We Will Rock You Feat. Barack Obama

Made by Jared Moore

As President Obama's Second Term wraps up, I have him sing Queen's We Will Rock You as a reflection on his presidency.

Created: September 29th, 2016



I wish to produce a video of Barack Obama "singing" Queen's We Will Rock You. I am choosing to do this in part because I am a huge fan of these type of videos and was interested to see what kind of work goes into to making them, but there is specific reasoning behind the song choice and why Obama is the politician chosen. I used We Will Rock You because of how it covers the progression of time (specifically, from a young child to an old man). This is highly relevant to President Obama, who is at the end of his second term and will no longer be in office very soon. Within the video, there should be clips from his first term and second term, with the idea that he was once a young man, taking on the world, but has faced complete GOP opposition while in office and, as an "old man" (notice the grey hair in some clips), whatever work he was able to do while taking on the world is over (see references for article on GOP blocking). All the while, aspirations were high and remain high for the Democratic party.

We Will Rock You - Feat. Obama
Prevoid - https://youtu.be/6Dysyq_CfmQ


The style I did my remix in is one that has been particularly popular in reason years. Having someone who is not expected to be singing a song sing the song is humorous to many. Politicians are popular targets, since they're well known and never seen in that light (there is an extremely popular YouTube channeled doing this just for Obama). Popular songs are also used because the familiarity with the normal version really throws things together. Sometimes, there are slight parodies of the original with political implications (see references for many examples of what I have just discussed).  I think politicians are a popular target because they have to speak publicly a lot; this provides a lot of audio recordings of them saying a huge array of words (sometimes with transcripts). Some videos include the original singer's voice in addition to the voiceover clips, but I think this detracts from the quality so I opted not to. 



The first thing I did after I decided I wanted to use We Will Rock You was to look at the lyrics for the song. There are 157 words in the song, with 56 of them being completely unique. This meant, at the very least, I needed to find 56 audio clips. I found a website that transcribed a lot of speeches and linked to the relevant video, so I used google searches like ["barack obama" "rock" site:americanrhetoric.com] to find all the instances he has said rock. From there, I would have to tediously skim through the video (often 1 hour+) with only a relative idea of where the words were (no timestamps) and try to choose an instance he was articulating it clearly. From there, I would download the video and try to extract as many useful words from it as possible. I used 10 full speech videos in total. Then, I used ffmpeg to cut word segments of 1 second in length before moving the clips into iMovie (for ease of editing). This whole process took way longer than I ever imagined it would. The last part (aligning it with the original song), was also time consuming and not easy because some of the words did not turn out as clear as desired. Also, in these speeches, people tend to talk rapidly, meaning I had to use slow motion sometimes to make the word not be incomprehensible.



I was successful in creating the video I aspired to create. It starts with the iconic stomp-stomp-clap and then begins with Obama "singing" through various clips from his speeches. I synched the start with when Queen/Freddie Mercury starts in the original version and tried to take the same length pauses they do at certain points. I managed to cover the entire song with the speech clips I collected. At the end, during the guitar solo, I had a clip of Obama swaying back and forth until it finished out. The technologies are described during the process.



It's hard for me to be satisfied with this work. The whole thing took at least 20 hours of work (with 12 hr of that being consecutive), but spending even more time on it would have been better.

I think my reasoning behind it is good; the song matches what I'm trying to say. I'm not sure if it comes out through my work. That is probably dependent on how the person interprets the meaning behind we will rock you (boy, ambitious -> young man, take on the world -> old man, didn't accomplish everything). I liked that I was able to incorporate clips from both terms. Interestingly enough, the clip for "old" is Obama calling himself old.

As for the actual quality of the video, I expected better. This is a very difficult thing to create well. I don't think I had enough filler content as I wasn't sure how or what to put in the "break" spots. And some of the words just didn't seem clear enough and were kind of the "best I could do" given the time I allocated. It was very difficult to pick out articles and find a clear articulation of them because he speaks so quickly. There are probably tricks to this trade that I'm not familiar with.

See criticism after rewatching video after awhile away in reflection below.


Personal Reflection

I learned just how much work goes into the video editing process. I have a newfound appreciation for anyone who does this kind of work (cutting lots of clips [50+] from a larger source material) because of how tedious it was (although satisfying if you can produce high-quality clips). I would have liked to add filler parts with Obama dancing/clipping and try to learn other tricks of the trade to produce better and clearer audio clips.

After Rewatching:

After rewatching the video, I'm even more disappointed in the result. The pauses and spacing just doesn't feel right. And there is an oversight that I can't believe I missed: it says "We will rock you" instead of "we will we will rock you".... That's pretty bad. When editing I did the chorus early and then would skip over it always, but this is a ridiculous oversight. The spacing for the chorus and that error really hurt the quality of the peace overall. I'm also thinking I should have added text at the bottom to show what word he's on. Not happy with it. 



GOP blocking:


Recent example, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton singing The Time of My Life:


Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up (Obama and Mitt Romney, also parody):


BarackRoll (rickroll parody with Obama singing):


U Didn't Build That:


baracksdubs YouTube channel




Here are all the speeches and there associated transcriptions. I used this to search for the speech clips needed. I used youtube-dl to download the videos, ffmpeg to convert some that came in as mkv to mp4, and ffmpeg to cut down the videos into workable chunks.






















Previous Proposal

My goal is to create a mashup using videos of people singing happy birthday. I originally thought of using unpopular/unknown YouTube videos in light of some other videos that did this that I thought were cool. But now I'm thinking of including movies references or other things. I kind of want each word of the song to be said by a different video cut. Another cool thing I wanted to add was the extensions of the happy birthday song that people come up with ("s/he looks like a monkey, and s/he smells like one too") and see how long we could go with that. Otherwise, it wouldn't be long enough. I may also try to transcend cultures with this work (i.e. happy birthday song in other parts of the world) and could do some theme with the clips I choose (e.g. age increasing, or something more meaningful). The biggest weakness to this project is that I'm only doing it because I think it would be cool; I need bigger intentions. Perhaps, after some thought, I can come up with something meaningful. Another concern was originality. I'm not sure if this has been done before, but I feel like it has. I tried to find something like it though and never did.

As for how I think this will spread, a bigger purpose would probably help with the spread of this. However, it would be something cool that people would just use as entertainment.

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As President Obama's Second Term wraps up, I have him sing Queen's We Will Rock You as a reflection on his presidency.