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Vampire Weekend's 'Holiday' and Three Other Songs Ruined By Repetitive Commercials

by Joel Keller, posted Dec 7th 2010 10:00AM
Cover of Vampire Weekend: ContraAdvertising agencies are desperate to show that they're "with it," which is why they cram ads with the latest radio-friendly alternative songs. The songs -- the more emo-ish, the better -- give the product a sheen of hipness that no visual can convey quite as well.

Over the last decade, alternative songs on ads have become so prevalent that it is one the main ways I discover new music to buy. I would have never found Kings of Leon back in the mid-'00s without that VW ad featuring the song 'Molly's Chambers,' and Apple's relentless use of Feist's '1234' on an iPod ad made me go and download it from iTunes.

But, for the most part, the repetitive nature of advertising has ruined my enjoyment of a number of songs over the last few years, with no more egregious example than the song 'Holiday' by Vampire Weekend. This song is featured in not one but two holiday-themed ads this December, both of which are being played in heavy rotation. Those ads, and some more songs ruined by commercials, after the jump.

'Holiday' was released on Vampire Weekend's excellent 'Contra' album last January. If you look at the song's lyrics, they have nothing to do with the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa season. It starts off bright and cheery, though, with the words "Holliday, oh a holiday/And the best one of the year," but eventually, a few seconds later, continues with the not so cheery "But if I wait for a holiday/Could it stop my fear?" The refrain concludes with the less-than-Christmasy "To go away on a summer's day/Never seemed so clear."

But it's bouncy and sounds alternative. So in their infinite wisdom, advertising agencies have deemed it the hot new song of the holiday season.

Because of this we're hearing the song not once but twice in heavy rotation. First, there's this ad for Tommy Hilfiger, where a very merry hipster holiday feast is interrupted by a driving dog:



Then there's this ad for Honda, who is trying to sell Civics with cute stop-action photography and slightly less hip young adults in lit-up Christmas sweaters:



I'd imagine that there are a bunch of advertising executives who are sitting around all ticked off this holiday season, grumbling that the jerkwads at either Hilfiger or Honda (depending on who they work for) stole their idea for using that Vampire Weekend song.

Now that I'm hearing the song at least once per commercial break, though, all I can think of when I hear it in other venues are these cutesy Christmas ads. I'm sure the guys in the band don't care; they're ecstatic that the song is in two such high profile commercials. But do they really want 'Holiday' to be known as "the Vampire Weekend Christmas song" for the rest of their careers? Because right now, it's dangerously close to having that status.

Of course, 'Holiday' is just the latest in a long line of songs ruined by being featured in repetitively-aired, long-running ad campaigns. Three recent examples:

'Hey Soul Sister' by Train: OK, this has never been one of my favorite songs, even before it was inflicted on our ears by Samsung, who first used the song and it's irritating "Heeeeaaay, Heyayayya yah" refrain to promote TVs, then refrigerators. Then Showtime picked it and rammed it down our throats with endless ads promoting season two of 'Nurse Jackie.' But now you pretty much hear it everywhere, from a recent episode of 'Glee' to timeouts during baseball games.

Anywhere there's a need for a banjo or ukulele and a refrain to sing along with, the song is used. It finally replaced Israel Kamakawiwoʻole's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in that category, which may make me like the late Hawaiian singer's version again.

'1901' by Phoenix: Yes, this is the song that you heard on endless Cadillac ads, and I'm sure the refrain "Falling, Falling, Falllliiiinnng" rings in your head to this day. But did you know that the title of the song was actually "1901?" Neither did I until I bought the 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix' CD last year. I'm sure most people searched for the song by the name "Fallin'" or "Falling," so much so that the French band should have renamed the song in the United States. And even though fans of Phoenix wouldn't touch a Cadillac even if they could afford it, the song will be forever associated with a brand that many people still think of as either their grandfather's car or an SUV that carries Diddy's entourage.

'Animal' by Neon Trees: The Las Vegas tourism board used 'Animal' to advertise some concept called "Camp Vegas" last year, and played those ads to death. The song is pretty poppy and slick to begin with, but when the song hit it big on alternate rock radio -- and iTunes and satellite radio -- earlier this year, all I could think of was pretty people partying and sitting by the pool at The Palms hotel.

