It's almost impossible to bring up the fact that you've noticed a song by a band you like in a TV commercial without sounding as if you're trying to stake out territory as the most punk rockest by casting accusations of sellout. My roommate did this months ago while we watched an ad set to "The Bleeding Heart Show" by the New Pornographers. Although he's a self-confessed music snob, and prone to fits of anger at TV's excesses, he remained calm and resigned. Nevertheless, he seemed disappointed, but he probably wasn't. And that was before I speculated that perhaps the cost of living in Canada City is skyrocketing, and if selling one's work to a tacky online college is what it takes to keep that nice apartment on Maple Leaf Street just off Canadia Boulevard, then so be it.
And that's the natural impulse. You see a familiar song in an unfamiliar context, one that represents an intrusion into your life and you are stopped short. It happened to me the other day, seeing a 60-second spot featuring Shaun White, his floppy, coppery coiffure, and various assorted outdoor-hipsterian hangers on. White and his fellow extreme-sports enthusiasts bopped about the world with ease, thanks to his rewards-earning credit card, which allowed them to follow the whims of nature from powedery Alps to the swelling Pacific. All of this was set to a vocals-free "10 a.m Automatic" by The Black Keys (who are, not to put too fine a point on it, the second-greatest phenomeon to come out of Akron, Ohio).
I pointed the song's origin out to my co-blogger the other night as we awaited the start of Game 6 (and Akron's first-greatest phenomenon). Naturally, he immediately thought I was accusing them of selling out. I wasn't, but even so I struggled to not sound accusatory, as if my experience of that song is somehow diminished because they cashed a check in exchange for having produced an evocative and enjoyable piece of work. Because advertising is such a resented force in our lives (Question: do you think the heads of ad agency's have DVRs?), I think we have a strong, negative gut reaction to seeing a favorite song being used to hawk goods and services.
So how do I feel about my favorite bands "selling out"? Well, it's not their fault that advertising sucks. And much like I rationalized to myself shortly after picking myself up off the floor when I saw a Nissan ad set to The Cardigans' "Lovefool": Hey, tuition at Malmö University can't be cheap. good for them. I hope they enjoy the cash in good health.
And besides, it's tacky to admit this, I know, but maybe I wouldn't have ever come across and liked "Rhapsody in Blue" if not for all those United commercials on during football games when I was a kid. And that's an all-time favorite of mine.
I know, I know, but I can't stand Woody Allen movies.