Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

12 terribly perfect songs for 12 perfectly terrible commercials

1. The Jesus And Mary Chain, “Just Like Honey” for Honey Nut Cheerios

As evidenced by the successful marriage of Modern English’s “I Melt With You” to ads by Burger King, Taco Bell, and other proprietors of cheesy foodstuffs, the ’80s are chock-full of romantic ballads whose lyrics can be applied overly literally to just about any product. With that in mind, The Jesus And Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey” is just sitting there, waiting for someone to throw enough money at it so Jim Reid can croon, “It’s good, so good, so good” over a slow-motion honey drizzle. Honey Nut Cheerios? Ricola Honey Herb cough drops? Frankly, the fact that it’s only been used for a Volkswagen commercial seems like a real failure of total-lack-of-imagination. Do we have to think of everything around here? [Sean O’Neal]


2. Fun, “Carry On” for Southwest Airlines

Fun’s “Carry On” is a rousing anthem about perseverance, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t double as an ode to free luggage. With more and more airlines charging for carry-on bags, the ones that don’t—like Southwest—need to hit that message hard. And the perfect way to promote a policy of free carry-ons is with a commercial underscored by “Carry On.” As the music starts, the camera pans across a plane full of beautiful, diverse passengers smiling as they store their bags in convenient overhead compartments. It’s probably best if the company excises the song’s reference to dying parents and the part about “sinking like a stone” (which is not great imagery to associate with air travel). [Caroline Siede]

3. New Order, “Rock The Shack” for Radio Shack

One of the worst songs, at least lyrically speaking, of New Order’s later period, “Rock The Shack” would make the perfect accompaniment for an almost-but-not-quite hip new Radio Shack TV spot. The chorus could inspire a whole new generation of guys who need RF connectors to sing along, and the jumbled, nonsensical verses nicely reflect the stock of the store: “I’ve been accused of everything / From Timbuktu to Old Berlin!” (Translation: “We have quarter-inch adapters and remote-control cars!”) You can almost picture the amazing fonts that The Shack might use for the inevitable rebranding campaign that will accompany the song. [Josh Modell]


4. The Smiths, “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” for Lane Bryant

As Morrissey himself explained, his lilting “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” is an absurdist lark about the great and wondrous variety of women’s bodies. (Although the listener is free to assign their own meaning, of course.) Who better to co-opt it than Lane Bryant, home to plus-size women’s fashions, which similarly celebrates the miscellany of the female form? As a bonus, Morrissey includes girls and their mothers in his cheeky observation, thus covering all ages of big, beautiful women. Like a pair of stretch bootcut pants, it’s a perfect fit—that is, unless the store wants to take a more tongue-in-cheek route by using Morrissey’s “You’re The One For Me, Fatty.” But that’s not a good idea, Lane Bryant. [Sean O’Neal]


5. Coldplay, “Fix You” for Band-Aid

The current Band-Aid theme song (“I’m stuck on Band-Aid brand ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me”) is a cheerful ditty aimed at kids and parents. But there’s a whole untapped market of adults who also need a plastic bandage from time to time. And what better way to lure them in than with the moody melodies of Coldplay’s “Fix You”? Picture this: A grown man falls down and scrapes his knee. As the tears come streaming down his face and he ruins a pair of jeans he just can’t replace, he takes solace in the fact that Band-Aid will always try to fix him. With a little atmospheric lighting and some slow motion, Band-Aid could rebrand as the most sensitive bandage in town (in more ways than one). [Caroline Siede]


6. Joni Mitchell, “Urge For Going” for Vesicure

No disrespect to Joni Mitchell’s absolutely gorgeous “Urge For Going,” but its lyrics would be perfect in a commercial for drugs that relieve the constant urge to urinate. The music and singing are gentle and lovely, and they’d make perfect sense behind images of an older couple enjoying the fall colors, all the while not needing to cut their day short with frequent trips to the bathroom. And it might even popularize Mitchell’s version of the song, which was overshadowed by the many covers versions of it. [Josh Modell]


