This coming weekend, it’s the Superbowl – the culmination of the American Football season in the US, and for others, the biggest advertising platform of the year. Last year’s event saw the best part of 100 million in the US alone tune in, and a thirty-second advert costs $5 million due to the crazy potential reach.
/Tuesday Ten/356/Product Placement
Advertising goes on a lot elsewhere, too, though. Product placement in film and TV is one, but then there is also in music. Take Pepsi, for example, who did enormous deals with Michael Jackson and the Spice Girls among others in the eighties and nineties – and more recently with Britney Spears and Beyoncé – realising that they could reach their “market” through these stars. That said, though, there is more casual marketing, too – where products are mentioned in song lyrics, and I do wonder sometimes if any of these are actually product placement. Not that most artists would tell us, of course.
There are many, though, that are genuinely just mentioning products in passing for one reason or another, and this week’s Tuesday Ten is about the mass of product mentions in song, specifically about food and drink, be it products or brands. When I asked this question on one of my regular threads, a great many people missed the fact that I was only wanting food and drink suggestions, so I got a ton of other suggestions that weren’t actually relevant here. Even so, there were 168 suggestions overall, from 77 people – with twenty of those having been used previously across eleven Tuesday Tens – I’ve done a post about food and drink more generally before, but not in this specific way that is all-but product placement…
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One
Intriguingly – and bear in mind that this was 1970 – the original reference to Coca-Cola saw the song banned (hence most listeners nowadays knowing it as “cherry-cola”, but remasters have returned it to the original now) as the BBC and others couldn’t possibly have any mention of brands on it. The fact that it was easily changed to something else that rhymed perfectly raise an interesting question, too – what would have happened with this song, I wonder, had that not been possible? Anyway, this iconic song is also perhaps far ahead of its time, too, as the protagonist gets a bit of a shock when they realise that the first person that they’ve kissed perhaps isn’t the woman that they thought initially – but still goes with the flow anyway, rather than recoiling in horror.
Pepsi didn’t like everyone mentioning their drinks, though, although remarkably they didn’t sue the fiercely anti-capitalist Negativland around what was a pretty clear take-down of the soft-drinks industry and its habit of bombarding every advertising medium going. This clever sound-collage – which had a video to match from the relevant adverts, as I recall – pulls together a whole host of soft-drink adverts over the years, with a deadpan vocal over the top questioning working practices, tastes, flavours and offers a general criticism of an industry that has recently, in the UK at least, had to react to a so-called “Sugar Tax” that has seen them reducing the sizes of bottles and moving to synthetic sweeteners that many people cannot tolerate. Personally, I like the occasional soft-drink, although Pepsi isn’t usually my choice…
/The (We Did the Music for the Sprite Ad) blues
/Freeze The Atlantic
Watch on YouTube
Not exactly the most obvious band to do a major soft-drinks company advert, but strange things happen. Cable were a band from Derby wholly indebted to the muscular alt-rock coming out of the US (and most particularly various beloved bands of mine that were associated with Touch & Go Records in Chicago), and despite being nearly alone in their style in the UK, made a surprising amount of traction. And then MTV/Sprite ad happened, using Freeze The Atlantic. Which is where this song comes in – a B-side for that very song, that questioned their choices for doing the ad, and also those that accused them of “selling out”. I don’t generally see this kind of thing as “selling out”, frankly – it’s more a case of a small band taking a chance when they see it, and that money no doubt came in useful.
Moving away from soft drinks for the moment, let’s move onto the other scourge of healthy-eating, fast food. There aren’t actually too many songs that namecheck fast-food brands (I’ve already used Def Con One, by the way, on 137: Videos and 30 Years of MTV, which is why it doesn’t feature here), but there is now a band that does – in it’s entirety. This is LA band Mac Sabbath, who rework Black Sabbath classics into food-related puns, all while dressed as McDonaldland characters. This song, by the way, sees Ronald McDonald grill a “bat” onstage and then eat it. Recently released footage of Ozzy meeting Mac Sabbath – and watching this very song – is glorious.
