On Monday, Red Stripe premiered a new ad for its delicious, delicious beer. The video clip features the Red Stripe Ambassador -- shades of the Old Spice smooth-talker, perhaps? -- dancing to a Stephen Marley-produced, reggae cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's '80s synthpop hit "Relax." While Red Stripe surely meant to play up the surface meaning of the song (after all, the beer's mission, as listed on its Facebook page, is "Happiness! For everyone! Just follow my advice and you, too, can be as happy as I am!"), the song itself isn't exactly considered G-rated.
Although the song's double entendres seem rather tame today, it caused a furor in the U.K. after being released in late 1983. BBC Radio and Top of the Pops banned it because its lyrics were deemed to be offensive -- readings of the tune range from bawdy to bawdiest, even though vocalist Holly Johnson and producer Trevor Horn resist definitive interpretations. A graphic music video for the song, which took place in an S&M-themed gay nightclub, didn't help sway public opinion to the contrary. Still, the song was a huge chart hit for most of 1984.
But while controversy surrounding the song has dulled over time, its obscene reputation still lingers: In the Red Stripe commercial, the lyrics "Relax, don't do it/ When you want to come" has changed to "Relax, don't do it /When you want to go." And despite being reimagined using jaunty horns and brisk beats, it's still rather head-scratching to hear it used to shill for beer. Here are eight more bizarre songs used to sell products. Hat tip to Robin Wheeler for the help.
Iggy Pop, "Lust for Life," Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines No video, since YouTube takes down the song because of copyright, but perhaps the most infamous (egregious?) use of a cool song in a commercial is Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Taken at face value, the song's thirst for frivolity does fit the cruise mentality-- but really, we'd rather see Iggy writhing around on the deck throwing chairs off the ship.
The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?" for NissanI'm sure avowed vegan/animal-rights activist Morrissey was thrilled with the "45 square feet of leather" note in the commercial.
The Human League, "Don't You Want Me," for Chips AhoyPretty sure this rather-feminist synthpop classic -- featuring a creepy, controlling male protagonist who's pissed the cocktail waitress of his affection has rejected him -- was never meant to be matched to animated chocolate chip cookies in a convertible. All singing the song in a very, very off-key manner. "I Melt With You" for Burger King, Hershey's and Vick's Sinex This is the advertising champion: In the late '90s, a new generation of fans discovered Modern English, because its "I Melt With You" was used in a Burger King commercial for the double cheeseburger. (Of course.) In 2008, Hershey's jazzed it up for an ad (seen above) and a year before that, Vicks used Nouvelle Vague's version of the song in an ad.
Madness, "Baggy Trousers" for Colgate:Posted before, but never gets old. All together now, in your best accent: "Blue minty gel!"
Michael Sembello, "Maniac," for Blockbuster:Sure, why not have an animated guinea pig and rabbit dancing to one of the biggest soundtrack hits of the '80s -- for a video-rental chain. What, are they a maniac for minimal late fees? New Order, "Blue Monday" (rewrite) for Sunkist As legend has it, New Order earned $200,000 to futz with the lyrics to mega-hit "Blue Monday" for Sunkist. (H/T Slicing Up Eyeballs)
The Cure, "Pictures of You" for HP Digital PhotographyWhen Robert Smith wailed that all he had left were "pictures of you" on 1989's Disintegration, he probably wasn't looking at crisp digital photos from HP.