When I was an angsty, rebelious teen-ager (and even well into my twenties) one of the worst offenses that a band could commit was that of “selling out”. If a grouped stooped so low as to let some beer or tennis shoe or car company use it’s music – its ART – for a commercial, then that band was immediately written off. Back then, we had standards.
It started with the once bad ass Bob Seger turning into a car salesman. Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock” is now more identifiable as a commercial than as a song. The late, great MJ decided to be a spokes person for Pepsi in the 80’s and lost some major street cred (and hair). It got so bad in the early 90’s that the band Genesis did a video for “I Can’t Dance” mocking the trend. Neil Young joined Genesis in being annoyed with corporate rock and denounced it beautifully in his song “This Note’s For You”, which got him in hot water at the time. It just made me like him more. The once iconic Bob Dylan decided to take the money and run when he sold albums in Victoria’s Secret of all places. I never liked him much to begin with, but slinging CD’s with supermodels in corporate America didn’t seem like a very Dylan-esq thing to do. He not only sold the rights to his song, but actually appeared in the Ad. Counterculture my ass.
Now, it’s 2010 and things are a little different. Hell, they are a lot different. Kids are different. Teens and twenty somethings are SO used to being sold to (in every possible way) that mere product placement doesn’t seem like a bad thing to them. In fact, advertisers have gotten so good at it, they have you asking “what song was that in the new ipod ad?”, instead of “What group sold their soul to MAC this week?” Big Corporate America is literally in bed with the music industry now and they are not leaving.
Lady Gaga is the latest and most blatant offender. Her new video for her song “Telephone” is just one big commercial for products she not only endorses, but has financial stakes in the company. Is it just me, or is this a gross misuse of celebrity? First, the song isn’t very good. Add to that, that the video involves brazen product placement, canned music and about a billion cliches and you have a recipe for disrespect. Every time she appears in public or in a video she is selling – not her music – her products. I find this distasteful and cheap. And, I guess I find her to be those things to. Her “Bad Romance has at LEAST 7 different brands in it…that’s what I was able to catch. She has brought “selling out” to a whole new level. And, she has a generation of people raised on commercials, a generation of people who think buying stuff is “cool” if a celebrity has it, a generation of people who follow trends blindly – to use as her bitch. She has been chasing celebrity for years and she finally caught it. (Take a look at this clip from Mtv show “Boiling Point” from 2005. These shows are cast – it is no accident) I don’t buy for a second that she “believes” in the company and wants it to succeed. I think she believes in the almighty dollar.
Especially the one in your pocket, chump.