For the record, I love music, lots of different artists and musical styles: Bob Dylan to Aerosmith, Otis Redding to Elvis, Montgomery Gentry to Santana, Climax Blues Band to Bill Withers, Jack Johnson to Jamey Johnson, Michael Jackson to Alan Jackson, James Taylor to Taylor Swift, Pink Floyd to Wallflowers, Pat Benatar to Pat Green, Glen Campbell to Stevie Wonder, Beatles to Terri Clark, Cat Stevens to B52’s, Cranberries to Trace Adkins, Eagles to Nickelback, Supertramp to Troggs, Dido to Donovan, Huey Lewis to Heidi Newfield, Madonna to Boz Scaggs, The Who to Keith Urban, Kellie Pickler to U2, War to Bangles, Lorie Line to Bob Seger, Frank Sinatra to Spyro Gyra, Men at Work to Fourplay, Rolling Stones to Tracy Chapman, Enya to Ray Charles, Police to Queen, Bee Gees to Kenny G, Sade to Steely Dan, Sugarland to Sugarloaf, Barry White to Howard Jones, George Michael to Counting Crows, among many, many, many others, and even Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major, by almost any orchestra.
OK, for any armchair musical psychiatrists out there, keep your thoughts to yourself, to the extent you can discern any common thread through each and every one of the above artists (besides my personal appreciation for each). Recognizing musical taste is a rather personal thing, I simply like to think "I know it when I hear it," it’s kind of like my auditory version of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous visual test of obscenity, where he asserted "I know it when I see it."
Anyway, several years ago no country singers would have made the list above. In fact, I used to say that country was the only kind of music I couldn’t enjoy, and I grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, smack dab in the middle of the heartland, of all places. Nowadays, rap and hip hop are probably the musical genres I can’t seem to appreciate, unless the tune has a little twang or some y’all to it, e.g., Colt Ford style. One of the things that has drawn me to enjoying country music in recent years is the richness of multiple relevant brand mentions by so many different artists within the genre. Obviously, there is more too it than that for me, since I haven’t been able to embrace hip hop, a genre with clearly way over-the-top brand references.
Now, being a trademark type, it didn’t go unnoticed by me that much earlier artists in other genres have included brand mentions in their music lyrics from time to time (e.g., Elton John’s "Chevy" reference in "Crocodile Rock"; Don Henly’s "Wayfarers" reference in "Boys of Summer"; The Beatles’ "Coca-Cola" reference in "Come Together"; The Beach Boys’ "T-Bird" reference in "Fun, Fun, Fun"; and Jim Croce’s "Continental" and "El Dorado" references in "Bad Bad Leroy Brown"), so the idea of including brands within music lyrics is not new and may not even have originated in the country music genre, but it seems to me that the writers and artists in Nashville have cranked the brand mentions up a couple of notches in recent years, to my great pleasure and enjoyment (assuming these brand mentions aren’t paid placements).
Take, for example, the lyrics for Eric Church’s "Love Your Love the Most," with a total of six brand references: three in one verse, and two in one line (Faulkner, Redman, Nascar, George Strait, Jack D, and Coke). By the way, do you think it is safe to assume that Mr. Church’s "Jack D" reference is to Jack Daniels, and not some other lesser known "Jack D" whiskey like Jack Davis, or perhaps some obscure reference to Jack’d Up Java?
Seriously, examples of other country music artists employing multiple brand mentions in song lyrics include Jason Michael Carroll’s three brand mentions in "Where I’m From" (Armani, Ford, and indirectly John Deere (green tractor reference), Craig Morgan’s three brand mentions in "International Harvester" (International Harvester, 4-H, and FFA), Rodney Atkins’ three brand mentions in "Watching You" (Happy Meal, Scooby-Doo, and Superman), and Craig Morgan’s six brand mentions in "Redneck Yacht Club" (Johnson, Mercury, Evinrude, Astroturf, Bass Tracker, and Bayliner).
What does all this mean for trademark types, marketers, and brand owners? You’ll have to stay tuned for Part II in this series on Brand Mentions in Music Lyrics.
In the meantime, any thoughts on what song contains the most different brand references, can you top six?