Monday, February 4, 2008

Mixtape Monday:
Commercial Radio

Even if you didn't watch last night's big game, you probably still heard about the Arcade Fire song "No Cars Go" being used in an ad for the NFL on Fox. Apparently, the idea of an indie rock band having a song used to promote both sports and a major television network is still a big deal in 2008. (Though it does make me wonder why no one noticed when "Words" by Doves was used to advertise the NFL on NBC during the 2006 season. I guess I just probably just watch more football than the average indie rock fan.) Honestly, I could care less. Does it really matter to people if a song gets used in a commercial? I hope not. And to help prove my point, here's a mix of great songs by great bands that just so happened to also be used in commercials.

Iggy Pop - "Lust for Life"
You can't have a discussion about using songs for commercials without bringing up "Lust for Life." What hasn't this song been used to hock?

Nick Drake - "Pink Moon"
Back in 2000, when the idea of using lesser known songs as soundtracks for commercials really started to take off, no one probably benefited more than Nick Drake's estate. I'm not sure exactly how or why it happened, but somehow the Volkswagen ad featuring "Pink Moon" affected viewers to at least buy the album of the same name (an L.A. Times article reports that 6,000 copies of Pink Moon were sold in 1999, while 74,000 were sold in 2000), if not a few Volkswagen Cabrios as well. VW has continued to use "indie" bands in their commercials (most recently a huge campaign using several tracks off Wilco's Sky Blue Sky), and "Pink Moon" continues to be incredible.

Modest Mouse - "Gravity Rides Everything"

Issac Brock had this to say about using songs in commercials.

From The A.V. Club:
"Figuring out ways to pay the rent isn't really a tough decision. Around the time we did the beer commercial and the shoe commercial, I thought, "Am I compromising my music by doing this?" And I think not. I like keeping the lights on in my house. People who don't have to make their living playing music can bitch about my principles while they spend their parents' money or wash dishes for some asshole. Principles are something that people are a lot better at checking in other people than keeping their own. My rationale behind the beer commercial was, "I like drinking MGD! I like beer probably more than I should, probably more than is healthy." I was hoping I could get a lifetime supply out of the deal, but I guess I'll have to buy it with that big ol' check." [Laughs.]

Air - "Playground Love"
This is another older one, from 2001 I believe. Despite being before the YouTube era, you can actually watch it on AOL. (Sorta, the quality is bad, it is not supposed to be this choppy) I remember liking this commercial a lot; the song is gorgeous and the commercial was very cinematic too.

The Decemberists - "Summersong"
Just because you've never seen your favorite band in a commercial doesn't mean its never happened. Check out this Decemberists ad that aired in Ireland.

Blur - "The Universal"
At one point in time, I want to say in 2002, it was possible that an entire commercial block could have been soundtracked by some Damon Albarn related band. There were at least 2 Blur songs being used in commercials (this one, with "Tender" being the other), as well as a remix of a Gorillaz song. That's pretty crazy, but still not quite as bad as Moby.

The Cure - "Pictures of You"
The song definitely fits the ad, don't you think?

of Montreal - "Gronlandic Edit"
Even after the Outback debacle (the band has even stopped playing "Wraith Pinned to Mist... in the States), of Montreal did this ad, which is just goofy. "Düsseldorf!" anyone? This song is still one of 2007's best. [Shameless self promotion: Watch footage of them playing this song and "Oslo in the Summertime" in Lawrence]

The Shins - "New Slang"
Remember when the indie kids started hating the Shins after Garden State came out? I was always a little surprised that anyone made it past hearing "New Slang" in a McDonald's commercial. Then again, indie kids are known for having a good sense of irony, and perhaps knowing the song references finding "the dirt in your fries" made it easier to swallow.

Mogwai - "Summer"

Another older one, from 2000 or 2001, so again, there's no footage to share, which is a shame because this was another decent ad that matched the visuals along with the music. (A post on how my issue with artists "selling out" now is worse than it was 7 years ago because seven years ago they at least tried to match the artsy songs with artsy commercials is still in the can) However, someone over at Coke Machine Glow wrote an essay on selling out for commercials, and at the bottom of the essay wrote about "Three “Indie” Songs Featured in Commercials that are Better Than Music Videos Anyway." Luckily, they were able to recall the Mogwai ad very well.

