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Choosing the right song for a TV Show, movie or ad campaign is an art form. You have to convey the right message and the right mood all while rocking your audience's face off.

However, getting it horribly wrong and picking the worst possible song is a much funnier art form. We're gonna focus on that second one.

9
GE Sings About Buying Your Soul

Song:

"Sixteen Tons" by Merle Travis

Used in:

Commercial for GE clean coal.

Why they thought it would be appropriate:

The ad was part of a campaign to make coal sexy again (remember when coal used to be sexy?) and involved underwear models dressed up as coal miners. So we guess they figured using a coal mining song with a slower tempo would give the ad a bit of dignity and distract people from the fact that their commercial is just the coal mining scene from Zoolander played straight.

Why it wasn't:

Take a closer look at the lyrics of the chorus:

You haul Sixteen Tons, whadaya get


Another day older and deeper in debt


Saint Peter don't call cause I can't go

I owe my soul to the company store

This is a classic example of someone breaking the Golden Rule of advertising: never imply that your product or service prevents people from getting into heaven.


Doomed to Hell.

Obviously on a rational level, we know that General Electric doesn't make coal miners sign over their souls, but they don't seem overly eager to distance themselves from the practice either. Probably just leaving their options open. Y'know, in case the unions start acting up again.

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8
No Matter What "Turning Japanese" Means, It's Offensive

Song:

"Turning Japanese" by The Vapors

Used in:

TV coverage of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea

Why they thought it would be appropriate:

Well, it's a song with Japan in it. Sure, a song with Japan and South Korea would be better, but nothing rhymes with Korea except diarrhea. And with Japan hosting one of the world's biggest sporting events, it's like we're all turning Japanese! It's the perfect song for showing how open the world is to Japanese culture, right?


She's actually a white girl from Texas.

Why it wasn't:

Well, no. Most people think "Turning Japanese" is about a man masturbating to pictures of his ex-girlfriend. The idea here is that the face you make when you masturbate is all squinty and slit eyed.


Just like Japanese people! Get it!?

The Vapors deny it, which is probably what we'd do if the entire world found out we were racists, perverts, and pathetic all at once. By the time 2002 rolled around, it didn't matter--the song was an Asian-mocking masturbation joke complete with a Japanese protest song called "Turning Hakujin" (Japanese for white person).

Plus, even without the racism, the lyrics are incredibly creepy. "I want a doctor to take your picture so I can look at you from inside"? What the fuck? Seems a little edgy for a soccer tournament, right? Although if that qualifies as a good match, we've got the perfect song for the next Jergens campaign.

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7
Ronald Reagan Doesn't Understand Irony

Song:

"Born in the U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen

Used in:

1984 Ronald Reagan campaign

Why they thought it would be appropriate:

Reagan was all about patriotism, and what's more patriotic than someone yelling the name of the country they were born in over and over? Plus, it got across the message that Reagan was born in the U.S.A. (where as his opponent, who knows?) and that he supports people who were also born in the U.S.A. (that's you, the voters!)

Why it wasn't:

Because every single verse is about how the US Government is one giant son of a bitch. You can see how Reagan could have been confused. The story it tells mimics his own life so closely. "Born down in a dead man's town" (born in Illinois). "The first kick I took is when I hit the ground" (became a movie star). "End up like a dog that's been beat too much" (ended up being the president of the most powerful nation in the world).


Bang Bang!

Yes, "Born in the USA" is a classic song about how "The Man" keeps you down. Reagan was running for his second term as "The Man." Appropriating the song as his own made him seem like that kid in grade school who'd try to deflect insults by pretending they were compliments ("If by assface you mean someone who's smarter than you, than yeah, I guess I am an assface, thanks").

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6
The Future's So Bright It Will Melt Your Fucking Eyeballs

Song:

"The Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)" by Timbuk3

Used in:

An impressively comprehensive list of late 80s and early 90s movies used the song to accompany optimistic scenes or montages: Kuffs, My Best Friend's a Vampire, Tommy Boy, The Allnighter.

Why they thought it would be appropriate:

It's got probably the most upbeat title ever. The only draw back of the future is that it's so fantastic, it's forcing you to wear shades and look cool.


"Can't talk right now, the future's too bright."

Why it wasn't:

According to the writer, the song is about how the 80s would inevitably end in nuclear holocaust. The future's bright because an atomic bomb's gone off. We don't know why they think wearing sunglasses will help.

To be fair to all those Hollywood soundtrack coordinators, it's easy to miss the hidden message.

Sure, there are a few hints in the video: they're in the desert, there's what looks like an atomic flash, there's, eh, a donkey with a TV on its back... frankly, it just never seemed like the kind of song we needed to pay attention to.


The future's so bright, I gotta put a TV on a donkey.

We don't like the precedent Timbuk3 are setting. Imagine if every cheesy 80s band decided to tell us the real meanings behind their songs. Sure, maybe "Hungry Like A Wolf" was actually about cannibalism in the Donner party and "Rock You Like A Hurricane" was about the devastation caused by Hurricane Gilbert, but we think we're happier not knowing.

