Your favorite songs in TV commercials!
brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 22 07:41:52 CST 2005
>From the Rocky Mountain News at:
Brown: It's classic case of musical irony
January 22, 2005
A lot of music fans have gotten over the trauma, real
or imagined, of hearing their favorite songs in TV
It's a practice that used to be a cultural line in the
sand - either you sold out your songs to peddle
products or you didn't. When a classic song turned up
as a jingle, music fans moaned about their memories
being sold, never being able to hear the song the same
way again . . . wah, wah, wah.
With the music industry broken beyond repair, no one
begrudges an artist anymore for getting their songs
heard (and picking up some cash) any way they can,
whether a new act or a veteran.
Even Pete Townshend's explanation that a whole
generation of fans wouldn't know Baba O'Riley or Won't
Get Fooled Again if not for placement in movies and
commercials carries a lot more weight these days than
it did a decade ago.
Maybe songs as big as those two classics would get
heard somewhere, but millions of kids across the
country now know Happy Jack because of the Hummer
commercial. rather than its appearance on The Who's
But what's still jarring, even after hundreds of
commercials, is hearing something taken out of context
and made to mean something entirely different. For
example, it's likely that a lot of jaws dropped when
The Apprentice debuted a couple of seasons back with
the theme song For the Love of Money.
The original O'Jays song, one of the classic soul/funk
songs of all time, warns, among other things, "don't
let money rule you . . . for the love of money people
can't even walk the streets . . . people will lie,
Lord, they will cheat . . . money is the root of all
Yet here it is, used as the snappy theme for a show
that is all about nothing but making the most possible
money to cling to 15 minutes of TV fame. It's as
galling as a campaign ad, since it takes a few sound
bites out of context and completely changes the
Intentional irony is a different matter. Hearing Roy
Orbison's overwrought, lovesick cry of "It's over . .
. it's over!" on a commercial about the end of
DVD-rental late fees, well, that's just funny stuff.
Not getting the point of a song isn't a new thing.
Ronald Reagan appropriated Born in the USA as a
campaign anthem and even invoked Bruce Springsteen's
name at a New Jersey tour stop in the '80s, famously
causing Springsteen to muse onstage as to what
Reagan's favorite song might be off the bleak Nebraska
With the careful editing that For the Love Of Money
got, however, someone knew exactly what the song
meant, and how to make it mean something else.
Most songs and product placement are easy to live
with. Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll selling Cadillacs?
Fine. Sting selling Jaguars? What could be more
The ones with a lyrical disconnect, however, are
harder to ignore. The Clash never got the payday it
deserved, so fans have little problem with them making
money from their legacy. But London Calling, a
harrowing tale of Armageddon, selling cars? Again, it
was no surprise that verses such as "now war is
declared/and battle comes down" didn't make the final
Aimee Mann, a singer/songwriter with a peerless track
record and a gorgeous voice, made a serious gaffe when
she sang Burt Bachrach's gorgeous What the World Needs
Now for a commercial. The answer to the song's
question is "love," not the crappy goods they're
peddling down at the Gap.
Aerosmith's Dream On - a song about aging, death,
oblivion - is the latest high-profile entry into the
scene, shilling for a new line of Buicks. One could
argue it's the perfect midlife crisis song, I suppose.
Bob Dylan caught a load of flack when his song, Love
Sick, was used in a Victoria's Secret ad. The focus
was on his somewhat creepy presence amid the models.
Fans, however, groaned over context: Love Sick
features lines such as "I'm sick of love/I wish I'd
never met you."
But the current classic has to be There She Goes.
Originally written by The La's, it is thought by many
to be a love song. It is, of sorts: a love song to
heroin. "There she goes again, pulsing through my
veins . . . no one else can heal my pain," lead singer
Lee Mavers crooned in 1990 before the band disappeared
into oblivion, commercial and otherwise.
Now it is covered in a commercial by Sixpence None the
Richer, a Christian band out of Texas that had a minor
hit years ago with Kiss Me. It's a commercial for
drugs of another kind - birth-control pills.
Artists who sell their songs for use in advertising
not only pick up some extra cash, but they also
introduce their music to a new generation of
listeners. Test your ad knowlege by connecting the
artist to the product they're pitching:
Bob Dylan - Victoria's Secret
The O'Jays - The Apprentice
Roy Orbison - Blockbuster
The Who - Hummer
Led Zeppelin - Cadillac
Mark Brown is the pop music critic.
brownm at RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-2674
-Brian in Atlanta
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