The Black Eyed Peas have a splashy new ad for Target. Is "selling out" a thing of the past?
Second, and more important: We as a culture must reserve our right to shower disdain on the Black Eyed Peas.
This is not some unknown, up-and-coming band that's swallowing its pride and licensing a song in the desperate hope that it might be the start of something big. The Black Eyed Peas' previous two albums went double platinum and quadruple platinum.
The Peas have no trouble getting their new tracks played on the radio and in clubs, where they're likely to be heard by potential fans. (This is what drove Sting to make a cheesy Jaguar ad in 2000—putting his new song in a TV commercial was his best bet for getting it airplay in a venue where his aging fanbase might actually hear it.) The Peas aren't doing the ad because they consider it an ironic goof. Or because they badly need the exposure. Or because they're promoting some offbeat project that might not otherwise get any attention. Note that they've actually licensed "I Gotta Feeling" twice—the other instance being a series of promos for the CBS fall schedule—even though the song is at the top of the iTunes charts. These insatiable revenue-bots are just raking in more coin.
Fine. We all understand that. But people, look at this commercial. Observe how eagerly—how incredibly naturally—the Peas embrace the role of discount store shill. Stop for a moment and ponder the fact that will.i.am has a giant Target logo on his hat.
A line must be drawn. I draw it here. I realize I'm not breaking news. I realize when the music's this bad it's sort of beyond the point. And I realize the "artists" in question couldn't care less. But I need to say it just the same: Black Eyed Peas, you're a bunch of sellouts.
Grade: F. Let's get some dignity up in here. Take it away, Neil Young: "Ain't singing for Pepsi, ain't singing for Coke. I don't sing for nobody. Makes me feel like a joke."
Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.