I made Nike look like a genius today.
While I was working out this afternoon, I felt a surge of adrenaline run through my body when The Killer’s “All These Things I’ve Done” shuffled through my iPod. If you don’t know the song, I’m sure you know the breakdown: I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier.
(left: Mary Lou Retton, one of the many great athletes appearing in the newest Nike commercial featuring the Killer’s, “All These Things I’ve Done.”
Like the recent Nike commercial that features the tune–I envisioned a quick montage of athletic achievement and struggle. But instead of Lance Armstrong, Mary Lou Retton, or antelopes galloping through the wild, I took center stage in this quick clip of cinema verite that played out in my head. You–or Nike–would have never known about it either, unless I told you (which I just did right now).
A previous Nike ad featuring Saul Williams’ “List of Demands (Reparations)” had the same effect on me. Because I grew up on Rocky soundtracks, or maybe because I have a knack for putting the right music to my workouts, both of these tracks were on my iPod Shuffle long before they became songs for commercials. In all fairness though, the Nike clips have given the songs a second life.
Somewhere in the back of my brain I’ve felt this feeling before, the sensation of hearing a song then automatically putting visuals with the music. Why am I having dÃ©jÃ vu? Ah yes, I remember now–the music video.
Remember those? They were the ultimate marriage of sight and sound.
If done correctly, a music video could either make a great song better or a mediocre song great. Before Radiohead made a video for “Just,” I thought the song was so-so. After seeing the video though, “Just” became (and to this day is still) my favorite Radohead tune of all-time. In 1992, I became a life-long Beastie Boys fan after watching their video for “So What’cha Want?” The distorted hip-hop tune mixed with the ever so simple visual of three dudes jumping around the forest in t-shirts and sock caps created the perfect booby-trap that triggered something deep within my soul.
Since the music video was put on life support at the turn of the century, music fans, like myself, have turned to other alternatives for music and video pairings. One of the most obvious sources these days is the television commercial. Sometimes they’re done with great results (M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” promoting the film Pineapple Express) and sometimes they’re not (Santogold’s “Lights Out” and “Creator” schlepping Bud Light Lime).
When a song and visuals don’t mix, disastrous results can occur. The Transplants’ tune, “Diamonds and Guns“–a catchy little number on their debut album–was ruined after Garnier Fructis made it their official theme song. I no longer picture the rough-and-tough Tim Armstrong, instead, all I see when I hear that song are good-looking teenage kids shampooing their hair. Band of Horses’ “The Funeral” lost some of its profound luster after it was used in a Ford Edge commercial. I still can’t get the image of that wide-eyed girl stupidly staring through the moon-roof out of my head.
But who am I to say if a song works for a commercial or not? Maybe someone connected with that Ford ad and has since become a fan of Band of Horses? I’m sure there are a bunch of Killers fans who don’t think “All These Things I’ve Done” is necessarily a perfect tune for a Nike commercial. To others, maybe Saul Williams’ song about reparations loses all meaning when placed in the context of selling sneakers (especially considering that the kids in China making Nike shoes may be asking for reparations themselves one day).
The marriage of music and video has always been subjective. I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t like The Rapture until hearing their song “Heaven” in a skateboard video. Behind the visuals of kick-tricks and rail-slides, it somehow all made sense to me. Just last night I got goose bumps after hearing Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia” in a Michael Phelps Olympic montage. And sometimes the beauty of sight and sound play out through my own eyes. If I’m listening to my iPod and the visuals around me (a mother walking down the sidewalk hand-in-hand with her child, teenage kids playing basketball, an old man hobbling down the street) connect with the music, the experience can give me the same satisfaction of a great music video.
So what I’m trying to say is this, with or without Nike, MTV, Garnier Fructis, sports montages, beer commercials, or homemade YouTube clips, the music video will always exist in one form or another and will always have the potential to transform a song into a magnificent life experience–even if it’s just inspiring you to do one more rep of dumbbell curls.