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Stop Co-Opting My Sonic Youth! Why Classic Songs Used in Ads Are Killing Me

Sure, most ads are annoying, but classic rock resurrected to push products has me ready to murder my TV.

This happens way too often. I’ll be happily immersed in an episode of, say, “Chopped,” only to be interrupted by commercial buzz kill. I’ve been enduring annoying ads all my life, but lately, with the songs of my youth used to flagrantly push products, I’m ready to murder my television.

Exhibit A: Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” a few years back, urging me to book a Caribbean cruise. Can you imagine anything less Iggy than a luxury liner? Yet the brains behind the spot no doubt banked on nostalgia, a la “Hey, Boomer, wanna be cool again? Get on this bloated boat!” (More recently, Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” has joined Iggy on the cruise-selling roster.)

Or consider Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” selling Kia’s in a high-profile Super Bowl ad. Actually Super Bowl ads are common offenders. This year alone we heard ELO’s “Showdown” doing duty for a beer commercial, Fleetwood Mac’s “Little Lies” for Amazon’s Alexa, and Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” for Facebook. Ugh. It sucks when your own sweet nostalgia is swept away by corporations. Recently the Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian,” was touting a hospital’s cardiac center. I’d like to remember the boy I was crushing on when that song was a hit — but now it just triggers thoughts of clogged arteries.

Read More: Our Favorite New Ad Begins With “I’m Not Your Grandma!” Thank You, Canada Dry

Don’t Insult Us

The trend is equally insulting when it uses “our” songs to attract folks who aren’t our age. Take the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” which has been the sound track for a number of brands, including Go Pro, and most recently heard hyping a high-tech exercise bike. Clearly the commercial targets the impossibly fit, impossibly young woman seen cycling furiously to nowhere in her living room. Hey, ho — oh no!

Whether you decry Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” promoting perfume, the band Ratt acting as a pun in an insurance company ad, or Salt-n-Pepa’s (prophetically aptly named) “Push It” shilling for that same insurance company, you may be tempted to blame the artists for selling out. I was initially, but I don’t know what’s in their wallets, and I can’t imagine they relish the idea of their art being used for commerce.

So I shifted the onus to the Mad Men (and women) compelled to jack these tunes. Please, people, at least record covers (and pay the songwriters royalties). Better yet, hire contemporary stars to reinvent the jingle so the ad doesn’t mess up my memories. Chris Brown did a hip-hop version of the “Double Your Pleasure” gum ditty; I’m pretty sure he’s available these days.

Read More: 4 Reasons We’re Crazy About The New Spectrum Mobile Ad With the Brilliant Scientist

A version of this story was originally published in December 2017. 

By Nina Malkin


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