Living in a Material World

80s songs used in commercialsMadonna had it right. We are indeed living in a material world. It is damn near impossible to watch TV today without hearing your favorite 80s songs as the backdrop to one commercial or another selling everything from candy bars (see PayDay’s use of “Bust a Move”) to insurance (see Liberty Mutual Insurance’s use of “Human” by Human League).

How I feel about this trend varies with its use. I don’t have a global position on the issue as some people do. Many feel that, like the never-ending procession of 80s movies remakes, any use of the 80s musical canon for contemporary commercial purposes is a violation of all that is right and good in the world. I’m a little more flexible than that. In fact, you can even see it as the ultimate compliment to the sticking power and awesomeness of 80s music.

However, I mind it a lot more when the song in question is one that I love—one that is tied to a specific time and place and evokes a sense memory so strong that I can almost feel the moment. These songs are sacrosanct and having a new association with the song is wholly unwelcome, particularly when it comes in the form of, say, a fast food baked potato (see Wendy’s unacceptable use of “Blister in the Sun” by the Violent Femmes). Even the Violent Femmes didn’t wholly think it was a great idea.

On the other hand, I don’t mind so much when it’s a song with no strong personal attachment. So, I’m much less bothered by Target’s use of the GoGo’s “We Got the Beat” or Cameo’s “Word Up!”. I acknowledge the problem with this approach—because my “Blister in the Sun” might very well be your ‘We Got the Beat.”

In our recent interview with Robbie Grey of Modern English, we asked about his allowing Hershey (and others) to use “I Melt With You” for their commercials. His answer made perfect sense and softens my opinion on the whole matter.

It pays all my bills. When there’s been lean periods for Modern English, that’s still been there as a constant, and it’s really helped us to carry on really. At the moment, it’s in a Hershey bars advert on TV.

There’s a lot of money involved in those things. As you know, music is in trouble now. People don’t even buy CDs anymore, let alone records. Bands find it really hard to make money off downloads. There’s no money there for bands to have a living. The only way really, except if you’re a massive band like U2 or something, the way we make a living is by adverts and film soundtracks. That’s it really.

That’s been brilliant, because you can do so many things; Burger King advert, you name it, and not just in America but all over the world. That’s helped us carry on with making music, really.

We can all appreciate the need to pay the bills.

Here’s a list of just a few of the recent 80s-tuned crop of commercials.

What do you think? Good thing? Bad thing? What 80s song(s) do you consider off limits? Join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Author: Pia Sooney

Just a little obsessed with all things 80s, Pia still has her Swatch, her cassette tape collection, and her Converse Chucks. When not making friendship pins or listening to Depeche Mode, she runs a web design business.

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