A brute of a dancefloor tune from early last year – one of those bangers that crossed over onto a number of radio stations, not least 6Music who happily played it to death for months – this is a tune that references, and heavily, specific drink choices while out partying. In this case, a specific brand of cognac with coke, while Kah-Lo makes it clear that she can’t be bothered with men who won’t dance, won’t drink with her, and more to the point won’t have fun with her. With a tune like this, it’s hard to believe that you wouldn’t dance to it, mind – this is an almighty earworm.
/Pass the Courvoisier, Part II
That song, mind, is far from the only one to mention a brand of Cognac – indeed Busta also mentions “Henny” here but instead has a preference for Courvoisier (a brand a number of rappers have namechecked in the past). Indeed, as much of hip-hop/rap has moved towards showcasing conspicuous consumption over the years, brands are namechecked in so, so many songs – be that food, clothes, shoes, but most of all, alcohol. There are probably lists that could be made detailing just how many times particular brands of champagne and cognac, in particular, are mentioned – and I wonder if there are any studies comparing the mentions of the brands to increases in sales?
The awesomely dayglo video, by the way, involves bright outfits, chainsaws, and (eventually) a rocking party with Mr T as a guest. Looks like fun!
/Tequila (Mint Royale Shot)
/Product/Brands: Jose Cuervo
By the time of Shaving Peaches, Terrorvision had rather drifted away from their anthemic, hard-rock origins towards a more poppy, electronic-edged sound, and it must be said that they were not as interesting as they used to be. But, somehow, a summery, slight song on their 1998 album got remixed by a big-beat group, and it became this unescapable monster of a song in 1999, hitting #2 in the charts and becoming, easily, their biggest hit. Part of it may have been the timing and the subject matter. The end of the nineties was, it seems to most of our memories, a time of partying and fun before the hangover kicked in over the following years as the world got a whole lot darker. But also, that feeling of regret after drinking Tequila – at least the crap you get in most bars, rather than the real thing that you don’t have to shoot with salt and lime – is an almost universal one, and I’m certainly not alone in refusing to drink the damned stuff after one too many sessions on the stuff in my youth. In other words, Tequila does not make me happy.
That said, there are a great many Terrorvision songs that do.
/Twenty Four Hour Garage People
/Trouble over Bridgwater
/Product/Brands: Kit-Kat, Marmite, Pringles
Regularly suggested for these posts – and perhaps not featured as frequently as I should – it has been commented more than a few times that there are few more quintessentially “English” bands. Their grasp of the minutiae of English life is extraordinary as if they travel the country and base their lyrics on the quirky and mundane events and happenings that they observe. And this is a great example of that, as they imagine someone working in a dead-end job at an “all-night garage”, and that way of suddenly finding that you want vastly more than you originally went to buy. Sour-cream Pringles, though? I’d rather some of the other flavours, myself.
Also – the HMHB lyric website – clearly built as a labour of love – shows, perhaps, just how dedicated their fanbase can get.
/Muhammad My Friend
/Boys for Pele
/Product/Brands: Cracker Jacks
Easily one of my favourite Tori Amos songs, as it goes, and probably one of the centrepieces (and most important, conceptually) of this often-overlooked Tori album. Boys For Pele was not half as accessible as her previous album Under The Pink, but is as deep and intelligent, as it digs into her thoughts on religion, often shrouded with impenetrable metaphor. But not here, as she uses current-day references to brands, food (including Cracker Jacks and Peanut Butter) and clothing while critiquing the absence or airbrushing out of women in religion. The most notable version of this track, by the way, comes with a live version where Tori Amos is joined by Maynard James Keenan of Tool, which is extraordinary. Speaking of Maynard, actually…
/Hooker With A Penis
I mentioned earlier the idea of “selling out” after Cable did their Sprite ad. One band who have railed against any form of selling out, while having sold over ten million albums (and they’ve only released four full-length albums since the early nineties) – even to the length of refusing to have their music on streaming sites – are Tool, and they addressed it head-on on the scorching Hooker With A Penis on Ænima in 1996. Apparently addressing a “fan” who told them they were “selling out to the man” while he was dressed in branded clothing, drinking a “coke” and clearly missing the point by a few miles. Interestingly, too, this is the only time I can recall a Tool song referring to any form of a consumer item, instead of the band usually being concerned with greater, deeper concepts than this.
That said, will 2019 finally be the year we get Tool album number five? The signs appear to suggest that we won’t have to wait too long now…