Twenty years ago, licensing a rock song in a TV commercial would be met with immediate cries of “sell out” and/or “Judas.” But within the last decade, commercial syncs are providing an additional source of income as record sales continue to slump — so it’s no surprise that the number of classic rock songs in advertisements has increased. As AC/DC (whose music is now in an Applebee’s commercial) once pointed out, “Money Talks.”
Putting aside Gen X paranoia over rockers getting chummy with The Man, these commercials can often be hilarious, and even moving sometimes (that David Bowie “Starman” Super Bowl ad was surprisingly emotional). But plenty of times, these pairings just leave us mystified. Here are five commercials featuring classic rock songs that barely make sense.
Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” in a Cruise Ad
We’re not saying that one of rock’s most extreme figures can’t make a few bucks off a licensing deal. But you gotta question the advertising minds that decided a song about heroin (the mother of all addictive drugs) which opens with a William S. Burroughs reference was a fitting song to sell family cruise trips. Even if you miss the heroin-specific references (including the cringe-inducing “Of course I’ve had it in the ear before”), there’s the repeated “Liquor and drugs” line — which Royal Caribbean turned into “looks so good” when they tapped the tune for a series of commercials. Fair enough, but the song is still about heroin.
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” in a Jeans Commercial
Like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In the U.S.A.” and Ronald Reagan, the true meaning behind John Fogerty’s “Fortunate Son” seems to have escaped Wrangler when they tapped CCR’s biting critique about the privilege and hypocrisy of rabidly patriotic politicians for a denim ad. The fact that they axed most of the lyrics (lines prescient of George W. Bush’s adult life) but kept the “oooo that red, white and blue!” part showed that Wrangler was either willfully ignoring the song’s real message or just intensely dense.
Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” in Pepsi Ad
What’s more punk than the ripped jeans, fast riffs and the IDGAF attitude of the Ramones in the ’70s? Diet Pepsi, of course! Listening to the raw energy of punk’s first wave gives us the same feeling as when we crack open a can of artificially sweetened soda. Additionally strange, the Ramones’ debut single is titled after the Nazi WWII tactic of blitzkrieg, or “lightning war.” Maybe Pepsi should’ve gone with “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” on second thought.
Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” for Taco Bell
Similar to Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life,” GNR’s breakout hit “Welcome to the Jungle” wouldn’t seem to be the kind of song a corporation would want their product linked to — at least if they’re paying attention to the lyrics. A harrowing warning about Los Angeles to newcomers, “Welcome to the Jungle” is about the addiction (“If you got the money honey we got your disease”) and selling your soul to make it (“you can taste the bright lights but you won’t get there for free”). At least, that’s what it was about in 1987. In 2016, it’s about Taco Bell’s quesalupa because… it gets worse here every day in fast food America? We’re not 100 percent sure what they were thinking. Regardless, Axl was on board.
The only thing I know “confirmed” is my LOVE of Taco Bell! Mmmmm…. Taco Bell!! Happy New Years!!——
— Axl Rose (@axlrose) January 1, 2016
Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” for Hotels
While Twisted Sister’s anthemic “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is an admittedly malleable piece of rock that can be successfully recast in many different settings, this one stymies us — mainly because the ad is so, so lame. In this Extended Stay America ad, a group of coffee pot-wielding bozos take to the streets to protest the indignity of a coffee machine in their hotel bathroom (the horror!). It’s hard to say what pushed them over the edge and into the streets for a political march, but the smiles in this ad are so plastic that we’re left wondering if rock truly is dead.