"With this, Mogwai had the kind of video budget they’ve yet to enjoy, and all they had to pay for it was a two-second shot of the Levi’s logo at the end. Two young people attractive enough to appear in a Broken Social Scene video meet in a deserted, midnight street. Unexpectedly, a herd of computer-animated Buffalo (Bison?), the rendering of which far outpacing the animals in Mogwai’s “Hunted by a Freak” video, swirl in a miasma of hair and sweat around and finally past the couple, who stand calm and unperturbed. Mogwai’s subtle buildup is matched by the suddenly chaotic scene, and fades with the pack into a stunning calm."

Low - "Little Drummer Boy"
This song was used by the Gap in, I believe, 1998 or '99.

Flaming Lips - "Do You Realize??"
I distinctly remember seeing this song either used for Kodak, or for HP (similarly to the Cure one) back in Autumn of 2003. The ad mainly used the first lyric, "Do you realize / that you have the most / beautiful face," which makes sense for a commercial about photographs. This song has been used for other ads too, including one for Mitsubishi this recent one for Land Rover. Of course, they probably need the money after the whole ripping off Cat Stevens thing.

The New Pornographers - "The Bleeding Heart Show"
Pitchfork brought up this ad to Carl Newman in an interview last year. Here's an excerpt:

"Pitchfork: I saw an ad for one of those quasi-legit universities, the University of Phoenix, and it happened to have a song of yours in the background.

Carl Newman: Yeah, I know. It's weird, isn't it?

Pitchfork: What's the deal with that?

Carl Newman: It's one of those things that just, you get a call, and somebody said "hey, the University of Phoenix wants to use the end of "Bleeding Heart Show" in a commercial." And I thought, "eh, fair enough." And I really honestly didn't know that University of Phoenix was a huge online university. I actually thought it was, like, the University of Phoenix; like, every city has its big university, you know? And I thought, "oh, it'll show in the Southwest." It seemed kind of odd to me, like, I've never heard of a university having a TV commercial, but I thought, oh well. All of a sudden, people started saying "I saw your commercial during 'Saturday Night Live'" or "I saw your commercial during 'American Idol'," and I thought, "what the hell is up with that?" Then I began to realize that, well, I guess we inadvertently signed up to be in a big commercial. How about that?"

But wait, it gets better. Newman still feels like he can make an unnecessary, elitist statement by taking a jab at of Montreal for their Outback ad...:

"One thing that made me feel better was, right around the time that commercial started showing up, there was also the Outback Steakhouse commercial with Of Montreal in it. And I thought, "thank God, that's really going to deflect some attention away from us." At least we didn't give our song to Outback."

...and play the "Well, I've Gotta Eat Too" card, all in the same paragraph...:

"We're just trying to get by in this world. When you play music for so long and don't make any money, and people start offering you money for things that involve no effort on your part, you start going, "I'll do that."

Douchey, yes. But still, the song is fucking great. (One of the few New Pornographers songs I like, but it should be noted my opinions do not reflect the entire Range Life staff.)

There you have it. Great songs are great no matter what. Before I go, do you have any additions to this list? What am I forgetting? We could make another one next week out of songs I forgot were used in commercials, that could be neat.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Femme Fatale was cooking up her own list of songs from commercials. Seriously, this was unplanned. We were simultaneously making two different playlists with songs from commercials. Mine does focus more on current commercials, though I couldn't resist "Gravity Rides Everything" and Iron and Wine's take on "Such Great Heights."

A couple years ago Stereogum posted a little contest asking readers to come up with their best product + song combinations. Many of the comments are pretty funny, so if you get a chance, check it out. (Ex: Arcade Fire uses "Wake Up" in a Easy-Bake Oven commercial:
"Children bake up, pull your white cake out, before it turns the edges into crust." HA!)

Isn't it sad when commercials play better music than the radio?


Femme Fatale said...

Apparently there's a commercial over in the UK that uses "Country Mile" by Camera Obscura. Weird.

Hackworth Artifex said...

Wow, that is an exhaustive list. Nice job, fellows.

Gossip♥Grrl said...

I thought Arcade Fire didn't authorize use of their song in that commercial. I haven't kept up on that though.

SonicRyan said...

GG - They didn't, but people were making it news even before it was announced that Arcade Fire never gave permission. I guess I just don't see why it is/was a big deal, regardless of how ethical FOX's actions are.