Kofi's hat

Kofi's hat

MP3s, music news and reviews, and a sprinkling of pop culture. Named by Aqualung's Matt Hales, after his son.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Ink in my blood, a song in my heart. Metaphor is my middle name.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Product Placement in Pop Songs

Arizona's East Valley Tribune takes a look at product placement in songs in today's edition.

The article says that according to "American Brandstand," a study by Agenda Inc., "music artists gave more than 1,000 shout-outs to some of the world's largest and most recognizable brands from Mercedes-Benz to Louis Vuitton in 2005."

Actually, the study only extended to songs in the Billboard Top 20, so the number of products mentioned in songs released in 2005 is bound to be much higher than that mentioned by the study. It would be pretty difficult to track every song every song released in 2005...

However, since 2004, "the total brand count fell from 1215 to 1129", a 6% drop Agenda Inc. attributes to "the post-bling environment of hip-hop 2005". In 2005, 35% of the 106 songs in the Billboard Chart mentioned brands.

That's still a lot of corporate-name-dropping.

Mercedes was the most-mentioned brand in 2005, and 50 Cent was the top brand-dropping artist. Runners-up were Nike and Ludacris (respectively).

Agenda Inc. claims that "branded lyrics have been almost exclusively the domain of hip-hop lyrics" but moved into R&B in 2004 and into pop in 2005 with songs like Gwen Stefani's "Rich Girl".

Those are rather broad statements, and again, perhaps meant only to refer to the Billboard Top 20. Or perhaps Agenda Inc.'s memory for music is short; they've only been doing these studies since 2003. As the Tribune notes, mentioning specific brands and products in music pre-dates hip-hop. The paper, too, gets overly broad, referring to all product mentions as positive. This is hardly the case.

Neil Young isn't giving Coke and Pepsi positive press in "This Note's For You":

Ain't singin' for Pepsi
Ain't singin' for Coke
I don't sing for nobody
Makes me look like a joke
This note's for you.

The Beautiful South's numerous corporate "shoutouts" in "One God" aren't the kind of advertising the companies likely want:

A plastic world and we're all plastic too
Just a couple of different faces in a dead man's queue
The world is turning Disney and there's nothing you can do
You're trying to walk like giants
but you're wearing Pluto's shoes

And the answers fall easier from the barrel of a gun
Than it does from the lips of the beautiful and the dumb
The world won't end in darkness, it'll end in family fun
With Coca Cola clouds behind a Big Mac sun

Coke in particular is so synonymous with both America and big business that it works well as a shorthand way of drawing a picture of either, often for purposes of commentary or criticism.

Alternative artists may not make it to the Billboard Top 20 as often as their hip-hop counterparts, but they do their share of corporate name-dropping. It's just that when alternative artists name-drop, they're often a bit more subversive about it.

Ben Lee - Catch My Disease (from Awake Is The New Sleep, a giddy exception to most of the other more pointed "name-dropping" songs posted here)

Placebo - Commercial For Levi (from Black Market Music)

Elvis Costello - Brilliant Mistake (from King Of America)

Blur - Look Inside America (from Blur)

The Andrews Sisters - Rum & Coca-Cola (old-school product placement, from Capitol Collectors Series)


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