I’m at work, and therefore watching about 400 TVs at once. One of them just played a commercial for some low-rent jewelry chain store in honor of Valentine’s Day, which I now suggest should be officially changed to Here’s A Meaningless Material Trinket To Make Up For The Fact That I’ve Been Banging The Nanny Day. But I digress. Anyway, in the background of the ad, which consisted of a bunch of dowdy women being given a bunch of gaudy-looking baubles by their undoubtedly philandering squires, played a cheesed-up John-Mayer-esque cover of 99 Luftbaloons by Nena. The original German version was one of the most popular German pop songs of all time (more popular even than Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus), and so Nena released an English translation to meet the rockin’ demand. She didn’t, however, change the title, and because Americans are by and large monolingual and retarded, they heard "99 Luftbaloons" (which literally means "99 air baloons," die Luft being the German for "air") and assumed it was "love baloons," which doesn’t make any sense considering that the song is about the Cold War. However, this poorly-conceived commercial jinglery is not alone; in fact it is part of a growing contingent of songs plundered to shill crap, with and without (but mostly with) the permission of the artists. From memory, those songs include but are not limited to:

SONG 1: Bitter Sweet Symphony by the Verve

  • SHILLED FOR: Nike (Jagger/Richards sold it and Ashcroft/McCabe et al donated their portion of the earnings to charity)
  • SONG ACTUALLY ABOUT: the Sisyphian meaninglessness of existence

SONG 2: Gravity Rides Everything by Modest Mouse

  • SHILLED FOR: some crappy minivan
  • SONG ACTUALLY ABOUT: only Isaac Brock and G-d know for sure, but I can make an educated guess that it’s not minivans

SONG 3: Pink Moon by Nick Drake

  • SHILLED FOR: Volkswagen
  • SONG ACTUALLY ABOUT: the artist’s impending demise

SONG 4: There She Goes by the La’s, covered mindlessly by hateful Xtian Rokk "band" Sixpence None the Richer

  • SHILLED FOR: some stupid birth control pill
  • SONG ACTUALLY ABOUT: heroin! Ha! hahaha! Ha! HAHAHA! Yes, Sixpence None the Tardeder, you covered a song about the joys of being smacked out, you idiots.

This all got me thinking about some new ideas for otherwise-bleak and cool songs and the companies they could shill for.

SONG: Needle in the Hay by Elliott Smith

  • ABOUT: Heroin
  • COULD BE SHILLED FOR: Geico ("Needle in the heeeeeeeeeey there, if we can find a needle in the hay, we can surely find you the best price on car insurance!!!")

SONG: Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan

  • ABOUT: Death? I don’t know. But I want it played at my funeral (I hope you’re taking notes)
  • COULD BE SHILLED FOR: Plastic. After all, without plastic, there would be no tambourines. Plastics make it possible.

SONG: Where Did You Sleep Last Night by Leadbelly

  • ABOUT: My girl, who apparently slept in the pines where the sun don’t ever shine and shivered the whole night through
  • SHILLING FOR: some tobacco/lumber/alcohol/other evildoing corporation that needs to do a PSA in a major hurry about the homeless

I don’t know how to end this post, so in homage to the great Justin Ravitz: "That’s entertainment!"

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3 thoughts on “and ‘I Hate Myself and Want to Die’ by Nirvana can be the new Doritos jingle

  1. I love it. I haven’t seen that minivan commercial with Modest Mouse, but I did recently see an airline commercial with a great Rolling Stones song. Of course, the Stones are marketing whores, so I wasn’t surprised. At my funeral, I am going to have all of Bob Dylan’s Blood On the Tracks played, that will be a fitting finale.

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  2. Or there’s also ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ by Radiohead for a potential Coke commercial: ‘She looks like the real thing. She tastes like the real thing. My Fake Plastic Love. Yadda yadda.’ That would make me drink more Coca-Cola.

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