07/02/2012

come see my consumption (songs about products)



The Believer: You wrote some Lacanian-style quotations for last fall’s Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. How did that come about?
Slavoj Žižek: Oh yes, I was helping someone who helped me once. It was easy, he sent me a series of provocative images, and I just wrote silly Lacanian statements about them. My critics attacked me, 'how can you conscientiously accept money from such a company?' I said, 'with less guilt than accepting money from the American university system'.


We only rap about things we like. I'll mention Cheetos because I like them, but if I didn't they wouldn't be in our songs.
- Damon Dash

Product is everywhere, integral to life and chat, such as they are. Product placement is still repugnant, and the ethics of advertising are indeed deeply murky. But the brainwash theory of advertising as put forward by Baudrillard and Naomi Klein and Fight Club and swallowed by many like me - is based on muddled views of commerce and human nature. Moreover, it has proved exploitable by the very same corporate forces it demonises. So let's put aside for a moment whether deception is inherent to commerce, and even whether our minds are polluted by hypersexual hypercommercial saturation.

People like things, and should admit this to themselves (even if it's not the only sort of thing they like). Products are the most concrete particulars of lyrics. Perhaps the worst thing about the MOR lyrics of (e.g.) James Morrison is not just that they're clichéd, but the dull abstraction of them - yoou, and the mooon, coming sooon. When artists eschew the details of contemporary life, they most often sink into  rather than rising above time.

Anyway, this list is not about ads - not songs used in ads, nor even anti-adverts (e.g. This Note's For You by Neil Young; "Don't make another Rickenbacker" by the Dressmakers; "Deathcafé" by Oi Polloi) - it is bands using products to express themselves, not the other way round. The choice is not between being a venal shill or a chaste Marxist. What can bands do with things?


On Spotify Here

1. Corona - Minutemen
(you could summon a place, express your cultural guilt)



2. My Adidas - Run DMC
(song of the joy of ownership - real, if transitory)


Obviously synecdoche is acceptable: see 'vaseline' for all waxy lubes (and so for gay sex); 'valium' and 'prozac' for all psychiatrics (and so for modern alienation); etc.


3. Rum and Coca-Cola - Andrews Sisters
(Back then they wouldn't pay you anyway. Note that 'Jack Daniels' is of course shorthand for being krazy.)



4. Shop Vac - Jonathan Coulton
(it's easy to avoid the nausea of product-placement if you set it amidst enough pathos)




5. Golden Boy - Mountain Goats
(also if you pick an obscure product. This is product as apotheosis.)



6. Whiteness thy name is Meltonian - Half Man Half Biscuit
(also if you are absurd about it. HMHB are the kings of the artfully concrete: e.g. one song ending with the baffling chorus "Sturmey-Archer Campagnolo" x9)




7. Driver Education - Indigo Girls
(if product references quickly age, they also let you evoke an era)

see also 7'. Village Green Preservation Society - Kinks
(childhood products as institutions; capital killed by new capital.)




8. Drink Nike - Future of the Left
(Can be used to communicate a character's culture (here, elderly alienation). see also.)



9. Mercedes Benz - Janis Joplin


(compare 'The Jeep Song' by Dresden Dolls: perfect expression of seeing an ex in specific cues)



10. Kodachrome - Paul Simon
(nerds too are safe)




11. Little Red Corvette - Prince
(In a long tradition of driving-as-sex songs. Cadillacs in particular seem to get free rein from all sorts of bands.)




12. Wearing My Rolex - Wiley
(the key to a good product song is to invest objects with meaning without losing yourself to them. see also.)




13. Can It All Be So Simple - Raekwon
(the fledgling rapper uses posh drink and flash to expand his sense of self)


13'. Pass the Courvoisier Part Two - Busta Rhymes
(the established rapper does naked placements - since most pretend to be much more than a clotheshorse lashed to their cultural moment.)


13''. All I Need - Jay-Z
(or indeed he'll have his own shit to plug anyway)




14. Diet Mountain Dew - Lana Del Rey
(like MCs, postmodern pop divas carry their consumerism lightly)




15. Wallet - Regina Spektor
(she wants to describe a stranger tersely: somehow the material trace can suggest spirit!)




16. In McDonalds - Burial
(Like old feelings spurred by an unwelcome meeting in a public place, Aaliyah out of nowhere)


 

No comments:

Post a Comment