?Iggy Pop and his music have appeared in more than a dozen commercials over the decades — perhaps most memorably in 2005, when Royal Caribbean selected “Lust For Life,” a song that celebrates booze and intravenous drug use, for a cruise-line commercial.
Though the legendary rocker has caught his fair share of flak for his various licenses, it was the very first time he heard one of his songs with The Stooges, 1969’s “Real Cool Time,” in a commercial for the Detroit Dragway in the ‘70s, that he felt legitimized in his career choice.
“I heard this voice behind one of the voiceovers, and it was a fucking Stooges song. It was me!” Pop told Grey London’s chairman and Chief Creative Officer Nils Leonard at Cannes Lions’ 10th annual Grey Music Seminar on June 22. “And I was so thrilled — I felt like I was somebody, I felt like I was in the society. It only took me 30 years to realize I never thought about getting paid for that.”
The use of Pop’s music in commercials as well as films like Trainspotting has been essential to cementing his legacy — not to mention buoying his chart positions nearly 50 years after The Stooges’ self-titled debut. In March, Post Pop Depression, his collaborative album with Josh Homme, became his first-ever project as a solo artist to reach No. 1 on a Billboard chart.
And it may very well be his last to chart, too — Pop has dropped several hints in interviews this year that Depression may be his final album, a point he hinted at during his talk when addressing the rigors of touring on the cusp of 70. “The less I can do, the better off I am,” he said with a sly chuckle. “Giving up, or giving ground… those are necessary, tactical situations that come up, that arise as you live longer and longer. Not to mention that you’ve got more of a history, too. In my case, I’ve kinda gotten a pass on that, because I feel better in general now than I did when I was 18, 19, 21.”
Pop’s newfound joy seems to have stemmed from performing with Homme and their all-star band on the Post Pop Depression Tour, which wrapped its North American run in April (he’s scheduled to play dates in Europe and Latin America through October.)
“When we did our first show together, with Colbert in the U.S., we were trying to not to mess up each other’s space,” Pop said. “I wore a shirt with like a John Travolta collar, to try to be really proper. It didn’t last too long, and I started getting a little more ‘Iggy.’ I move around a lot while I work, and I knew they’re not gonna just stand around there while I move around because they’re all highly skilled, competitive rock stars — and good ones. And fine musicians too. So after awhile, everybody’s bakin’ and makin’ and humpin’ and jumpin’. I sent a text to them the other day and said, ‘You guys are the most handsome and alluring band on the planet today.’”
While sharing that story and others in his signature grizzled purr, Pop surely had the fully-packed crowd of creative and brand execs wondering why he doesn’t lend those pipes more to voiceover work. Though Grey London seemingly answered this question by tapping him for a visual reading of Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do Not Go Gentle” to set up his Cannes talk, Pop proved that his talents may lie just as usefully on the creative directing side.
“I know Volkswagen has had problems lately because they were naughty and they lied about the emissions,” said Pop, setting up his campaign pitch. “When I was in college, there was a wonderful, spontaneous gesture that swept the colleges all over America [where] kids would try to see how many people they could fit into a VW Beetle. You could a revival of that — something that’s just fun, that would be probably worth 25 corporate mea culpas to them.”
How would Pop update it for the times? “You could do it naked on the internet. And different sorts of people — ‘How many tall people? How many short people?’ And people would forget about the business.”
Or perhaps even a playful take on the car’s German roots. “You could have a Volkswagen with a sign that says, ‘Naughty,’ and then women in bondage whipping them, punishing them. That would elicit sympathy for the Volkswagen. And I bet people wouldn’t ‘skip ad’ either.”
Pop came back to that idea of making unskippable content later, when he added, “As long as people keep pressing out their finger and pressing ‘skip ad,’ things will change. It’s like voting, isn’t it? It’s funny that in our western democracies, you’re not really supposed to vote against anybody. You can’t go into a booth and just vote against someone — to achieve that you have to vote for someone else. But ‘skip ad’ is a negative vote, that’s pretty heavy.”
Having faced many fears in his life, including the death of his longtime friend and collaborator David Bowie earlier this year, Grey’s Leonard asked: Is there anything that still scares Pop?
Pop gestured toward the waters of the French Riviera and said, “I don’t want to let anyone get inside me with a knife. In which case, I would have to buy a funeral yacht and sail off to Cannes. [Just] party myself to death rather than [an] operation.”
Andrew Hampp is a vice president at music sponsorship and experiential agency MAC Presents.