Barack Obama, Finland, And Heavy Metal: U.S. President’s Shout-Out To Heavy Metal At State Dinner Goes Viral

Barack Obama is hip to the heavy metal scene in Finland and he let an audience of Scandinavian leaders know it during a speech at the White House just last week. Leaders from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden had come together for an official state dinner and summit when the president made the remarks.

President Obama singled out Finland and its renowned heavy metal scene during the opening part of the speech where he talked about exports and the strengths of each of the Nordic nations. The United States president is quoted in Pitchfork Magazine.

“I do want to point out, that Finland has perhaps the most heavy metal bands in the word, per capita, and also ranks high on good governance. I don’t know that there’s any correlation there.”

Barack Obama also praised Finland and the other Nordic countries present for their contributions and influence in the realms of global human rights. The speech took place at a red carpet dinner that came after the summit, where Barack Obama and the leaders of the Nordic countries had discussed Russian aggression in the Ukraine and Baltic regions.

During his remarks, Obama mentioned Scandinavian inventions like Spotify, Skype, and the NPR show All Songs Considered among other praiseworthy Nordic innovations. As he outlined in the remainder of his speech, Barack Obama reinforced that he had more than Finland’s heavy metal on his mind.

“In fact, in a world of growing economic disparities, Nordic countries have some of the least income inequality in the world. There have been times where I have said, why don’t we just put all these small countries in charge for a while and they could clean things up.”

Barack Obama left the possible connection between good government and music as an open question, but when it comes to Finland and heavy metal, the U.S. president has done his research, as it turns out. MWC News quotes reddit user “depo_ “ who seems to have done extensive research and analysis on heavy metal music worldwide. According to his or her findings, Finland boasts about 53 heavy metal bands for every 100,000 people. Next in line, naturally, are Sweden at 37 and Norway at 27.

Social media and metal heads react

Barack Obama’s comments on Finland and heavy metal went viral within hours of the speech. The president’s remarks turned into material for a wealth of social media posts from observers and heavy metal lovers.

NPR online quotes Adrian Mudrian, editor-in-chief of Decibel Magazine, a publication devoted to heavy metal.

“The metal underground got pretty excited about the President of the United States referencing the Finnish metal scene.”

While heavy metal music flourishes throughout Scandinavia – perhaps due, as Mudrian speculates, to the long, unforgiving winters – it takes on different personalities in each country. Finland’s heavy metal scene is known for its diversity and eccentricity.

“Finland is making the weirdest heavy metal imaginable.”

Barack Obama, Finland, and heavy metal

Whether he is equally as impressed by Nordic social democracy as by the music, it’s not the first time that Barack Obama has referenced heavy metal music – or done his homework. As reported in Stereogum, just last November, during a Medal of Honor speech at the White House, Obama referenced Jonathan Davis, lead singer of heavy metal icons Korn. It was another speech that got social media and metal lovers talking.

Is it evidence of a real interest? With his retirement from White House duties looming after November’s election, it may be that Barack Obama will find more time to explore his connection to Finland and the heavy metal scene.

[Image by Carolyn Kaster/AP Images]