This week’s collection of feel-good jams highlights then-unknown songs that Apple launched into success by featuring them in commercials. Each song evokes a slightly different set of feelings, but all of them take me back to happy times during my childhood when I didn’t have to worry about things like quarantine or taxes. I happen to love every single one of these songs, and I hope you love reading about them.
Tip: Click on the song titles to listen to these one-hit wonders in all their glory!
- “1234” by Feist (2007, Billboard #8) I never wanted an iPod nano, but I most definitely wanted my own version of Feist’s sequined royal blue jumpsuit. She proved her potential as a solo artist rather than one of many Broken Social Scene members in this instant classic, which builds from an understated acoustic love song to a grandiose horn-filled ode to growing up and learning from mistakes. Feist capitalized further off this song’s success by partnering with Sesame Street to teach the youth how to count. Their collaboration has an astounding 595 million views on YouTube. This version has taken on a life of its own, and Feist’s fanbase now encompasses sweater-clad Canadian hipsters and young proficient counters in equal measures. I was immediately entranced by Feist’s retro-cool persona and low sultry voice, and I highly recommend “My Moon My Man” and Broken Social Scene’s “Almost Crimes” for those who are also dying for more of her! If you’re into funky time signatures, “7/4 Shoreline” is another great BSS song prominently featuring her vocals.
- “New Soul” by Yael Naim (2008, Billboard #7): This lovely folk song accompanied a relatively boring 2008 MacBook Air ad showcasing how thin the product was by placing it in a tiny envelope. In my humble opinion, this commerical doesn’t do the song justice. If you haven’t seen the music video, it’s a treasure that is both adorable and substantial. It also expresses the lyrical content of the song beautifully. “New Soul” is about embracing the trials and tribulations of life and not letting fear or dejection limit oneself. The video shows Naim’s transition from a confined solitary apartment to a wide open lake. Her only initial company is a goldfish in a tiny bowl. By the end of the video, friends surround her and she releases her goldfish into the lake where it can be free. As a homebody who lives with a lot of fear of the unknown, this song inspires me to embrace my flaws and missteps so that I can live life to its fullest extent. Unfortunately, I don’t think that an envelope and a skinny laptop encompass that kind of meaning.
- “Tongue-Tied” by Grouplove (2011, Billboard #42): I can’t think of any other song that personifies the feeling of uninhibited celebration the way this one does. Apple caught on to the feelings “Tongue-Tied” elicits when they ended the commercial with the tagline “share the fun.” The act of sharing is important, as this is by far the least solitary Apple commercial I’ve seen. Instead of emphasizing the individual consumer’s relationship with the iPod touch, Apple instead highlights the ability to communicate and play games with loved ones. The lyrics aren’t exactly groundbreaking, but they do paint the story of an endless night of partying featuring pillow fights, drugs, and makeout sessions. The song’s value is not in its substance, but in the way it rouses feelings of joy and friendship in everyone who has the pleasure of listening. After all, the first lyric of the song is a crowd of people joyously screaming and wooing.
BONUS: I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony) by the Hillside Singers (1972, Billboard #13): Okay, so this isn’t an Apple ad. But it’s one of the most iconic commercials of all time, and I’d be remiss if I failed to mention it while discussing songs’ journeys from advertisements to chart-toppers. My mom was 8-years-old when this ad aired, and it was still the first thing that came to her mind when I told her I was writing about commercials. In a time when the Vietnam War created great division and discontent in our country, this sunshiney ad featured a microcosm of the world by displaying young people of all ethnicities and nationalities singing in unison about their collective wish to share the world, to spread peace and love, and (of course) to bond over a bottle of coke. The result is one of the world’s most beloved commercials. Its cultural relevance is eternal, and it even served as the final shot of the successful advertising-focused television series Mad Men.
Do you love any songs associated with commercials or advertising? Capitalism is a hell of a drug, and sometimes the result is a euphoric song that we can all get behind… even when we know we’re being sold something!