Monday, June 04, 2007

What's in their wallets?

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.

9 comments:

Crunk Raconteur said...

I don't often get all that upset when I see songs from bands I like in commercials, selling out or not. Mostly, I'm just happy that some commercials play better music than, say, "This is ouuuuuurrrr country."

I guess my reaction varies from instance to instance, though. For example, I chuckle every time I see those UPS commercials with the Postal Service song in them (I mean, did UPS know it was using a song by a group named after it's competitor? Would the Mets hire a band called "The Jeterlovers" to record this year's version of "Our Team, Our Time"?). And the New Pornographers thing didn't bother me much, either.

If, on the other hand, I were to see a commercial in which a raspy voice talks about how Charlemagne got zero percent APR on a new Toyota, or that Holly wore chinos from the Gap to ward them off, I might get a bit pissy...

Also: Canada City!

CrimeNotes said...

Agree with the comment. I think it depends on the artist and song. Dylan's decisions have irked me and I'd be unhappy if "Cinnamon Girl" showed up in Dunkin Donuts commercials. "Start Me Up" is fine in an ad, but "Sway" would make me angry. A lot of it depends on the artists' and songs' pretensions.

For the Pornographers or someone like Nic Armstrong, though, I'm happy to see them get a little extra money and attention. It doesn't dilute my appreciation.

Flop said...

Oh my God, I just imagined a commercial with lumps of cinnamon-and-sugar encrusted fried dough splashing dramaticallyy into a creamy, sugary liquid of indeterminate origin in time to the beat of Cinnamon Girl. And I both laughed and cried at the same time.

Much like I did when Burger King had a campaign using college fight songs and showed two takes of crisp lettuce, tomato and onions flying into the air on the "Hail! Hail!" in "The Victors."

If I saw that now, I'd probably just cry. But back then it was pretty funny in a truly awful way. I think the campaign only lasted like a month.

Oh, and I always laugh when my former roommate sings "Come on up to Verizon" to the tune of Springsteen's "The Rising." Although that would be as bad as anything we've discussed here.

Aaron in Brooklyn said...

I don't really care about the song thing - I just wanted to point out that the first artificial fish bait came from Akron - was that the 'first-greatest phenomeon' to come out of the town?

Crunk Raconteur said...

I know that I, for one, would pay to see CrimeNotes reaction if Craig Finn sold "Girls Like Status" to be used in a commercial for, say, BMW or Etro.

Flop said...

Aaron, I was unaware of the fish-bait thing. But I'm comfortable awarding Consolidated Doughball or whatever the company's name is the bronze medal in the competition for Akron-based phenomena.

That said, if you don't know which is the best phenomenon from Akron, I don't know what to tell you, but there is a link you can click.

CrimeNotes said...

The aneurism would come if "Massive Nights" were used in one of those obnoxious hard-liquor ads. Maybe less so if it were Coors Light.

Crunk Raconteur said...

Ooh, that would be bad, although Flop (a noted Smirnoff Ice enthusiast) might disagree...

flop said...

Smirnoff Ice is a malt-based beverage, NOT hard liquor.

Do you even know what a malt-based beverage is? It's no joke.