Then, in a moment that inflicted a sensory pain that only someone in the room will truly understand, BBC America decided to lead into their TCA summer press tour session by playing the same 90-second clip reel of their shows over and over and over again for a half-hour. The song that backed the clip reel? You guessed it. Even today, every time I hear the lyrics "Oh oh, I want some more" and "Say goodbye to my heart tonight" I get flashbacks to being in that room, with 'Animal' burrowing into my brain like an earwig. Actually, earwigs probably do less damage to people's brains than that song did.

Tell us: what songs have been ruined for you by relentless repetition on commercials?

(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.)

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ScottH

Honda ruined Ween's Ocean Man for me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iz0xECa9qTg

February 08 2011 at 5:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Diane

IF I HEAR THE WEIGHT WATCHER COMMERCIAL JENNIFER WHATSHER NAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AHHHH! I MUTE THE TV
OR CHANGE THE CHAnNEL...... IT MUST PLAY ! 100 TIME A DAY!!! ALL CHANNELS!!!!!!!!!&$^#%@($*%&#^#%$HATE IT!

February 05 2011 at 8:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
zippyjet

Several songs which were used to death on commercials and btw I hated them even before they made it to commercial stardom.

1. Michael Franti-Say Hay I Love You. This abortion was used for a Carona Beer spot and then used on too many promos for new mediocre at best TV shows.
2. Lou Bega Mambo # 5: Several TV networks adopted one of the worst dance audience standards to promoting it's shows. However, God listened and spared us Mambo # 5 knockoffs. I guess the networks/advertisors got the message that 95% of us despised this awful crappy tune.
3. Simply The Best: Tina Turner's worst became an advertising execs go to song for promoting cruises, cars etc. Ironically the absolute worst of Tina Turner.
4. Shanaia "The Pop Tart Twain" That woman song I'm now ready to hurl.
5. And who can forget Druggy no talent Whitney Houston's "I'm Every Woman" An Oprah moo cow theme for a season and used for Playtex goodies. Puleeze!

December 22 2010 at 11:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Fred Mertz

It's been both sad + funny to see VW's "Holiday" used in the different ads that have sometimes run just a few minutes apart.
One I always got a kick out of was Carnival Cruise's use of Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life."
I bet the client would have been horrified to see the full lyrics to that song, which included these very un-advertiser-friendly lines:
Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And the flesh machine
He's gonna do another strip tease.
Hey man, where'd ya get that lotion?
I've been hurting since I've bought the gimmick
about something called love
Yeah, something called love.
Well, that's like hypnotizing chickens.
Well, I'm just a modern guy
Of course, I've had it in the ear before.
I have a lust for life
'Cause of a lust for life.
I'm worth a million in prizes
With my torture film
Drive a GTO
Wear a uniform all on a government loan.
I'm worth a million in prizes
Yeah, I'm through with sleeping on the sidewalk
No more beating my brains
No more beating my brains
With liquor and drugs
With liquor and drugs.

December 10 2010 at 11:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MarloweOfSurrey

I've seen quite a few comments about people liking a song before shunning them because they were on a commercial. Please, don't stop liking your favorite songs just because some clueless advertisers used them in their ad.

December 09 2010 at 6:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

I believe Vampire Weekend stole the part of the song used in the commercials from a folk song called "Matty Groves" which appears on Fairport Convention's Liege and Lief album and others. That song begins, "A holiday, a holiday, the first one of the year" and the tune is virtually the same. Like the Vampire Weekend number, it has nothing to do with Christmas.

December 08 2010 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rhonda oliver

"Viva Las Vegas" is a song I've always thought was fun, but now half the time I go to sing it I cna hear those guys singing "Viva Viagra." Blech.

December 08 2010 at 11:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mary

the term "holiday" is also english slang for "vacation" like a brit saying, "i'm taking a holiday" or "i'm on holiday"

December 08 2010 at 11:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Reverend30

One commercial (albeit from approximately ten years ago) that I actually liked was a Gap ad that used "The Shining" by Badly Drawn Boy. I've looked for it everywhere but can't find it online. Anyone remember that one?

December 08 2010 at 11:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Reverend30's comment
mary

speaking of GAP, did you remember that commercial where they used an accoustic cover of supertramp's "give a little bit" everytime i hear it, i think of that GAP ad. bring back wentworth miller on the GAP billboards, and print ads. i still have a pic of him in that ad, still hanging up on my bedroom door.

December 08 2010 at 11:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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