Sunday, March 24, 2013

Three stock patriotic songs that aren't.

Patriotism always plays well in advertising.  Try to imagine a commercial for pickup trucks or jeans without American iconography.  American flags, eagles, (white) cowboys... and of course there's the soundtrack.

A number of songs have seen repeated use in patriotism-themed commercials, and not merely for products, but for politicians.  However, one gets the feeling that the advertisers never actually listened to them.

Let's take a look at some examples

"Fortunate Son" - Creedence Clearwater Revival.
I first noticed this song being used in a jeans commercial not long after 9/11.  I've heard it used again for GM cars and probably other products as well.  It's a searing protest song, blasting the military, politicians, and wealthy.

Lyric used in commercial:  "Some men are born to raise the flag, oo, the red white and blue..."
Very next lyric:  "...but when the band plays 'Hail to the Chief', oh, they point the cannon right at you."

"American Woman" - the Guess Who
Used for women's clothing, makeup, and Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged me, and at least one Sarah Palin fan video, it's a song by a Canadian band criticizing America for the war in Vietnam, urban poverty, and culture of excesss.

Lyric used in commercial: "American woo-mann!"
Very next lyric: "Get away from mee-eeee!.... I don't need your war machines, I don't need your ghetto scenes..."

"Born in the USA" - Bruce Springstein
Used for 4th of July celebrations, truck commercials, [Mitt Romney, as Frank pointed out] and... Jesus did anyone listen to the lyrics?

Lyric used in commercials: "Boooorn in the USA!"

Born down in a dead man town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up

Born in the u.s.a., I was born in the u.s.a.
I was born in the u.s.a., born in the u.s.a.

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

Born in the U.S.A...

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man said son if it was up to me
Went down to see my v.a. man
He said son, don't you understand

I had a brother at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run aint got nowhere to go

Yeah... a real flag-waver there.


  1. Do you remember when Saint Ronny tried to use "Born in the USA" during his campaign?


    Do you think though that the advertisers actually know what the songs are about? Since "the people" don't know, and they think the song is patriotic, the advertisers are happy to use it to sell their thing. I know it's weird to take the side of advertisers, being that I'm a human being and share very little in common with them, but they're usually pretty slick about these things. Advertisers are good at only one thing, manipulation. If they were convinced Adolph Hitler's face would sell diapers we'd be bombarded with CGI babies with little mustaches marching to Wagner.

  2. Oh, certainly. Marketing firms spend millions researching the emotional impact of colors, images, clothing styles, and certainly music. They wouldn't use these songs if their focus groups didn't react positively to them.

    It's still remarkable when a politician uses a song like "Born in the USA," however, because it leaves so much open for the opposition. "So Mitt Romney keeps using 'BITUSA' when he comes out on stage for his speeches... has this man ever -listened- to the song? He's clearly so out of touch with the American people..." and so on.

    (My first point reminded me of a bit from "The Adjustment Bureau" where a politician admits his staff spent $3,000 to determine the ideal degree of scuff his shoes should have.)