The 10 Best Uses of Pop Songs in Commercials

LxL_TopTenThursdays_02_900x300harry crane

Who watches commercials anymore?  I certainly don’t.  Unless it is a live sporting event, there is just no reason to subject yourself to them.  Luckily though, when we are a captive audience, there is once in awhile a commercial worth watching.  For the list this week, we decided to celebrate the return of Mad Men with a top ten list of pop songs used in commercials.  So, let’s celebrate Harry Crane’s commercial magic and delve right in.  As always, let us know what we missed.  Enjoy!

10. Volkswagen:  “Pink Moon” – Nick Drake

The vehicle in this commercial is the only thing remotely dated.  Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” is a lovely accompaniment for the midnight drive portrayed throughout the beautifully filmed ad.

9.  Heineken:  “The Golden Age” – The Asteroids Galaxy Tour

Asteroid Galaxy Tour songs all kinda seem orchestrated for retro-chic commercials.  “The Golden Age” and Heineken are a nice pairing along these lines.  There are a tone of well- choreographed moving parts in this particular commercial, and that along with the song choice, deserve recognition.

8.  Adidas:  “Beggin’ Pilooskie Re-Edit” – Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

The more I watch it, this remix of Frankie Valli’s “Beggin'” just kicks more and more ass.  Adidas’ “Celebrate Originality” campaign could not have picked a more original artist to use and remixed his song in a very original way.  The house party scene with celebrity cuts is also very nicely done.

7.  Durex:  “Let’s Get It On” – Marvin Gaye

The metaphor in this turntable based Durex condom commercial is obvious, so why not pick just as obvious of a song to go along with it.  Easy choice to make the list.

6.  Apple iPad 2: “Extraordinary Machine” – Fiona Apple

As stated in our list of best Apple Commercial Songs:

Clean: check.
Catchy: check.
Simple: check.
Great song: check.
Artist name same as company name: check.
Perfect on-beat movement/edits throughout the entire video: check.
Title of the song is a perfect adjective/description of the product: check.
Incorporating the sounds of the product into the song: check-mate!

5.  Nike:  “List of Demands” – Saul Williams

Nike’s “My Better is Better” campaign could not have chosen a better song than “List of Demands”.  Saul Williams’ industrial banger is nicely matched with all the exercise scenes, even if a few of them reek of stock footage.

4.  Gears of War:  “Mad World” – Gary Jules

Gary Jules’ cover of Tears For Fears “Mad World” is an odd choice to pair with a commercial for a first-person shooter.  But it works.  It works really, really well.  I hadn’t seen this commercial in years but the last image of the lone soldier shooting at the spider monster stuck with me.

3.  Dunlop Tires:  “Venus in Furs” – The Velvet Underground

Did David Lynch and Guillermo Del Toro combine to direct this commercial, or did Dunlop just accidentally make the weirdest commercial of all time?  “Venus in Furs” just fuels the almost insane visuals in this masterpiece.  I can not get enough.

2.  Chipotle – “The Scientist” – Willie Nelson

It was a pretty bold move for Chipotle to greenlight a commercial that doesn’t feature one second of footage of their actual food.  The quirky animation combined with Willie Nelson’s sparse cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” makes for a Pixar-esque viewing experience.

1.  Sony:  “Heartbeats” – José González

Gonzalez’s cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats” is one of those rare covers that brings something completely new, but also very valuable, to the original song.  Combine the acoustic wonder with the empty streets being inundated with bouncing balls for two and a half glorious minutes, and you have yourself the number one pick for the list.

Just Missed

Todd:  Guinness:  “Phat Planet” – Leftfield

The build of intensity in Leftfield’s “Phat Planet” fits perfectly with the tagline at the end of the commercial, “Here’s to Waiting”.  That’s not even to mention the sick surfing/horses crashing through the waves imagery going on.  Great stuff.

Wes:  Levi’s:  “Flat Beat” – Mr. Oizo

Levi’s has surprisingly great commercial and music pairings.  It’s actually a shock one of their commercials didn’t make the list.  Wes picked up the slack here with a simple but effective electronic backing to a puppet vibing to the tune.  I love it.

Austin:  Prince of Persia: “Breathe Me” – Sia

Where did I hear Sia’s “Breathe Me” first?  Was it this Prince of Persia commercial or the season finale of Six Feet Under?  I’ll never know, but I think the two rival each other in terms of memorable pop culture moments.




2 thoughts on “The 10 Best Uses of Pop Songs in Commercials”

    1. You would throw out a VW commercial LD! This is totally warranted though, it is such a great commercial. Most VW commercials back then were, and their use of music. We debated between a few of them for this post. Surprisingly only one made it. You were right though, this was an original composition, therefore, did not qualify.

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