It's hard to believe that Randy Newman the political satirist occupies the same corporeal form as Randy Newman the purveyor of Pixar-affiliated songs about friendship. There's a Randy Newman who sings misanthropic songs in character — voicing the perspective of small-minded bigots and other scoundrels, most famously in the 1977 hit "Short People" — and then there's the Randy Newman who sang "You've Got a Friend in Me" and countless other virtually identical, usually Oscar-nominated songs that play over scenes in which one animated movie character bonds with another animated movie character. Newman can be a pitiless raconteur, but he's been deemed approachable enough to let into any living room.
Four decades into his career, it's now somehow jarring to hear Newman voice his satirical side, as he does in a single which surfaced today: "I'm Dreaming," in which Newman imagines a world where America elects a white president. "He won't be the brightest, perhaps," Newman sings. "But he'll be the whitest, and I'll vote for that."
"No other Western industrialized nation would've elected a black president," Newman writes in a recent statement. "I'm proud of this country for having elected Obama in 2008. But from the beginning of his term, I noticed a particular heat to conversations that wouldn't ordinarily generate that kind of passion: the budget, appointments, health care. I think there are a lot of people who find it jarring to have a black man in the White House and they want him out. They just can't believe that there's not a more qualified white man. You won't get anyone, and I do mean anyone, to admit it.
"I often write songs in character," Newman adds. "You can't always trust or believe the narrators in my songs. So why listen? Good question. Anyway, the guy in this song may exist somewhere. Let's hope not. Vote in November."
"I'm Dreaming" is available for free download on Newman's label's website.