Deep down in our hearts, where we keep our darkest fears hidden, we knew this day would come: the day when you find out after the fact that a hit song is actually an advertisement. Let the tears of rage flow. Chris Brown is not the vessel of true love that you thought! When the R&B star sang "We can go anywhere, go anywhere/ But first, it's your chance, take my hand, come with me," he wasn't talking to you, girl; he was talking to your Wrigley's Doublemint gum. But the company is only revealing its sponsorship after Brown's song, "Forever," had become a top-10 hit. We don't want to appear as if we invest the music of Chris Brown with any meaning whatsoever; but now would be an appropriate time to begin boycotting Wrigley, if you would like to have the option of listening to songs that aren't sponsored by mega-corporations in the coming decade.
First, Mr. Brown updated the [Doublemint "Double your pleasure"] jingle and recorded it with hip-hop producer Polow Da Don. Then, during the same Los Angeles recording sessions in February, paid for by Wrigley, Mr. Brown added new lyrics and made a 4½-minute rendition of the tune, titled "Forever." In April, Mr. Brown's record label, Jive, released the song to radio stations and digital download services as a single. After the song became a hit, Jive added it to his 2007 album, "Exclusive," and re-released the album in June. "Forever" reached No. 4 on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 chart last week.
This was all done in secret. Tomorrow the company holds a big press conference revealing the whole scam, presumably with the expectation that music fans will clap with delight and declare Wrigley to be their new favorite gum manufacturer. I would suggest that the more fitting response would be a bonfire of Doublemint, angry sloganeering, and boycotts of the company and Chris freaking Brown and his record label. The man who came up with this whole scheme was, predictably, Steve Stoute, who specializes in hooking up corporate America and "urban" America through terrible marketing partnerships. Although this is certainly the masterpiece of engineered selling-out of Stoute's career. Here's why this is important: It will be the first of many. It will usher in a new standard way of doing business. It will erode the public's expectation of what "music" is. In a few years, kids won't see any problem with the fact that all of their favorite songs are ads for one company or another. The very idea that music-pop music, anyhow-could be created purely for the sake of artistic expression will be antiquated. And who does it hurt? THE CHILDREN. This is insidious shit. Huge corporations are reaching out to children by buying up their favorite musicians in secret. As saddening as it is to see an artist you like do a regular commercial for some crappy product, its ten times sadder to see them spring it on you after their song has already become a hit. This is not about a naive belief that pop music is untainted by any commercial concerns. This is about the simple desire to be able to listen to any new music and be secure in the knowledge that it's not an undercover ad. They come for the bad pop music first. Then they come for the music that you like. You think that your favorite indie bands and underground rappers won't be subjected to this same tactic as soon as it proves successful? Ha. This is one tactic that just can't be justified. At least tell us we're being sold to, you shameless, soulless corporate apologists. Some people still believe that music is worth something by itself. Boycott Wrigley, please. [WSJ. You can contact Wrigley here.]