Ted Cruz

In Defense of Ted Cruz's Deviant Musical Taste

Presidential candidate says 9/11 changed everything, including his musical preferences. So what?


In my typology of GOP anti-establishmentarians in the 2016 GOP field, I argued that those in the "Petulants" category (the other two being the "Insurgents" and "Crusaders") positively thrive on sneering media dismissals of their very existence. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is vying to become the anti-establishment candidate, is already drawing that unfriendly (but oh-so-helpful!) fire, for the apparent weirdness of declaring on CBS News this morning that "My music taste changed on 9/11″—from classic rock to country—"because I didn't like how rock music responded. And country music, collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me."

Watch Cruz's remarks below:

"Spoken like a normal human being with genuine, relatable interests," snarked Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley. Actually, to the extent that Ted Cruz is capable of speaking like a normal human being, I agree with Mathis-Lilley, only minus the snark.

Musical taste is like voting strategy, or assholes: Everybody's got one, and the other guy's smells worse than yours. One possible mark of tolerance in this world is not wasting excessive breath denouncing the #problematic preferences that individuals express (unless, of course, they won't shut up about Bruce Springsteen). To the extent that our dysfunctional cult of the presidency demands presidential aspirants to open up their music libraries, the decent thing to do is give them the John Cage treatment.

But as long as we're going there, 9/11 is a perfectly cromulent reason to change your musical habits, or anything else about your life. It was a pretty big deal! Sept. 11 was why Pat Tillman quit a good job as a professional football player for more dangerous work in the military. It was why Andrew Phelps went from being a toy soldier to a real fireman, why Michael J. Totten went from mild-mannered Oregonian to globe-straddling independent journalist, and why there are books with titles like Life is Too Short: Stories of Transformation and Renewal After 9/11.

As it happens, my musical taste (among many other things) was knocked way off kilter by 9/11, too. After spending the previous 15 years very seriously keeping up with new music, going to shows constantly, playing in bands, reading and writing about the subject constantly, buying stuff when it came out…I just all of a sudden stopped. I could without looking tell you the best record (IMO) that came out every year from 1963 to 2001; I wouldn't be able to repeat the exercise for a single year since. (This banal realization came precisely when I attempted to engage in such an exercise one late night not long ago.) I distinctly remember going to a rock club in that terrible fall of 2001, and realizing my heart was just no longer in it. A boring story, to be sure (that's why it's after the jump!), but it appears that I finally have one thing in semi-common with Ted Cruz.

As for Senator rubber-chin's specific reasoning, read Jesse Walker from 2006 on "The political puzzle of country music." 

NEXT: Ted Cruz Will Not Be Downplaying His Position on Traditional Marriage

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  1. Musical taste is like voting strategy, or assholes…

    I grew up a Snow fanatic, and I’ll die a Snow fanatic.

    1. +1 Bloodclot

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  2. Mathis-Lilley

  3. 9/11 is a perfectly cromulent reason to change your musical habits

    If you’re a political hack, perhaps.

    1. Or if you’re trying to embiggen your voting base with country music fans

      1. It’s a perfectly cromulent strategy.

    2. After 9/11, Cruz never again left a towel on his head after washing his hair.

  4. Hitting that musical interest wall happens, one day I just realized I had not bought any new records [CD/stream/im old].

    If I ever run for office it will be on the Cromulent Ticket.

    1. Stooges, Raw Power?

      1. Also, ‘Exile on Main Street’ i think. And herbie hancock’s “headhunters”. It was a good year.

      2. You weren’t there, you wouldn’t understand?

    2. Bought my first albums, PPink floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” and Genesis “Foxtrot”, in 1973 (it was released in ’72). “Selling England by the Pound” came out that year as well.

      Superb albums.

      1. Tales from Topographic Oceans? Anyone? No, not me either.

        I’ll second SEBTP.

        1. Nope, I have that one, too. Not one of their best 🙂

        2. Topographic Oceans was good; I liked Close to the Edge better.
          But folks 20 years younger than me can still sing along to Dark Side of the Moon.

