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Michelle Obama Promotes All-Star Song 'This Is For My Girls' At SXSW
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Michelle Obama Promotes All-Star Song 'This Is For My Girls' At SXSW

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Michelle Obama Promotes All-Star Song 'This Is For My Girls' At SXSW

Michelle Obama Promotes All-Star Song 'This Is For My Girls' At SXSW
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Michelle Obama announced a song Wednesday at the South by Southwest Music Festival that brings together some of the biggest female music stars in the service of girls' education globally.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The same day the president announced his nominee for the Supreme Court, this girl power song got a nod from the first lady.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS IS FOR MY GIRLS")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) This one's for my girls all around the world. Stand up with your head up. Don't take nothing from nobody. This is for my girls...

SHAPIRO: The single is called "This Is For My Girls." And it features some of biggest names in the music industry. Michelle Obama introduced it at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. NPR's Neda Ulaby has more.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Here's Michelle Obama earlier today sounding for all the world like a record label pitch woman.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHELLE OBAMA: And I want everybody to download that song and I want us all singing that anthem.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That's right.

OBAMA: This is for our girls.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That's right.

ULABY: The song's performers include Missy Elliott, Kelly Clarkson and Janelle Monae. Sales from the single, which is only available on iTunes, benefits charities supporting young women's education globally, including the first lady's Let Girls Learn campaign.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS IS FOR MY GIRLS")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) This is for my girls all around the world. Stand up...

EVELYN MCDONNELL: It's a pretty good song.

ULABY: That's music critic and professor Evelyn McDonnell.

MCDONNELL: It's not going to change the world in terms of musical innovation.

ULABY: But innovation's not the point, she says, when stars pile up on stage to sing on behalf of a cause.

MCDONNELL: They're about creating community and sending a message.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE THE WORLD")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #2: (Singing) We are the world, we are the children.

ULABY: This tune, says McDonnell, is a bit of an outlier in that it was an actual hit. Millions of people bought it in 1985 - all kinds of people. This new song does not promote partisan issues, unless you're a member of the Taliban. But it's coming from a Democratic first lady. Evelyn McDonnell points out it's also not a particularly diverse group of singers.

MCDONNELL: Yeah. I mean, it's not as big of a tent as "We Are The World" was.

ULABY: Politicians often use rock stars to seem hip but this time it might be the other way around, says McDonnell. We're talking about a first lady unusually adroit at leveraging pop culture in her messaging, like doing the nae nae and the Cat Daddy in her campaign against childhood obesity.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS IS FOR MY GIRLS")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) This is for my ladies. Like soldiers we stand up. Remember when Tupac told us keep our head up. And even when the times get rough, you get up. Treat your life like a stage. You go ahead and tear it up.

ULABY: Women musicians singing about empowerment is nothing new on the pop charts, especially in the past two years. But critic Evelyn McDonnell was struck by the intensity of this song's relevance as soon as she went to iTunes to buy it.

MCDONNELL: If you start searching for the title of the song, "This Is For My Girls..."

ULABY: Another song title immediately comes up that uses ugly language.

MCDONNELL: This is for my [expletive].

ULABY: A 2009 tune from a gentleman named Jim Jones.

MCDONNELL: So that the first song that you come up with when you start typing in this is for my is this is for my [expletive] tells you how deeply embedded into our culture misogyny is.

ULABY: Score another point for the revealing power of autofill. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS IS FOR MY GIRLS")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) Put your hands up high. This is you and I, T-Y. Yo, yo, this is how it go. This is for my girls all around the world. Stand up. Put your head up. Don't take nothing from nobody. This is for my girls. Stand up and be heard.

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