Or, if you prefer:
We buy any car. Dot com. Any any any any any any any.
Loathe them or loathe them (there is no ‘love’) you have to respect the transparent, gleefully aggressive sales messages put across by advert jingles. Stick something to a tune and it becomes instantly memorable. I can probably still recite the phone number for 1990s Saturday morning TV show Live and Kicking, for example.
But with the stratospheric levels of funding available to modern advertising executives, the promotional tactics have become stealthier. TV spots now look like Spike Jonez* shorts and, worst of all, have commoditised the music they feature. Bands can legitimately gain a fanbase by licensing a song for a major ad campaign. This song will then be repeated endlessly over sports highlight reels and, if you’re really lucky, during the emotional climax of TV shows called ‘A Gypsy Made Over My Obese Octuplets in Essex’.
The bigger problem here is that bands are now writing songs which they explicitly intend to be marketed alongside a particular brand. And I think ‘Advert Music’ is now a self-perpetuating genre. You could argue that adverts just follow what’s fashionable and do not ‘create’ cultural movements in and of themselves. But you would be wrong. Because the point of an advert is to sell a dream and hope that society is encouraged to fulfil it by buying a new pair of shoes/a particular type of bread.
Ok Go have taken this to its logical conclusion, with their singles playing second fiddle** to the viral videos they pump out. They’re not a band, they’re a walking, defecating Rube Goldberg machine. What are their songs about? No one knows. Does it matter? Of course not. In fact I bet if you go back and listen to their most recent single you’ll find it’s just the lead singer reciting the ingredients off the back of a packet of Quavers to the sound of someone trying to load a floppy disk. Into their bum.
There’s nothing wrong with bands marketing themselves, of course. But if you end up forming yourself around a conceit developed to sell sunglasses then reaching a level of relevance beyond that is impossible. Plus you’ll be encroaching on the market cornered by mainstream rap.
A friend pointed out to me that many songs used on adverts at the moment are cover versions of older, upbeat tracks remade using a reedy-voiced modern person in a much slower, sappier style. Take, for example, Ellie Goulding’s version of Your Song on that John Lewis advert. Or that other John Lewis advert with a track from The Smiths apparently being sung by a lady with vocal chords made of fresh hay and wishful thinking. Fuck John Lewis.
If you want a definition of contemporary Advert Music, or AdCore or whatever, then this might help:
Advert Music (n) – A type of audio recording, typically accompanying images of people dicking about on bikes/in a forest, which could be described as ‘ethereal’ or ‘like, genuine inspiring retro whimsy’ by someone wearing glasses that they don’t need.
All I know is that washing machines live longer with Calgon. That’s an inalienable truth to cling onto.
*And sometimes they are.
**I bet they’d love to have a fiddle player, the hipster anuses. Preferably one dressed as a chimney sweep wearing an ‘ironic’ crown.
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