Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Outbreak Of Balladular Cover Versions In Ads (And Why It Must Be Stopped)

This time two years ago the seeds of a poisonous metaphorical weed were sown when John Lewis released a Christmas advert soundtracked by an acoustic cover of 'Sweet Child O Mine'. In April last year they repeated the trick with their 'Always A Woman' advert, backed by Fyfe Dangerfield's cover of 'She's Always A Woman' and thousands of gushing op-eds talking of how beautiful it was, representing the life of etc etc etc. The cover itself became a Top 10 hit, and John Lewis knew for sure that they were on to something. For their 2010 Christmas campaign they commissioned an utterly perfunctory and unbelievably limp Ellie Goulding cover of 'Your Song', which was an even bigger hit.

Subsequently, other companies have attempted the same thing. And this is not good.

Among the primary offenders have been Charlene Soraia's musical pablum 'Wherever You Will Go' (for Twinings), Templecloud's 'One Big Family' (which, clumsily, gave the KFC ad it featured in incestuous overtones) and now, from this years Matalan Christmas ad, Cinnamon Girl's 'Set You Free'. Yes. They really have turned N-Trance's 'Set You Free' into a piano ballad.

It's emblematic of The Adele Effect. Put anything over sparse piano and it's instantly Real, Meaningful, and, this year at least, likely to be successful. (All of this was covered much more adeptly by Peter Robinson in The Guardian recently.)

But this latest one is the straw that broke the donkey's back. The ad men are making this technique a pastiche of itself. 'She's Always A Woman' and 'Your Song' were ballads to begin with; 'Set You Free' is not meant to be Sophie Habibised; ever performed in that fashion. It doesn't 'show another side' to it, it's not 'clever', it's just pallid mulch that will only serve to further dull the charts.

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