Feb 21, 2007

What the Hell is a Violent Femmes Song Doing in a Wendy's Ad?

Cover of the eponymous 1982 debut album by the Violent Femmes

(Toledo, OH) I have always loved the music of the Violent Femmes, and I do not begrudge this underappreciated folk-punk band a chance to make some money after decades of lingering on the margins of success.

But just what the hell is a Femmes song doing in an ad for fast food behemoth Wendy's?

The choice of "Blister in the Sun" as background music for selling burgers and fish sandwiches makes no sense. The song is a look at a kid, stoned out of his gourd and on the verge of insanity, who steadfastly refuses to conform while his world is simultaneously crumbling around him. It is equal parts celebratory and ironic in its examination of this angst-filled teen, but has nothing to do with the subject matter of the ad: crappy food.

I was certainly more outraged when Michael Jackson pimped the Beatles song "Revolution" to Nike, or when the Nick Drake song "Pink Moon" got sucked up by Volkswagen. Hearing the Violent Femmes being used to shlep greasy food, though, certainly ranks high on the list of musical abominations.

What's worse, of course, is that Wendy's chose to use only the catchy guitar riff in the ad, so we get 30 seconds of that riff over... and over... and over. I suspect that Wendy's corporate execs would have a group heart attack if they actually listened to the words of "Blister in the Sun":
When I'm walkin' I strut my stuff, man I'm so strung out
I'm high as a kite I just might stop to check you out

Let me go on like I blister in the sun,
Let me go on big hands I know you're the one

Body and beats I stain my sheets I don't even know why
My girlfriend she's at the end she is starting to cry

Let me go on like I blister in the sun,
Let me go on big hands I know you're the one...
Another cultural touchstone has been bastardized by corporate America, and I think I'm getting old and tired.


Charbarred said...

This song has been all over for years now...movies, commercials, company events, you name it.

Valbee said...

There's one positive thing that comes out of this, Mike. It offers a chance for someone else to discover the music. I had never heard OF Nick Drake, let alone any of his music prior to that Volkswagen commercial. But as soon as I did hear it, I got online to find out who it was and now? Nick Drake is in my music collection. And no, I don't think of Volkswagens when I hear it. :)

There are some artists who refuse to let their music be used for such purposes (Petty, Springsteen). I admire that. And then there are others.... Sheryl Crow, for example. First she had a song in a Jeep commercial and was part of the Jeep World Summer Tour that year. Now I'm hearing her music on different automaker's ad... Subaru, maybe? I don't pay attention, I just know it's not Jeep. For some reason, that bothers me more than hearing Nick Drake on one commercial.

I suspect that Wendy's corporate execs would have a group heart attack if they actually listened to the words of "Blister in the Sun

Here's a slightly sobering thought. The song came out in 1982. Assuming that your average Femmes fan was 18 at the time, there's a good chance that a couple of them are corporate execs. Which means we can probably expect to see more and more of this trend in the future.

microdot said...

Here in Europe, the trend is to tie a hit single to a commercial. I hear the songs in ads before I hear them on the radio! Of course this does not bode well for pop music in general.
So with the death of the CD and the rise of music pirated and sold on the internet as downloads...how is a young and upcoming artist going to get his song out there?
And the flip side, how is an artist who has been around for a long time and not new and shiny going to be heard? The corporate world isn't listening......

The Screaming Nutcase said...

Actually, this is just a beautiful shining example of someone deciding what art means to them, using it on their own terms, instead of having to be force-fed by the artist.

How many people think of Springsteen's "Born in the USA" as a patriotic anthem? In fact, Reagan even used that song during his 1984 campaign, didn't he? Any art is what the listener/viewer/reader etc makes of it.

"Artistic integrity" is something most celebrated by those unable to draw the big money, I think. :) Rage Against the Machine had a contract with Epic, home of Mandy Moore, for God's sake. Not to mention Pearl Jam's crusade against Ticketmaster (which conveniently allowed them to pocket a bigger chunk of each ticket sold). The list will never end....

Anonymous said...

A while back Bob Evans had a 'Shroom Burger. Might have worked well in ads for that.

MP said...

I thought it weird to hear the Violent Femmes in a commercial for Wendy's as well.

I remember coming to the realization that you come to hear. 106.5 the Zone's "Time Warp" would have songs I listened to in high school, and I would be like, "hey, that song's not old! I listened to that in high school..."

...which started almost 10 years ago...dude...

Anonymous said...

If u think that was bad..I herd a twisted sister song..in a woman's ad..