Sunday, February 9, 2014

Selling Cars, Bob Dylan? Really?

My interest in the Super Bowl was limited to my chagrin over Bob Dylan appearing in an ad as, in effect, a car salesman. Dylan did a trade-in, otherwise known as a sell-out, using his image and artistry to peddle stuff. The ad starts with the insipid line, "Is there anything more American than America?" I suppose not, in the same way that there's nothing more English than England. We then see iconic images from the America of the 1950s and 60s: Route 66, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, the younger Dylan, a farm, a diner, baseball. With more scenes evoking Kerouac's open road and ad copy professing our belief in "the zoom and the roar and the thrust," Dylan evokes authenticity to cynically mask his commercial pitch. This is not the first time he's traded in his art for ads; he appeared among scantily clad models in an ad for "Victoria's Secret" with his "Love Sick" playing in the background and has also pitched for Cadillac and Apple. Does he need the income or the exposure? Neil Young, in contrast, sang in "This Note's For You," “Ain’t singing for Pepsi. Ain’t singing for Coke. I don’t sing for nobody. Makes me feel like a joke.” Another songwriter wrote, "Advertising signs they con you into thinking you’re the one that can do what’s never been done, that can win what’s never been won, meantime life outside goes on all around you." That was Bob Dylan in "It's "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" in 1965. Watch his reversal almost 50 years later:


Michael J. Mand said...

Would you feel the same if Bruce Springsteen were the artist in question? Is Dylan higher on the "sell-out" meter because of his past positionm as the spokesperson of social conscience, as perceived by the generation that has now grown to be the most matierialistic in history - whether he sought that status or not. (And we both know the answer to that.) Right or wrong, isn't Dylan just mirroring the generation that idolized him in the first place?

Jeff Tone said...

I think I'd feel the same. Hasn't Springsteen written songs on the struggles of working people? Whether or not the baby boomers are materialistic doesn't alter Dylan's sellout. I would hope that he's more than a mirror.