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Bring Back Jingles, Or At Least Give Us Some Better Song Placement

Anthony Dean-Harris
anthony.deanharris[at]nextbop[dot]com / @retronius

As I get dressed in the mornings, I usually turn on Bravo to watch old episodes of The West Wing. The other morning, as I was ironing my pants, a commercial came on for PillowPets.

I then realized this is the best we have to offer today when it comes to jingles. You remember jingles, right? They were pretty huge in commercials of old and [there was that time back in the 90s when they were still going pretty strong] (I’m seriously dating myself by linking to something I wrote years ago when I maintained a blog on Myspace). Essentially, I’m saying if the best we can do right now in commercials is “It’s a pillow. It’s a pet. It’s a Pillow Pet!” we can certainly give jazz a shoehorn into this field.

This isn’t to say we haven’t been trying. We’ve noted how [Wynton Marsalis gave it a shot]. But there’s a real lack here, for where this genre, with selections new and old, can sell products. We can’t let indie rock keep all this loot.

Can you imagine Kurt Rosenwinkel taking a break between guitar licks to mention how much he loves Uncle Ben’s Rice? Can Brad Mehldau’s Highway Rider effectively sell Cadillacs? Would it be too farfetched to have Dyson vacuums suck up Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay” from your carpets? The possibilities are endless.

In this era in which we’re constantly asking where the line should be drawn between art and commerce, is it really that bad to sell out just a little? Putting an artist up front for some attention (and hopefully increased record & ticket sales) can’t be that bad, even if one must shill some other products for a while.

It’s been said television is the new radio. Folks are just as choosy about what plays in the middle of television shows and commercials. A good song in a great spot can do wonders for an artist. It’s just as relevant that Nick Drake was used for AT&T’s recent commercials as it was for [Medeski, Martin and Wood] to have a song play in the first season of Grey’s Anatomy.

Not only would a return of jingles help jazz get itself out to the general public more, but who really hasn’t been feigning for a good jingle in a while? This could be the genre that single-handedly brings back a heralded mantelpiece of advertising. Jazz could be more reminiscent of Mad Men than ever before (on top of a few Miles tunes showing up on the show here and there already). Plus, this could be yet another revenue stream for jazz musicians. It’s not like albums have been flying off the shelves lately.

Of course, there are those who may say that a music so complex may not be conducive to commercial-sized sound bites. I say if Grizzly Bear can do it, so can the Claudia Quintet. Some may call it selling out. I say, damn right! As long as integrity isn’t lost, an artist should have to right to sell his or her own work. This is a situation where you do what you have to in order to do what you’d want to. Jazz musicians have been doing [that sort of thing] for some time now.

Anthony Dean-Harris is a contributing writer for [African-American Reflections] and hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on [91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio]. More of his writing can be found at his blog, [In Retrospect] and you can also [follow him on Twitter].