Friday, April 29, 2005

Pink Dubloon

Here's why it sucks when I hear a song I like in a commercial: because the car/drug/tampon company, in trying to sell you their shit, is trying even harder to create a feeling in you, to hijack a few of your genuine synaptic responses and harness them to their goddamn product. It's not benign, it's not an even exchange (money for cred, is it ever?) it's not even selling anymore, it's fucking "branding" i.e. the attempt to create falsely transcendent associations in your mind with a corporate "identity": women in billowy dresses twirling in slow motion on a sea-cliff sunset or scruffy philosopher/mechanic-looking kids piling into that Cabrio and saying 'fuck you' to the jocks. So when I hear that Nick Drake song now, I have an interruption in the circuit in my brain that recalls the smell of apple blossoms at 3am on State St. in Ann Arbor or the play of the curtains in the bedroom of the then soon-to-be-Mrs. JoDI, and I also now involuntarily think of those punk kids who are being paid to act like they're not the type to care whether their car is cool but that's why it--and they, and you if you choose to buy--is so cool isn't it goddammit?


Blogger Sunil Natraj said...

Nice article...
Nice blog too.

11:55 PM  
Anonymous goliard said...

ew ew ew. jumpin and jivin like he was born to it. bravoh.

6:27 AM  
Anonymous AJC said...

Why do we not have more Tom Waits ( there? Too many Rolling Stones; too few who heard what 'selling out' meant . Focus groups will continue to capture the reality that few consumers object to baiting artists - hell, then need the cash, don't they? And the effect is indellible, at least until after parted with their money.

9:07 PM  
Blogger C. JoDI said...

AJC, there are a few stalwart holdouts--Waits as you mentioned; the Doors (esp. Jim Morrison, who made everyone in the band agree never to sell their songs) were supremely hostile to such exchanges (see link for a beautiful story about Buick wanting to use 'Light My Fire' in an ad); Bruce Springsteen, etc. But my problem with such things is not "selling out" i.e. doing something for money. Of course musicians need to make a living, and you'll note that all of the principled examples above definitely do not need the cash. There are some troubling middle ground examples, for instance Stereolab licensing one of their songs for another fucking VW ad (they, while not rich, probably do alright without such troubling income streams). The trade-off for lesser-knowns is obviously exposure. But I return to the big issue for me, which is the attempted usurpation by corporations of the feelings inspired by genuine artistic creation. The question is, why is the overwhelming bulk of our culture (and means for economic survival) attenuated to the needs of the peddlers? Every bit of "content" exists to attract the attention of a demographic that may then be sold to an advertiser. I've said it before and I'll say it again: when it comes to mass media, you are not the consumer, you are the product. Is this the best of all possible worlds?

9:29 AM  
Anonymous ajc said...

Yes, the needs of the peddler. Perhaps the same answer applies to questions such as: "Why is the notion of GOD incorporated into our currency?" "Why do we need corporate sponsorship for the arts?" "If the dating adage is to never discuss religion or politics (that is, if you harbor thoughts of getting laid), why does the U.S. have formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican?" Money is the nation's true religion, its pursuit a pious act unless you personally knife someone to get it, and politics, religion, and education are means to the end. I take C. JoDI's query as: what is it as Western Europeans that makes us this way, compells us to let this happen, look the other way? History ('it's all I know'), those damn commies, modern empire-building cum international business? I vote for the first of those - folks don't know any different, don't get that there could be a different way, and have been schooled to cow to these pressures. 'Think for yourself; question authority' is a quaint movie line.

10:36 AM  

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