          Too much of country music is whiny fake-nostalgia commercialism, and 9/11 just exacerbated that – I bought a Dixie Chicks album precisely because of how the country music political-correctness movement treated them. I like some of the old stuff, and I’ll play old-timey and the parts of bluegrass that fit in my skill level, and some people like Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton are worth listening to regardless of what they’re covering, but the freedom-fries crowd really irk me.

    3. Forgot to come back to this thread.

      Dark Side of the Moon or
      Can – Future Days

  5. The only thing I want to know about a candidate’s musical tastes is if they like Devo. Because remember: nobody knows, so let’s find out.

    1. I had liked Devo, but I drove past a car accident on the way to work this morning, so now it’s all Junkanoo all the time!

    2. right after college I had a little bit of a revelation where I decided that Devo was probably the best/least appreciated band (scratch that – *artists*) of the previous 20-30 years. genuinely ahead of their time, and holds up very well. Its rare that anyone genuinely ‘innovates’.

      1. Oh completely. If you look at so much early 80s stuff, particularly New Wave, you can see Devo’s influence all over the place. It’s huge. They were truly original and different. They were even doing music videos before MTV or anyone else. Unfortunately they were starting to wane as MTV started, and I think that’s one reason they didn’t get massive exposure on it. And it’s infuriating that one of their least excellent songs, “Whip It”, is the single thing many people know about them.

        But, that’s Devo for you.

        1. They probably wouldn’t have it any other way. I hear they still put on a great show when they tour.

      2. I had some eye trouble in college, back when Devo were new, went to the university’s clinic, let student eye-doctors dilate my eyes and poke around at them for a couple hours, and walked home wearing cardboard optometrist sunglasses. Past the high school, about when it was getting out. Had to listen to many Devo jokes.

    3. My band played “Whip It” in college (that was one of the song I was singer for). During that time, I came to appreciate the genius that is Devo.

      Just the other day I played “Speed Racer” for the troops.

      “i’m your doctor and here’s the bill! I’m a big pirate and I like to kill! I’m a Barbie doll and I like sex!”

      Fokin’ poetry

    4. Q: Are we not men?

  6. Despite all of Europe’s problems, one thing they get very, very right is metal.

    That said, I was kind of hoping Floor Jansen fronting Nightwish would hail a renaissance for the band after the disaster that was Anette Olzen, but I haven’t been too impressed with the two singles they’ve released in advance of the new album.

    *glances around in hope that someone knows what I’m talking about.*

    1. I prefer old Nightwish. Oceanborn is still my favorite Nightwish album. I really liked Toumas’s “Life Time of Adventure” though.

      Blind Guardian on the other hand just keeps getting better, and better with each new album.

      Korpiklaani’s latest was also a nice change of pace from their usual “let’s get drunk” songs.

      1. My favorite Nightwish album would be a tossup between Oceanborn and Wishmaster. Imaginaerum was beautifully written and I loved the songs but Anette held it back from being as great as it could have been.

        Blind Guardian is a lot of fun to listen to when it comes up on Pandora, but I am less familiar with their material. I just haven’t taken the time to get to know them well yet. Though my experience with Sabaton is similar – they just keep getting better.

        This new Korpiklaani album, I may have to look into. I was previously turned off by them due to the excessive “let’s get drunk” songs, as you put it. I found it got tiresome even though I couldn’t complain about the quality of the music.

        1. Blind Guardian as you can probably tell from my screen name is my favorite band. I would recommend starting with “Nightfall on Middle Earth” if you want to get more familiar with them. Maybe “Somewhere far Beyond”.

          The Korpiklaani album I refer to is called “Manala” and it’s all in Finnish. I believe they have a music video from it on youtube you can watch called “Rauta” which is basically Finnish for steel or iron.

          I’ve heard a few Sabaton songs, but I’ve always had trouble finding their cds in the United States.

          1. Also check out “Leven polkka” from Korpiklaani from the same album. It’s basically a heavy metal polka, but it’s a lot of fun to listen to.

