Some musical revisionism is unforgiveable. The best example is Wrangler’s selective use of CCR’s Fortunate Son for a jeans commercial. “Some folks are born made to wave the flag / Ooo they’re red, white and blue,” the ad began. But what came next in the song didn’t make the ad: “And when the band plays ‘Hail to the Chief’ / Ooo, they point the cannon at you.” Talk about missing the point for the sake of sales.
But when it comes to respecting American music tradition, the line is easier to draw with rock and roll than pop music. One song has me wondering if pop has a line and, if so, where. What does Ain’t No Mountain High Enough mean to you?
We’re talking the Diana Ross or Marvin and Tammi versions here. Warm thunderstorm or rainbow drenching love, respectively, and both amazing.
So it makes me uncomfortable when Coors gives us a rap-rock version in their latest commercial. The rapping seems courtesy the Fat Boyz, and the rocking done by young men who would trade their girlfriends for, well, Coors. And maybe that’s the point, but Joe Frat’s six-pack is a long way from Motown.
The connection is clear: “Ain’t No Mountain” is all about mountains and so are Coors commercials. But so clearly springing from the mind of an aging boomer, to aim the ad so young seems bizarre. It’s a good thing MCI aims older in their current use of the very … same … song.
The phone giant has former Doobie Michael McDonald takin’ it to the streets, so to speak, with similarly uncomfortable results. “If you need me, call me,” he reminds us. Singing the track off his new album of Motown covers, he shows how bad a place Nirvana made the world for blue-eyed soul. The commercial isn’t as jarring as Coors’, but it sure makes you wonder what stubborn saint is holding the rights to the song’s hit versions.
Returning to the original question, I don’t know how I feel about all this cover commercialism. The companies aren’t perverting the classics themselves, but they’re messing with memories — first cousins to pop culture classics. Does that matter? I think Coors and MCI are committing crimes below Wranger-level. The respect seems there this time, but the creativity is nowhere to be found.