The 6 Most Inappropriate Song Choices in Advertising

#3. Hewlett Packard Wants You to Take Pictures to Cure Your Suicidal Depression

Cereales Killer/Wikimedia

The Commercial:

The theme of this 2003 commercial for Hewlett Packard was "living in pictures." Naturally, HP wanted a photography-themed song to accompany their touching montage. You know, something upbeat and perky, with a positive message and a catchy melody. So they chose the Cure's "Pictures of You."

Hey, one out of four ain't bad.

How Inappropriate!

The song, far from being an ode to "seeing photos everywhere you look," is about the inability to let go of the past, doing nothing but sitting around all day and staring wistfully at pictures of better times instead of, you know, living.

I've been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they're real
I've been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel.

Like two minutes after writing that verse, you know Robert Smith started cutting himself just to see if he could still feel pain. We would love to pop out of a time-traveling phone booth right at that moment and show young, heartbroken Smith this commercial, 20 years in the future, that uses his statement of anguish and ennui to hock digital cameras to happy families. He would probably discover an entirely new form of crying. We would stick around to make sure he didn't kill himself -- we're not monsters.

Plus, we'd want to help him name it. Something between "irony" and "anguish." Anguiny?

#2. John Mellencamp Is Disappointed in America; America Does Not Realize This

Dustin Finkelstein/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty 

The Commercial:

Chevrolet trucks are all-American, and they want to make damn sure you know it. Here's a commercial laying it on pretty thick, with down-home American values preached alongside images of proud American archetypes. And all of it is set to the blue collar tunes of John Mellencamp, because that's the musician you get when you want to say "American values" and Springsteen is asking for too much money.

How Inappropriate!

On the surface, "Our Country" is a catchy bit of radio fluff that mentions America, automatically making it audio apple pie. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll hear a sad tale of a guy disappointed in his country as it continually fails to live up to its own ideals.

Mellencamp laments that bigotry and greed are still things, and declares that this country belongs to all of us, not just the mainstream white man. In his own words, Mellencamp says the song is a plea to end the "culture wars" and try to be more "inclusive." None of this mattered to the truck people, though, who just wanted something rife with bald eagles for their commercials. Mellencamp pleaded:

That poverty could be just another ugly thing
And bigotry would be seen only as obscene
And the ones that run this land help the poor and common man

And later:

Well there's room enough here for science to live
And there's room enough here for religion to forgive

And the photogenic white guys Chevy paid to haul hay in between downs on NFL Sunday -- the exact same guys he's nailing to the wall -- gave a collective shrug and posed in front of a broken fence at sunset.

Then again, we did have less poverty and bigotry back in cowboy days.

Then, a couple of years later, it happened again. John McCain used Mellencamp's 1983 hit "Pink Houses," a scathing putdown of all things Reaganomics, during his 2008 Republican presidential campaign. Mellencamp promptly reminded McCain that the lyric "Ain't that America, home of the free" was meant to be sarcastic, so he might want to reconsider his song choice, unless he wanted to look like some sort of out-of-touch rich white guy trying to capitalize on Americana for his own personal gain.

#1. Kanye West Isn't for Sale, Unless Motorola Has a New Phone Coming Out


The Commercial:

Recently, Motorola developed the amazing, mind-blowing, ground-breaking concept of customizing the colors of your phone. Clearly, a commercial was needed for such a ground-breaking leap forward in technology. For the score, Motorola hired Kanye West, who strangely had declared that he was "not for sale" on a Saturday Night Live performance.

How Inappropriate!

It's one thing for Kanye West to hock cellphones -- the audience suffered ocular trauma from how hard they rolled their eyes at his "not for sale" announcement. It's quite another to use one of his angriest, most racially charged songs to do it.

"Black Skinhead," as one might surmise from the title, isn't exactly a cuddlefest full of nuzzlebunnies.

A sample:

Middle America packed in, came to see me in my black skin
Number one question they asking, fuck every question you asking
If I don't get ran out by Catholics, here come some conservative Baptists
Claiming I'm overreacting like them black kids in Chiraq bitch

And all the while angry dogs snarled and snapped in the background, presumably representing the vicious media tearing Kanye apart for the sport of it. Or maybe they just represented a bunch of pissed-off dogs that somehow got into the studio. That's Kanye's secret to know.

Def Jam Recordings
The video offers no clues. Someone forgot to switch the lights on.

Obviously, Motorola chose to erase every single word Kanye sang, keeping only the badass opening riff. Also, they replaced the vicious dogs with an adorable puppy wearing a tracksuit and goofy novelty glasses. (Aw, look -- he thinks he's Kanye!) The whole thing is like a systematic, extremely patronizing takedown of Kanye's righteous fury. "Listen to the little dog bark! He's so cute! We'll call him Mr. Muzzlepouch and put a wittle hat on him for his birthday!"

Although maybe there was a point to it all. Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the moment where Kanye realizes the dangers of consumerism mixing with art and decides to take his craft in a new direction.

A counterpoint: Kanye West's $120 plain white T-shirt, still on sale.

Amanda makes a lot of inappropriate choices on her Twitter and blog. Evan V. Symon is a moderator in the Cracked Workshop. When he isn't trying to find a commercial that uses the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" as a song choice, you can find him on Facebook. Be sure to bookshelf and vote for his new book, The End of the Line.

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As 2013 draws to a close, be sure to check out Cracked's year in review because, well, we know you don't remember it half as well as you think.

Related Reading: Speaking of inappropriate song choices, here's GE threatening to steal your soul. And have you ever wanted to hear a brain damaged Bon Jovi cover the Beatles? We've got you covered. And while we're at it, here's some songs you didn't know were about rape.

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