Some things in life serve only to induce rage. No matter how small these annoyances may be, they are never insignificant. 'Rant List' is the chronicle of one self-loathing narcissist's seemingly unending pettiness.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

94. Breathy, stripped-down covers of classic songs used in advertising

^ This is exactly what creative reviews are like in an ad agency. Trust me.

      Advertising is an interesting industry. At times unforgivably narcissistic, it is also occasionally very good at distilling what can elicit a genuine emotional reaction and packaging it up in to a neat little TV spot (or some other format). Now, admittedly, it does this for the sole purpose of selling stuff to its emotionally-exploited targets, but hey – welcome to the modern world, it’s morally bereft!

      One thing advertising as an industry is particularly bad at – and really, this in many ways can apply to all creative industries nowadays, be it film, music or whatever else – is genuine originality. I’m not dense enough to claim that true originality exists. There’s nothing new under the sun, every creative output is merely a re-sequencing and synthesised product of a variety of elements that came before it; in the same way that species evolve, so does creative work and culture (the wonderful Everything Is A Remix is a rather erudite analysis of this). Sort of. But there are of course things that had some original thought go in to their craft, even if elements of it are simply repeats of the past – the originality comes through in how the work of the past is recreated and imbued with new meaning through careful fusion.

      To that end, every once in a while someone will have a good idea in advertising. When it’s shown that this idea was successful, every other agency will latch on to it like barnacles on a tanker, ensuring that whatever glory of the idea is gradually rusted and decayed through the on-going depletion of its steely hull – or whatever it is that barnacles do to ship. To get to my actual point, at some point someone decided to do a breathy, female-led cover of an ‘80s pop song and use it in an advert. Lo and behold, it quickly became an easy way to generate the all-important emotional pull for the consumer and the idea was proliferated repeatedly with increasingly less elegance;


Christmas 2011John Lewis
Arguably the one that started it all, John Lewis assaulted our senses with a stripped down cover of ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’, thus showing that even something as culturally significant as The Smiths’s heart-rending lament is just waiting to be commercialised to sell overpriced tat at the annual buy-fest of Christmas. -

December 2011 - Smirnoff
Smirnoff gives us a rather lifeless cover of one of the greatest party songs of all time, KISS’s ‘Crazy Nights’.

June 2012 - Kia
This Kia ad sports an almost unforgivable acoustic cover of Buzzcocks’ ‘Ever Fallen in Love’. Yes, it gets electrified eventually but the damage to punk is done!

Christmas 2012 – John Lewis (again)
Repeat offenders John Lewis give the breathy treatment to Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Power of Love'.

January 2013 – SEAT
SEAT has an acapella cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Don’t Stop’, a hit single from the wonderful Rumours that basically would never need to be covered as it’s already perfect.

My opinions of the cover versions are worthless, of course – as I’ve argued before, there’s no point getting worked up about a cover version. But what it does show is that as soon as something successful is established – in this case, stripped down covers of primarily ‘80s classic pop songs lead by rather twee female vocals – it is done to death until any particular worth the idea may have originally had has been discarded in favour of jumping on the bandwagon and getting as much bang out of your buck as possible. It’s attitudes like this that ensure that creative work will continually be homogenised until we all find ourselves watching beige coloured videos on Youtube with un-definably smooth jazz covers of songs we all already know playing in the background, our jaw agape with drool and our faces expressionless, but our eyes screaming for the sweet release of death from the absurd mediocrity of modern creative culture.

…no? Just me? Oh. Oh dear.

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