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5
Complaining About Crass Commercialism Doesn't Prevent It

Song:

"Look What They've Done to my Song, Ma" by Melanie Safka

Used in:

Oatmeal Raisin Crisp Commercial

Why they thought it would be appropriate:

They wanted you to look at what they'd done to their oatmeal. The lyrics of the song were so close to matching up perfectly to the ad's message, they just needed a tiny adjustment. So they changed the chorus from "look what they've done to my song, ma" to "look what they've done to my oatmeal." Because "oatmeal" totally rhymes with "song, ma."

Why it wasn't:

1: "Oatmeal" doesn't rhyme with "song, ma."

2: The way the lyrics are phrased gives the impression that some shadowy government agency has taken General Mills oatmeal, put raisins in it against their will, and now they're trying to stir up public outrage.

3: They fucked up a song someone wrote about how people keep fucking up their songs. Either they were completely oblivious to irony, or they really had it in for Melanie Safka. People who make oatmeal aren't known for their sadistic sense of humor, but then people who make oatmeal aren't really known for anything, so maybe this is typical behavior for your average oatmeal baron.

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4
Really, Couldn't Poor Children Use a Little Heroin?

Song:

"Perfect Day" by Lou Reed

Used in:

Children in Need (CIN) Charity Single

Why they thought it would be appropriate:

Well, it wasn't originally a charity single, it was originally a corporate video promoting the BBC. But Bono sang on it. And since there's a whole generation that has grown up thinking "charity" is just a fancy word for "things Bono is involved in," the BBC figured they might as well cash in on the misconception and use it to pad the already bloated wallets of orphans.

Why it wasn't:

We can't say with complete certainty that "Perfect Day" is about heroin use, but Lou Reed only really wrote two types of songs: songs about heroin and songs about transvestites. And it's not about a transvestite.

To put this in perspective, at the CIN concert, the man who wrote "Heroin" and "Walk on the Wild Side" was followed by "Teletubbies Say Eh-Oh" by the Teletubbies.

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3
Creedence Protests War, Pantslessness

Song:

"Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clear Water Revival

Used in:

Wrangler Jeans ad

Why they thought it would be appropriate:

Wrangler is into its Americana, and "Fortunate Son's" got that great twangy, rock intro. And check out the patriotism of the opening lyrics:

Some folks are born

To wave the flag


Ooh, they're red, white and blue

If that doesn't make you wanna buy jeans, then you're some kind of Communist.


God Bless America.

Why it wasn't:

Those lyrics are immediately followed by:

And when the band plays hail to the chief


Ooh, they point the cannon at you, lord


It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no senators son, son

Honestly, it's not like there's this huge shortage of jingoistic rock songs and Wrangler had no choices. But instead, they did the corporate equivalent of Uwe Boll picking out the words he likes from a bad review and changing the context ("Born in the USA is a classic song about"..."Ronald Reagan"..."who's smarter than you").

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2
Punk Rock Florists

Song:

"Real Wild Child" by Iggy Pop

Used in:

Commercial for FTD Florists

Why they thought it would be appropriate:

God knows. They grow their flowers in the wild, maybe? The theme of the series of commercials was "be a hero," so ... no, we don't see it. What does being a hero have to do with flowers anyway? They were weird ads.

Why it wasn't:

When Jerry Lee Lewis said he was a real wild child, we believed him. He was a rock and roll pioneer, and was heavy into nailing chicks no matter how young or how much they were his cousin. When Iggy Pop said he was a real wild child, we really believed him.

The man goddamn invented stage diving, used to roll around in broken glass during concerts, and at one point tried to kill Elton John because he thought he was a gorilla. Seriously.

But florists? Florists are not wild children. Even if FTD delivered flowers on a Harley Davidson built from the bones of Jimi Hendrix and fueled by Kurt Cobain's ashes (which as far as we know, they don't) they still wouldn't be rock and roll enough to use that song in their ads.

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1
At Least They Didn't Change It To Major Neil

Song:

"Space Oddity" by David Bowie

Used in:

BBC coverage of the Moon landing

Why they thought it would be appropriate:

The song was a big hit at the time, it was about space, and the Steve Miller Band were still four years away from singing "some people call me a space cowboy," so it would have to do.

Why it wasn't:

Well, aside from the fact Bowie seems to have pulled all his knowledge about space travel out of his ass (astronauts are called commander, not major, and why is "Major" Tom taking protein pills before take off?) the problem comes in the lines near the end:

Ground control to Major Tom

 Your circuit's dead,

there's something wrong

Can you hear me, Major Tom?

It's very strongly implied that Major Tom gets stuck in space forever. And considering this was played during the moon landing, when they still had yet to get back, that's tempting fate to a crazy degree. You'd almost think England wanted something to go wrong. That's the shit international incidents are made of.

But of course, the Apollo Space program had their own issues with tempting fate. There's a reason hotels skip the 13th floor, guys.

For a remix of John McCain's concession speech that's actually more appropriate than the one he actually gave, check out today's video: If McCain’s Concession Speech Was As Bitter As His Campaign. Or, if you're tired of all this election bullshit, find out about The 5 Biggest News Stories You Missed During Election Season. Or if you need to get yourself amped before the next Slayer concert, may we recommend 6 National Anthems That Will Make You Tremble With Fear?

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