IT used to be that attaching your songs to commercials was the pinnacle of "selling out".
These days, licensing music to ads is seen as a legitimate revenue stream and promotional tool for artists in an over-crowded industry with diminishing sales returns.
But what Musicology finds more interesting is when musicians write songs specifically for commercials - not ditzy little jingles like the earworms written by Aussie jingle king Mike "Up There Cazaly" Brady (ie. the "Dodo, Internet That Flies" song and Lucky You're With AAMI), but fully fledged pieces of music that work as songs beyond the confines of the commercial.
Here are five favourites:
Atlas - Daniel Johns
SINCE their break-up in May last year, fans of iconic Aussie band Silverchair have been waiting to see what frontman Daniel Johns did next. Few expected it to be a song for an ad. In an effort to counteract months of bad press from strikes, sending workers offshore and problems with their planes, Qantas have gone for a relaunch of sorts, shedding their old favourite, Peter Allen's I Still Call Australia Home, in favour of a piece called Atlas, penned by Johns. The former Silverchair leader said he was aiming to write "something special" that "sounded international". "It was a conscious effort to create a good piece of music and not just a jingle," he said. The end result, which saw Johns team up with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, is suitably epic and sweeping, featuring a typically Johnsian wordless melody and subtle electronic blips, making it reminiscent of his work with Paul Mac under The Dissociatives banner. Feedback on the song, which was launched about a week ago, has been fairly positive and has momentarily distracted most people from Qantas' other troubles. Although one YouTube commenter hit the nail on the head when noting "...at least Qantas commissioned Australian people for this instead of their usual behaviour of giving work to overseas people".
The song starts at the 0:40 mark. It's worth waiting for:
Love Is The Truth - Jack White
IN 2006, The White Stripes were at the height of their popularity, having captured that near-impossible mix of street cred and mainstream success, and Jack White was the closest thing to God for a lot of indie kids. Many of these adoring fans were somewhat taken aback when their idol agreed to pen a song for corporate behemoth Coca Cola. The resulting song is typically White and quite cool, sitting somewhere between the piano ballads of The White Stripes and the classic '60s pop of one of his other bands The Raconteurs, who released their debut album a month after Love Is The Truth and it's accompanying commercial appeared. The ad - titled What Goes Around Comes Around - is pretty awesome, cleverly faking a special effect through painstaking effort and multiple takes, and the song has a sweet sentiment and enough barp-ba-ba-bas to make it fun. White's relationship with Coca Cola turned sour two years later though when his James Bond theme Another Way To Die turned up on a Coke Zero ad before the 007 film Quantum Of Solace came out. White's people issued the following statement to NME at the time: "We are disappointed that you first heard the song in a co-promotion for Coke Zero, rather than in its entirety. Jack White was commissioned by Sony Pictures to write a theme song for the James Bond film Quantum Of Solace, not for Coca Cola." It seems that once you sell your soul to the corporate devil, they own you forever.
A hell of a lot of work went into this clip:
Be Like Mike - Bernie Pitzel, Ira Antelis & Steve Shafer
GATORADE achieved a marketing triple-double in 1992 when it teamed its sports drink with a catchy song and the most popular sportsman on the planet, Michael Jordan. To sign the Chicago Bulls star cost $13 million but was worth every penny for Gatorade's owners Quaker Oats. According to sports business reporter Darren Rovell's book First In Thirst: How Gatorade Turned The Science Of Sweat Into A Cultural Phenomenon, the song's lyrics were hurriedly penned by Pitzel, who had returned to Gatorade as a creative chief to lead the Jordan campaign only to find a highlight reel-style commercial had already been approved. Given 48 hours to come up with something better, Pitzel wrote the lyrics on paper tablecloth at his favourite restaurant, inspired by I Wanna Be Like You from Disney's The Jungle Book. He teamed up with Antelis and Shafer to put Be Like Mike to music, recorded it in a matter of hours, even capturing the jungle drum sound of the cartoon inspiration. While it could be dismissed as a jingle, Be Like Mike became something more. Opposing NBA teams would play the song when the Bulls came to town, a cassingle featuring four versions of the song was circulated to radio and even sold 100,000 copies, and it led the people to start referring to the biggest sportsman on Earth as "Mike" - a name nobody called him.
My Drive Thru - Julian Casablancas, Pharrell Williams & Santigold
IT used to be that artists would collaborate with other artists when inspiration struck or through a desire to work together. Now it happens because of shoe companies. Converse launched the Three Artists, One Song series in 2008 to celebrate their 100th anniversary, bringing together The Strokes' Julian Casablancas, Santigold and N*E*R*D's Pharrell Williams to create My Drive Thru. The song's Neptunes-ish groove received mixed reviews, but the reception and attention was good enough for Converse to try it again in 2010 with Kid Cudi, Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij and Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino, who turned in the surfy hip hop tune All Summer. In 2011, they teamed up Matt & Kim, Soulja Boy and Andrew WK for the party jam I'm A Goner, which boasted a cool film clip involving a corpse party in a morgue. This year, Converse released DoYaThing by Gorillaz, Outkast's Andre 3000 and LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy (which also featured a neat video) and most recently A-Trak, Kimbra and Foster the People's Mark Foster joined forces for Warrior. All the songs are worth checking out. Not sure if they want to make you buy shoes or not though.
This is even the full version of My Drive Thru, but it's pretty neat:
Added bonus - here's Gorillaz and co:
Where'd The Cheese Go? - Ween
IN 2002, Pizza Hut approached alternative cult band Ween to write and record a jingle to promote their new Insider pizza. This innovation in dough/cheese combinations featured cheese inside the crust, and such an advance in humanity required a suitable song to go with it. "When I think of Pizza Hut, I think of six pounds of cheese and sh**ty pizza - our song was perfect for that," Dean Ween said of their track Where'd The Cheese Go? in a Rolling Stone interview in 2002. Pizza Hut didn't think it was so perfect, nor did they like the five other tunes Ween submitted. "They had us rewriting the song every day for a couple of weeks before they hired someone else," Ween stated when they released their efforts on their website in 2004. The final straw that got them kicked off the project may have been their explicit mix of the song but tell me it wouldn't have been awesome to see a pizza ad featuring the line "Bitch, where'd the motherf***in' cheese go at?". The track was rumoured to be appearing on their 2003 album Quebec but didn't, and the recordings reached such a mythic status that when Ween asked their fans to pick the setlist for their All Request Live album in 2003, Where'd The Cheese Go? made the cut (or at least a freaked out five-minute jam version of the song). "It is one of the best tunes we wrote all last year," Ween said at the time.
Why Pizza Hut never picked up this track, I'll never know. This clip features the original version, followed by the explicit version:
And here's the wigged-out epic five-minute jam version, because this track never gets old: