Saturday, April 26, 2008

Indie music + useless consumer crap = gold

Far be it from me to deny artists the chance to earn a living, but it seems that the number of formerly indie music acts cashing in on wildly ironic (in the woefully inappropriate sense) corporate deals has exploded in the past few years. My top 3 corporate rock commercials of the moment:

#3 The Flaming Lips and Kraft
On the plus side,
the commercial seems to indicate that these salad dressings are, like, healthy and natural. More negatively, they've taken a song about responsibility and the abuse of power by leaders - "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" - and allowed Kraft to apply it to the aforementioned salad dressing. But at least they've effectively castrated the song by deleting every lyric but the 'yeah yeah yeah' portion - it's less the song that they've sold than the beat and melody. More generally, this just the latest in a long string of songs that the Flaming Lips have licensed since they finally broke free of their long career of relative obscurity 6 years ago. This being the case, it's hard to hold such a carefully managed sale like this against them - at least in comparison to the other two artists on this list.

#2 Weezer and Beaches
Weezer almost manages to kinda salvage some dignity by selling the song - and not their recording from 'The Green Album' - of "Island in the Sun" to a tropical resort company in
this commercial. To their detriment, the cover version also reveals how painfully banal the song and its lyrics are. In Rob Mitchum's review of Weezer's dreadful Make Believe album, he asks if "Rivers Cuomo [lyrics were] always on the notebook-scrawl level of 'I don't feel the joy/ I don't feel the pain,' and did we not notice because scrawling in notebooks was the depth of our emotional knowledge at the time?" Mitchum eventually lets the early Weezer stuff off the hook, and while this song is not early Weezer, the pairing is offensive enough that the answer to his question doesn't even matter to me anymore.

#1 Le Tigre and Nivea
A feminist art-rock band that name-drops people like
Yoko Ono, Vaginal Davis, and James Baldwin in their songs, Le Tigre gave the rough-edged but undeniably dancy "Deceptacon" to Nivea (among others - but cell phone companies and jewelers, while strange choices, are not nearly so ironic) in 2006. Despite my best efforts, I can't locate this commercial, but suffice to say that a band that I can't be the only one who finds it unconsciencable that a group of feminists would sell out to the cosmetics industry, or that artists who count so many anti-racism figures among their influences would peddle their music to a company that sells skin-whitening cream. Few corporate pairings can destroy a band's worth for me as wholly as this one has.

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