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John Southworth (Cory Bruyea)
John Southworth (Cory Bruyea)

DISC OF THE WEEK

Failed Jingles for Bank of America & Other U.S. Corporations: an anti-record of artful pop music Add to ...

  • Title Failed Jingles for Bank of America & Other U.S. Corporations
  • Artist John Southworth
  • Label Sud de Valeur
  • Genre Pop
  • Year 2012

In 1971, the advertising agency McCann Erickson and its client Coca-Cola didn’t really want to build a home and furnish it with love. Neither were they interested in growing apple trees and honey bees and snow-white turtle doves. That being said, with the hilltop-sung commercial ditty I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony), the goal was indeed to have the world sing something that “echoes on and never goes away.”

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If their drink was soft, the sell really wasn’t – Coke was the “real thing,” and the sweet fizz kept the world company. Audacious, really, for all its hippy-dippy whatnot.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and commercial jingles have changed. In the sense that the product name is not used in the song, and that the songs were recorded and released previously and independent of product association, jingles are not pure jingles any more. But they are commercial – advertising themselves as much as the items featured in a marketing campaign.

John Southworth, a songwriter who splits his time between Montreal and Toronto, knows all this. His new album is Failed Jingles for Bank of America & Other U.S. Corporations, an anti-record of artful, elegant pop music (mostly written by Southworth) commissioned and subsequently rejected by major U.S. companies. The album arrived at my desk complete with a sharply worded press sheet about the blurring of lines between artist and product. “The two have become interchangeable,” it reads, “so much so that the pop sound and star of today [are] now integral to selling you your car, laundry, detergent, your fast food and your poisonous baby food.”

It’s true. When watching a television spot for MacBook Air, the viewer can’t help but hear accompanying music that is hip, bouncy, youthful and la-la-lolly. You haven’t a clue who sings it, which must mean you are not hip or bouncy or youthful or la-la-lolly. So you do the Google and find out that Yael Naïm is a Franco-Israeli singer. You download her New Soul to your iPod Nano – thanks, Feist! – and maybe you’ll buy the MacBook Air, but probably not.

Southworth’s album is a reaction to corporate song-manipulation, but if its inspiration is angry, the material is not.

Dosomethingmoldyis a simply strummed and airy acoustic number, with a Donovan-like mellow-yellowness. “Together we can move/the possibilities don’t stop/they just start with you.”

Chevy Runs Deep (Pontiac Cherokee Rebellion) has that breezy-piano jingleness down pat. Fats Domino, I think, has just sold me a sedan. Xanadux has a tension-building pattern in the way of Arcade Fire, though it is gentle and sung charmingly in falsetto.

Some of the tracks are just snippets, and many of them don’t seem complete. This is intentional; jingles don’t have middle eights. The lyrics are upbeat and affirming, even on the twinkling-toy music of Luvs Fecal Hallucinatory. “It’s been building so long inside of me now/now it’s starting to all come out of me.”

Get the poisonous baby food out of the system. No one is more content than a freshly diapered infant. That’s the real thing.

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