            Those Korpiklaani drinking songs are fun for partys especially if you’re friends with a lot of heavy metal fans. Same with Alestorm if you’re drunk enough.

            “Bring us pints of beer!”

            1. I actually saw Alestorm live back in 2013. They are hilarious and great performers.

              1. They have to be hilarious. Hell they label themselves as “True Scottish Pirate Metal.” and their songs are a lot of fun.

          2. Thanks for the tip. I’ll take a trip to youtube for it in the near future.

            I usually buy my CD’s from Amazon or directly from the label if there’s a special edition I want. In Sabaton’s case, that’s Nuclear Blast.

            And yes, I’m a curmudgeon who refuses to buy digital music unless there is literally no other option.

            My favorite band fluctuates depending on my mood and who’s putting out good albums at present, but at the moment I would have to say mine is Elvenking. They are a folk metal band who cater to my love of fantasy and actually pulled off a renaissance with The Pagan Manifesto after a few years of mediocrity.

          3. I used to like Blind Guardian very much, but these days the entire genre is just too damn tedious.

    2. I’m a huge Floor Jansen fanboy, going back at least a decade. The problem with her being in Nightwish is that Tuomas wants to make everything sound like a Disney soundtrack now. Floor would have killed it on Once or Century Child, which is where Tarja started to sound out of place. I agree that the first two singles off the new album are unimpressive. Tuomas is repeating himself and doesn’t know what to do with a magnificent voice like Floor’s.

      1. Oh, and for those going “WTF?” to this little conversation, here’s the summary:

        Nightwish = Finnish band whose initial gimmick was having an actual classical singer named Tarja Turunen on lead vocals, who was fired and was replaced by a Swedish pop singer lady who sounded straight out of ABBA, who was fired and replaced by the best female hard rock/metal singer on the planet right now, Floor Jansen.

        If you YouTube their most recent music, you’ll think “god, this is the cheesiest shit ever.” And you’d be right. Their work from about 2000-2005 was much more substantial, though.

        1. I wouldn’t call it a gimmick. Tarja’s voice really fit well with Toumas’s song writing, whom I still think is a great song writer. Sure some of the newer Nightwish albums are lacking, but he really hit it out the park with “A Lifetime of Adventure.”

          1. I haven’t actually taken the time to listen to that “Life and Times of Scrooge” album. Should I take this comment as an endorsement?

            1. I really enjoyed it, but It’s not really heavy metal, it certainly has a movie music feel to it, if that makes any sense. Plus I used to watch Duck Tales when I was a kid. If you’re unsure go to youtube and watch the video for “A Lifetime of Adventure” Though I think “Cold heart of the Klondike” is a better song from it.

            2. Actually if you want a endorsement buy “Touched by the Crimson King” by Demons & Wizards. It’s Hansi Kursch from Blind Guardian, and John Schaffer from Iced Earth, and the entire album is about Steven King’s “Dark Tower” series.

              There is a music video on Youtube for “Terror Train” I think, but don’t even waste time sampling it, just buy the album.

        2. the best female hard rock/metal singer on the planet right now

          Close. The answer is Anneke van Giersbergen.

          1. I like Anneke, but I don’t think of her as a metal singer, whereas Floor could go toe-to-toe with Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford in a metal setting.

    3. They get metal right right precisely because of their problems.

  7. I wish Cruz would have said his tastes changed in favor of John Schaffer’s “Sons of Liberty”. Which is basically Ron Paul + Metal.

  8. “After spending the previous 15 years very seriously keeping up with new music, going to shows constantly, playing in bands, reading and writing about the subject constantly, buying stuff when it came out?I just all of a sudden stopped”

    That happens to everybody. ~late 30s? You just can’t be bothered to care that much about what’s news. Half the stuff i find myself interested in/excited by lately is often 5-7 years old already and I just didn’t get around to it. and I don’t really care.

    1. Nooooo!!! I refuse to get old!! *pours another drink*

      1. Hope I die before I ge….

        Wait. Too late.

