Friday, October 28, 2005

#578469 IN A SERIES

I never thought I'd give a shit about the subject again, but this essay on the use of pop music in commercials is actually pretty well written. Some good lines/ideas:

Pop by its democratic nature has destroyed barriers and prejudices (good), yet by its capitalistic nature has always been available for cooptation by the power elites (bad). Pop stars inspire our best energies and make us feel alive (good); yet virtually all have committed personal offenses and ethical outrages we would never accept from those close to us (bad). Pop's consumers are able to select from a panoply of musical and stylistic options (good); but because millions of other consumers are also involved, engaging with pop often means putting up with other people's dumb infatuations, from The Bay City Rollers to "The Macarena" (very bad).

Pop was never pure, damn it: Colonel Tom Parker sent Elvis's Cadillac on tour, Brian Epstein signed off on Beatle talcum powder, and Rolling Stone once offered free roach-clips as a subscription premium. Today Shania Twain sings for Target and Bob Dylan has an exclusive deal with Starbucks. But wait, Target gives back to the community, and Dylan is Dylan … Pop-wise, you've got to grade on the curve: Hold the culture, its practitioners, and its consumers to too rigid a standard of purity, and we all fail.

We're holding bits of ourselves -- heart, values, viscera -- above the chaotic fray in the form of beloved songs. But in so doing, we're also demanding that everyone else recognize our personal bits as inviolate. Don't touch them. Don't even look at them funny. That's when cherishing music becomes a waste of positive passion, a miserly mission -- given, once again, the context that pop culture inevitably, uniquely constructs. What cultural commissar or committee of cool will decide which songs are available for exploitation and which are not? Which artists need defending from the taint of commercialism and which don't? Nike were once assailed for using The Beatles' "Revolution" to sell running shoes; but no furor broke when The Beach Boys' "California Girls" vivified a shampoo ad. Additionally, this anti-commercial bias is a very white thing: I can't remember any controversy over a black artist's music being used in advertising. In fact, back when those Budweiser frogs were crawling around to the tune of Bob Marley's "Jammin'," most people thought it was really funny.

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