Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Name That Tune

It's rare that I get scooped by the New York Post, but the Big Apple's pet-liner of record (I kid! I kid!) did a story yesterday on poorly-chosen pop songs used as ad jingles that I've been sitting on for months. In fact, just last night I was talking with my friend Sam about it (which furthers my hypothesis that the media is bugging my apartment.)

The piece in the Post was about how advertisers use songs to sell their products that are not always appropriate. Examples include Iggy Pop's heroin paean "Lust for Life" (used to sell Royal Caribbean cruises), The Smiths loner anthem "How Soon Is Now" (in Nissan Maxima ads) and Janis Joplin's "Mercedes-Benz," (used to sell the very luxury car she was making fun of!).

The ad Sam and I were were discussing actually wasn't covered in the Post piece. In Subaru's spot for the B9 Tribeca SUV, other cars disintegrate as the Tribeca drives by, with Kansas' "Dust in the Wind" playing the background.

Hello? "Dust in the Wind" is one of the most depressing songs ever recorded! (Hear a sample here.) It's all about entropy and the futility of life*. Hardly the kind of ditty to encourage one to shell our major bucks for a utility vehicle. What's more, they played the chorus out of context, so when Steve Walsh sings "All they are is dust in the wind," you're made to think he's talking about Subaru's competitors, not his own dreams and aspirations. Of course, they cut the song before he gets to the line "All WE are is dust in the wind." That'd be too much of a bummer.

It particularly galls me when songs are carved up or rewritten to avoid any unpleasant sentiments. When Moby's "We Are All Made Of Stars" was used to sell Intel processors, the reworked the original chorus:
people they come together
people they fall apart
Nothing can stop us now
cuz we are all made of stars
and removed the "fall apart" reference, going right from the upbeat "people they come together" to the optimistic "nothing can stop us now." I know Moby has been selling his tunes to ad companies for years, but I didnt think he'd let them change the music.

I'm not quite sure what goes through the minds of the admen who create these commercials. Either they think nostalgia will overtake any higher brain functions (a definite likelihood) or that the disconnect will make the product stick in people's mind. It certainly worked on me and the writer at the Post.

*growing up, I remember hearing that "Dust in the Wind" was actually about Angel Dust, or some other drug. But wasn't every song in the Seventies about drugs in one way or another? Except for Eric Clapton's "Cocaine," of course--that was about the war in Vietnam.


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