    2. Agreed.

      I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to all the anti-statist Bush-era musical commentary applied equally well to a Non-Bush Presidency.

    3. A huge amount of the “New” stuff i listen to? Was stuff that was overlooked from 20 years ago.

      Seriously. I was not into the 1990s doom/stoner rock stuff outside of Soundgarden… but things like the pre-QOTSA “Kyuss”, Fu-Manchu, and these guys are all pretty awesome stuff that I’d missed out on at the time.

      Same with things like Crooked Fingers et al…who i only started digging recently. Their “newest” album was in 2011 i think. I haven’t even gotten around to it, still listening to their early stuff.

      Interesting note =

      Most of the stuff I find? Youtube. One thing links to another…. the accumulated playlists provoke recommended things that are appropriate. And unsurprisingly? Youtube got smart and just added a whole new “Music” tab just last week. Basically responding to the way people were already using Youtube.

      1. I’d vote for Cruz if he would make QotSA ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’ his campaign theme.

      2. I just found this link today :


        might try it out for my next attempt at new music

        basically, it has some notion of “distance” between bands so you just type in a band and see what it thinks is “close” to that. No idea if its notion of distance is worth a crap.

        1. Interesting.

          I plugged in “The Meters” (one of my favorite bands)

          it is actually pretty money. as in, accurately associates about 80% of the related names.

          However, i think the “degree” of association is off. Lee Dorsey, Allen Toussaint, The Neville Bros, Wild Magnolias, Dr John, etc would probably be ‘level 1’ (other associated contemporary New Orleans acts); then you’d get other contemporary southern funk/soul bands (Bar Kays, Booker T, Eddie Bo, JBs, the Gaturs, etc), then maybe derivative modern groups (New Mastersounds, Lettuce, Daptone stuff)…. then derivative hiphop stuff….

          …but somehow they go from the Meters to “hedwig and the angry inch” (*glam rock?) in 2 steps. headscratcher there.

          Similarly = the Ramsey Lewis Trio? (1960s piano soul-jazz)…. was 2 steps from Lil Jon

          Still, its a pretty cool idea. It would be neat if they linked it to Youtube examples of people’s stuff.

        2. I think i might be reading it incorrectly now that I think about it.

          i.e. the stuff that’s “closest”? is similar.. the next step out is “sort of like that”….

          and the stuff further on the periphery? Is like, “The Opposite”

          that would make more sense. but its not very consistent.

    4. Having children is really what kills your ability to keep up with things and goes to shows. That’s probably more universal than the getting-old problem. I’m a late-starting parent in my upper-mid 40s, and even a few years ago I was still making treks to other cities to see shows and had a massive CD buying habit. Now as the parent of a toddler, I go to bed at 9pm and feel lucky to go to a handful of shows per year.

      1. Having kids exposed me to a shitload of music I’d never have heard if I didn’t have kids. Mostly hip hop and the like, but some rock, too.

        And my kids know the lyrics to “Kickstart My Heart” cause they’ve been hearing it since they were in a car seat, so we’re even.

        1. I’m sure that’ll come, but right now it’s mostly a case of having that damned Thomas the Tank Engine song going through my head 24-7. My wife even caught me humming the “Caillou” theme song the other day. Gahh!

          1. Ever hear the radio PSA for toothbrushing that makes fun of that phenomenon with a really annoying earworm of an original music composition (or fragment thereof)? Ach, I just called it up in my mental phonograph again!

        2. …my kids know the lyrics to “Kickstart My Heart” cause they’ve been hearing it since they were in a car seat…

          Child abuse.

