Try to make sense of this: for the last three years, I've rather admired the cut of the Cadillac line (Escalades excepted). I think the CTS-V is a snappy-looking vehicle. Stealth-bomber reference aside, it looks like it would be both a fast and luxurious ride. I expect I'd even enjoy driving one around for the summer, if I had the bucks.
Shifting gears: I've yet to outgrow my "Led Zeppelin" phase. Bombastic, silly, entirely non-sensical (except when Robert Plant is singing about sex) it remains good music for long drives, and kitchen days. So why is it that every time I turn on the TV to see the Cadillac ad, played to "Been A Long Time" with John Bonham's signature thump-and-smash and Plant's signature yowling, I think just a little less of both Cadillac and the Zep?
Weird little conundrum, that. Conversely, after I read this LA Times piece about the feuding members of The Doors (thank you, Scott), I had a little more respect for John Densmore, Bruce Springsteen, and even (choke) The Eagles! It's not as if I think rock is some counter-cultural force, the soundtrack to the revolution, or anything similarly removed from reality. Billy Bragg used to sell T-shirts that read "Capitalism Is Killing Our Music", a clever sentiment my knee jerks in agreement with -- but I have to wonder how "our music" would fare under socialism. (It fares quite well, according to supporters of the CRTC. The argument is Canadian rock got its legs in the 70s and 80s thanks to government regulation of commercial airwaves, guaranteeing a certain percent of Canadian content. A topic for another post, perhaps.) I still think a band couldn't get any more commercial than The Eagles, but clearly the product they are most intent on selling is The Eagles, and not the Trans Am, or a feathered iPod.
It's always seemed to me that commercial use of a band's music signifies their exhaustion as a cultural force. I knew The Who were completely spent the minute they were "covered" by the California Raisins. The Rolling Stones shilling for Microsoft was a self-fulfilling prophecy for both commodities: "You got to start me up/I never start/I never start" (replace all lyrics with "Control, Alt, Delete" and you've got it right on the money!). It's been years since I've listened to U2, and when I saw Bono hawking iPods, I thought, "Swan song."
I'm probably out to lunch with that last statement. Bono obviously disagrees, and a seemingly unshakeable fan base will back him up. He claims the iPod ad is legit because the product is something the entire band is in fact excited about, and because the song being used isn't one of their "sacred" numbers. And is this ad really all that far removed from turning on the radio and hearing "Where The Streets Have No Name", followed by a 2-4-1 pizza jingle? Buy the iPod and you'll never need to hear that jingle again.
Still and all, I finally prefer it when a performer says, "My music is the superior product. I'm not here to sell pizzas; the pizza is here to sell me." Tom Waits says corporations "suck the life and meaning from the songs and impregnate them with promises of a better life with their product," an assessment that is harsh but contains an element of truth to it. But I think my pique is mostly fueled by the perception of something more basic: the lethal combo of greed and laziness. Cadillac can't do any better than cadge a song that's over 30 years old? Are Plant and company really so bone-tired they can't think of any better way to give their music airplay than to sing for a car? Self-satisfied sloth, languorous self-indulgent laziness, all of it, and it doesn't sell a bloody thing. The iPod ad in no way prompts me to give U2 another spin; I've always disliked cel-phones, and now I've cooled on AC/DC, too; and regardless of whether Bob Dylan is selling panties or bank accounts, the spectre of him as adman is just plain sad.
If you've given up on being an artist, go out and get a real job already.