What's the Worst Ad Song Ever?
The results are in.
"Another strong candidate is Best Buy's use of Sheryl Crow's 'Soak Up the Sun' to lure people into their stores to buy TVs, DVD players, stereos, and all manner of digital goodies. So exactly which verse of this anticonsumerism rant was it that attracted the big-box retailer? 'I don't have digital/ I don't have diddly squat/ It's not having what you want/ It's wanting what you've got.' "
"I have to nominate Applebees' 'Take this steak and top it' ads. Since the source of the jingle is 'Take This Job and Shove It'—and the 'shove it' is short for 'shove it up your ass'—it's a horrible choice. Applebees wants to shove a steak up my ass?"
"I pick Canon copiers and 'Let the River Run' by Carly Simon. I happen to love this song about dreaming, hope, revolution, etc. Anyone who has ever used a copy machine knows that it's an uninspired endeavor that can kill one's soul. Somehow, that's just not a match."
"KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) using 'Sweet Home Alabama.' Wouldn't that make it AFC?"
"The most egregious pairing would seem to be the use of 'Look What They Done to My Song, Ma' to sell Oatmeal Raisin Crisp. They changed the words to: 'Look what they done to my oatmeal.' I noticed this irony even as a child when I first heard it. (Eons ago—the '70s?)"
A number of readers took particular exception to the commercial use of songs that are actually about drugs, suicide, or other dark corners of life:
"It all started with the posthumous butchering of Nick Drake's 'Pink Moon' for Volkswagen (the spot pictured four carefree slackers driving in a convertible to a party they decide not to go to because they are having such an awesome, non-lonely, super-unsuicidal time together), completely ignoring the post-apocalyptic misery of the deceptively sweet-sounding song."
"My favorite: The NFL's use of Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day' in a Super Bowl ad for itself. The ad: A montage of home movies and official films shows fans enjoying the thrills of the sport with Reed's song about heroin and suicide playing in the background."
"I thought one of the worst uses of a song ever was 'There She Goes' as covered by Sixpence None the Richer. It was used for an ad for the birth control patch (Ortho-Evra, I believe). It appears the original theme of the song was lost on the advertising firm and Sixpence None the Richer; the song (originally performed by the La's) is about the exploits of a heroin addict. Why couldn't they have just used a song by Soft Cell or Suede, about sadomasochism or something? It would have made as much sense to me ... "
"Volkswagen's use of Psychic TV's 'Roman P' was just plain bizarre. The commercial used the happy-sounding 'Are you free? Are you really free? Are you really really really free?' chorus, assuming most viewers would be unfamiliar with the rest of the lyrics, which include a vignette in which Sharon Tate's ghost witnesses Roman Polanski's shady sexual activities with a young girl. Either that, or Volkswagen was courting a fairly perverse demographic."
The Beatles had a few defenders:
Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.
Photograph of Iggy Pop on the Slate home page by Fred Tanneau/AFP Photo.