    5. *narrows gaze and turns around to buy more concert tickets*

    6. I’m going to get around to buying that other Wolfmother album any year now.

    7. Yeah, I recognize that. The wall was more abrupt, though. I was 33 on Sept. 11, just like Jesus.

      1. You havent missed much.

    8. I was in my early 30s when I finally sat down and listened to The Greatful Dead, and found out that I should have been listening to them for the previous decade, like when they’d played a show at my college. Arrgh. I wasn’t much of a rocker, liked classical and traditional better, and here’s Jerry who’d been following Bill Monroe around as well as Coltraine. They’re still my favorite country band 🙂

    1. HM obviously was listening to too much SF.

    2. Seiner link kaput ist!

  9. I don’t care at all about his music listening but does anybody actually believe that is true?

  10. Does he like Bro-country?

  11. I watched the Cruz speech at Liberty. He is a mystic multiculturalist, completely distinct from the pragmatic mulitculturalist, Obama. Katy bar the door..

  12. As it happens, my musical taste (among many other things) was knocked way off kilter by 9/11, too. After spending the previous 15 years very seriously keeping up with new music, going to shows constantly, playing in bands, reading and writing about the subject constantly, buying stuff when it came out?I just all of a sudden stopped.

    Let me guess, because you were inspired to delve more deeply into your faith by the actions of the mujihadeen and realized that the hadith of al-Bukhari clearly proves that music is offensive to Islam?

  13. Country music is for fishing. That is all.

  14. It may cost me my libertarian clubhouse credentials but I admit to almost always skipping food or music related threads or subthreads here. Am I a bad person?

    1. You post here, so you’re by definition a bad person. But we all have our threads we skip. Or at least most of us do.

      1. I skip threads that Bo and Tupla shit on

    2. I skip Civil War and Abortion conversations. Haven’t seen any new arguments in 10 years. Its just the same crap over and over.

  15. Ted Cruz strikes me as barely human. He has a very off-putting demeanor as if he is constantly pandering to whoever he is speaking with while simultaneously condescending to them.

    1. Ted Cruz strikes me as barely human

      So he’s the libertarian candidate then?


      “For the elitist on the move – when you need to signal social-status across a wide range of operational environments, this titanium eyepiece will resist scratches or torque-related damage even under the most austere conditions….”

      1. FUCK YEAH!

        *blows up something – one eye protected by awesome TACTICAL MONOCLE!*

        1. A real libertarian would have two tactical monocles. One for each eye.

          1. And one would be opaque so a nuke fireball wouldn’t take out both eyes.

      2. Damnit Gilmore, you had me all excited that that was the actual description on the site.

  16. The only good music is either dissonant electronic noises or animalistic screeching about how Life is Pain.

    1. You’d get along great with my former colleague (who introduced me to reason) Dhex

      I think he was a big Coil fan

  17. If Joe McCarthy had a son, he’d look a lot like Ted Cruz.

  18. “My music taste changed on 9/11” ? from classic rock to country ? “because I didn’t like how rock music responded. And country music, collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me.”

    My taste in music changed forever as well, from listening to classic rock to listening only to the incidental music for Victory At Sea.

    /And I am Neo-con Rob Lowe.

    1. Some of the best symphonic music composed in the last half of the 20th Century? Consider it an upgrade.

  19. To the extent that our dysfunctional cult of the presidency demands presidential aspirants to open up their music libraries, the decent thing to do is give them the JohnNY Cage treatment.


    1. I agree with that, Sparky. Nor is it the business of an HR dept. to ask such a question of any other job applicant either. The candidate is just applying for a job.

      I was at BofA today to wire in an escrow deposit for a house I am in the process of purchasing. “What do you do for a living?”, “Do you live around here?”, “Is this your first home?”. I gave the banker a blank stare to each question and politely thanked him for processing the wire transfer when we were done.

      We could do with less nosiness and holistic vetting.

      1. If some company ever printed a decent “I’m not here for small talk” t-shirt I’d buy a bunch of them and wear them everywhere.

        On one of her birthdays, I bought my daughter a shirt that says “You read my shirt, that’s enough social interaction for one day”.

        1. On a cap: “Dysfunctional Veteran, Leave me Alone.”

  20. My musical tastes changed around that time, but for different reasons. Alt.Rock used to be my job — yeah, I escaped from the music industry — so when I left rock, I really, truly, left it.