7. The Cure, “Accuracy” for H&R Block

Because the only certainties in this cold, merciless world are death and taxes—according to Founding Goth Benjamin Franklin, at least—it’s a wonder no one’s thought to pair the two and soundtrack an H&R Block commercial with the brooding sounds of The Cure. In particular, the verses of “Accuracy” spell out the average H&R Block customer experience to a T: “We sit in the same room / Side by side,” Robert Smith sings, then summarizes all those dubious deductions with “I give you the wrong lines / Feed you.” The refrain of “Accuracy” would both trumpet the ostensible appeal of H&R Block’s accounting services and suggest that this is a mutually agreed-upon obfuscation. And what better endorsement of what H&R Block can provide, as you share the beautiful torment of this annual bloodletting? [Sean O’Neal]


8. Massive Attack, “Protection” for Dr. Scholl’s

The trip-hop staple “Protection” offers a more universal take on the all-encompassing concept of unconditional love—but it could just as easily soundtrack an ad for Dr. Scholl’s shoe inserts, which promote all-encompassing support for sore tootsies. The song’s loping tempo promotes an easy, rhythmic walking pace, while lyrics such as “I stand in front of you / I’ll take the force of the blow / Protection” seamlessly describe how a supportive insert works. Dr. Scholl could use a bit of sexiness in his brand, and this could be the song to do it. [Annie Zaleski]


9. Gang Of Four, “Cheeseburger” for McDonald’s

The strident political and societal critics in Gang Of Four are certainly not against having their music used for advertising, but when the group penned the rigid disco-punk squall “Cheeseburger” in 1981, it’s doubtful they intended to license it to McDonald’s. But the juxtaposition could work like a charm. The clumsy lyrics—which express disdain for a capitalist economy by attempting to satirize the oafishness of its workers—actually promote Mickey Ds better than they criticize it: “Work on up another four miles / Coffee, fries, and a cheeseburger.” The noisy, fast-food restaurant samples are just the extra pickles on top of a greasy Big Mac in terms of making this pairing perfect. [Annie Zaleski]


10. Bob Dylan, “Country Pie” for Baker’s Square

Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline featured the deceptively simple “Country Pie,” whose lighthearted lyrics actually function as ode to sweet, sweet loving rather than baked goods. Yet the song’s rollicking country vibe and twangy folk riffs are the ideal accompaniment for down-home pie emporium Baker’s Square. Dylan’s slyly bawdy lyrics cover the restaurant’s variety of dessert options: “Blueberry, apple, cherry, pumpkin, and plum / Call me for dinner, honey, I’ll be there.” [Annie Zaleski]


11. Billy Bragg, “Accident Waiting To Happen” for Esurance

If The Pogues’ “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” can soundtrack a Subaru commercial about hockey moms, why not let fellow left-leaning Brit Billy Bragg get in on the action? His “Accident Waiting To Happen” would make perfect sense for Esurance (or another insurance company looking to target millennials). Nevermind that the chorus is “Your life has lost its dignity, its beauty, and its passion” and instead focus on the next part: “You’re an accident waiting to happen,” you clumsy, drunken college student. Renter’s insurance is the only way to make sure you don’t end up completely stuff-less. (Though Bragg might question your materialism.) [Josh Modell]


12. Bon Iver, “Lump Sum” for ReverseMortgage.com

Bon Iver’s haunting “Lump Sum” could make the perfect soundtrack for the confusing world of reverse mortgages, wherein a company loans money to a senior citizen against the value of their house. Payment can be made in a lump sum (“Every inner inertia / Lump sum,” coos Justin Vernon over a scene of old Mr. Williams enjoying his golden years) or in payments, so that the homeowner may never have to worry about anything “rushing from the sump-pump” ever again. It’s taken care of, for a substantial sum of money, of course. [Josh Modell]


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