On January 21, Bernie Sanders’ campaign released the most iconic video ad of the 2016 cycle. Entitled “America”, it visually extolled the values and virtues of rural life alongside a snapshot of the US in the new millennium: it features images of sexual, economic, age, racial and professional diversity. The ad also captured the growing momentum of Sanders’ campaign with footage from increasingly larger rallies. All of this was accomplished without a single word from Sanders, a political proxy or a narrator – it was sonically accompanied only by diegetic sound and Simon and Garfunkel’s “America”. The ad quickly went viral, garnering media attention and spawning a version 2.0 for the New York primary. “America” was effective in harnessing the poignant combination of optimism and anxiety encapsulated in the original song for the purposes of the campaign. The conflict that animates the song, traveling in search of a mythical, utopic America, closely mirrors Sander’s campaign to restore America’s middle class. “America” potently uses music and imagery to craft an emotional connection between viewers and Sanders’ campaign.
On April 1, the Sanders campaign released another music centered ad entitled “It’s a Revolution” after the titular song by Diplo (feat. Faustix & Imano and Kai). As in “America” there is no meta commentary or voice over. “Revolution” follows similar visual and sonic grammar – a montage of images that highlight the diversity of individuals and communities that are supporting Sanders culminating in footage from vibrant rallies and intimate encounters. However, the focus of “Revolution” is markedly different from “America”. The ad is framed as a thank you to Sanders’ army of volunteers and features images and brief clips of them, juxtaposing snapshots of historically revolutionary moments and volunteers engaged in quotidian activities. The first half of the ad highlights volunteers enthusiastically making signage and performing other communal office activities. The second half jockeys between footage of Sanders campaigning and volunteers at rallies celebrating and pumping up the crowd.