainly did not. (Though to be fair, I don’t waste my brain space on fun facts about transphobes.) “Loving music” feels about as specific a characteristic as “eating food” or “having to poop or pee a few times a day.” But I was curious as to whether Haley really does truly “love music,” or if her sudden onset Jason Aldean fandom was merely a result of jumping on the bigot train. As it turns out, it’s very true: She does love music. The music she likes is aggressively bland, but it vibrates sound waves in the way we’ve widely agreed equals tunes and beats, so it is music nonetheless.
A simple search through Haley’s multiple Twitter accounts (@NikkiHaley, @AmbNikkiHaley, @TeamHaley) confirms that she loves music almost as much as she loves telling us she loves music. She gained her “love of all kinds of music” from her childhood babysitter. In 2013, the year Macklemore won Best Rap Song for “Thrift Shop,” she tweeted, “It is Grammy time! Kids and I love this every year! Great music and awesome dancing!”
“You’ve probably heard me say this before....I love music,” she tweeted in March 2023 along with a screenshot of her listening to DJ Dark’s “deep house” Soundcloud remix of Dolly Parton’s Jolene which, naturally, prompted me to look for the former South Carolina governor’s Soundcloud. An account with the username “Nikki Haley” has one liked song called “Jam 6,” which I gasped upon seeing—mistakenly reading it as “Jan 6,” and thus definitive proof I’d found her. Alas, I was unable to confirm it is her.
Although I was not able to find any of Haley’s playlists, she shares what she’s listening to very regularly. On multiple occasions, she’s declared just how “obsessed” she is with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s “Shallow.” Her love of music got her a gig as a talking head in a forthcoming Joan Jett documentary. When she was ambassador to the United Nations, she regularly posted short playlists of what was in her earbuds on her train rides back and forth from New York City.
In the heyday of Facebook, Haley often participated in the long lost moody art of posting song lyrics to your profile page. In 2012, two years into being the governor of South Carolina, she posted the lyrics to Adele’s “Rumour Has It”—a passive joke aimed at Stephen Colbert. Four years later, she tweeted out the lyrics to the same song (this time, for no reason).
She told Marie Claire, “Music motivates me. When we have bill signings, we’ve got music playing.” Frankly, I’m inspired by her insipidity, a relationship to music hardly more complex than a preteen’s.
Haley has been contradictory in her beliefs about the intersection of politics and music. She’s opportunistically taken on Aldean’s dog-whistle of a song, yet has tweeted multiple times about keeping music out of politics. Though, when sharing Miley Cyrus 2017 song “Malibu,” she wrote, “Now before people start hating, I don’t select my music or movies by judging the artist’s political beliefs. I just like what I like.” I’m curious if that apolitical approach to music shifted after “Eye of the Tiger” songwriter Frankie Sullivan told Haley, “don’t use my fucking song” on the campaign trail.
I suppose it makes sense that Haley claims to want to keep politics out of music. Hardly any of the music she listens to feels political in any way. among her favorites are Maroon 5, Darius Rucker, Train, Boston, Post Malone, Harry Styles, The Lumineers, Baha Men, Steve Miller Band, and Poison. The majority of music in rotation in Haley’s life is devoid of extremes. It’s music that’s already playing—or is destined to be—on a Sirius XM station called something like “Rock ‘n Chill.”
It’s not that I even find any one of these artists or groups to be offensively bad, but it is certainly suspicious to be enthusiastic about The Lumineer’s hit “Ho Hey,” or to tweet Adele lyrics at 9 a.m. on a Monday. Cumulatively, her music taste paints a picture of someone trapped in the repetitive and bleak performance of a “fulfilled conservative woman.” To claim loving this sort of banal music a crux of your personality? Upsetting, though more importantly: revealing.
So yes, Nikki Haley does indeed love music. But I feel comfortable stating that on the whole, she likes bad music, which makes perfect sense—because she is a bad person. Thus concludes this Jezebel investigation.