    I took up the Lindy Hop and spent the next decade listening to nothing but pre WW II jazz and blues, and it was like becoming a kid all over again. I got to discover “new” music, got to let my taste develop from zero, got to clean all the crud out of my jaded ears. I sold or gave away most of my old CD collection — hundreds of the damn things — and repopulated the shelves with Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Chick Webb, Jimmie Lunceford, Ella FitzG. I never looked back, though in recent years I’ve “advanced” all the way to the late 1950s and Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson’s early Trumpet label stuff.

    So, yeah, you can declare an aesthetic “Year One” anytime you need.

  21. I can think of a couple things:

    (1) Country music has been getting more poppy and rocky for quite some time. It was less of a leap from one to the other in 2001 that you might think.

    (2) 9/11 changed a lot of people’s tolerance for routine, lazy anti-Americanism. The kind musicians blurt out pretty frequently.

    I saw Carlos Santana in Dallas, probably around 2004. Good show, everyone was having a good time, and he said something that was pretty typical leftoid pablum about the war in the Middle East. The stadium went dead silent. I doubt that would have happened pre-9/11.

    1. Yep. 2001 was already well after Mutt Lange essentially produced a Def Leppard album with Shania Twain on vocals and called it “country.”

      In contrast to (2), I cringe when I think back to a lot of the jingoistic crap that was being spewed out in the years immediately after 9/11. Between that and the usual leftist drivel, it’s like this country collectively lost its fucking mind after 9/11 and has never recovered. I try to think of how an iconoclast like Frank Zappa could fit in popular culture now, and I just can’t.

    2. Everyone just needs to stop basing so much of their identity on politics. I don’t know why so many artists, especially widely popular ones like Santana want to be boringly political on stage like that. You are just going to be annoying a good chunk of your audience. I guess that’s always been part of the rock and roll thing, though. Can’t deny there is some pretty good political music.

  22. Sort of on topic….

    speaking of bizarre music tastes/subcultures?….

    someone had a link at some point to some idiotic “Cybergoth” dance routine… and now my youtube recommends at least 1 example of that every day. Why? because I keep clicking on them because no matter how much i dislike them. its like wiggling a loose tooth. I want to remind myself how ridiculous it is.

    basically, its the most talentless and uninspired form of formulaic routine-dancing i’ve ever witnessed……but they magnify its ridiculousness by doing while dressed up like fucking Manga-Sci-Fi-Cartoon-Cyber-GothNinjas Wearing Neon Furry Uggs or something.

    Its so horrible but i can’t stop clicking on them. Watching them with the sound off is the key to getting the full effect. Or better = play some 70s disco.

  23. I don’t care what Ted Cruz likes. But deciding what music to like based on performers’ political views is just dumb. I usually try to avoid knowing the politics of artists I like because it is so often disappointing. Not that it stops me liking them.

  24. 9/11 taught me one truly important thing about music. Despite being a fan I was seiously under-appreciating the sheer fucking genius of Karlheinz Stockhousen.


  25. Are we talking about songs or music here? In my narrow little mind these are not, or rarely so, the same arts.

    I don’t compare and contrast Ride of the Volkeries with Me and Mrs. Jones. though about an equal stir from both.

    1. (sniff) Well i only listen to gregorian chant on my vintage victrola. anything less would be uncivilized.

  26. Musical taste doesn’t work that way. Ok, maybe for a politician.

  27. What does it say of me that I tolerate most of what’s played on WFMU, and actually enjoy much of it?

    1. Right now it’s “Morning Will Come”, a 1923 Victor recording of Georgie Price.

  28. Interesting. My shift was in the opposite direction. For me it was country (or what passes for it today) that lost resonance.

  29. Post 9/11 country became unbearable. It became schlocky but without any actual depth for a few years, then moved into navel-gazing pop with the words “country” and “pickup” thrown in occasionally. The only mainstream country worth listening to in the last 14 years is Zac Brown band, unless Old Crow is considered mainstream. The fact that Ted Cruz thinks otherwise makes me never want to vote for him.

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