No one writes a cynical love song like Stephin Merritt. Maybe Stuart Murdoch, but Belle & Sebastian lyrics are often tempered by sincere, wistful qualities that the Magnetic Fields have stamped out in favor of absurdist humor, or an especially acerbic, 90's Seinfeld-era nihilism that seems informed by a combination of tentative hope and crushing disappointment. But it's a really boppy, snappy nihilism that some of us (OK, me) can mainline as others do Mountain Dew or heroin.
For those people (OK, again, me), 1999's triple album 69 Love Songs has a song for every kind of mood and stage of romance. It's a fantastic, inventive work that deserves every bit of praised heaped on it in the years since its release. Indeed, in its AllMusic review, Jason Ankeny wrote that, "despite its three-hour length, the music boasts the craftsmanship and economy that remain the hallmarks of classic American pop songwriting, a tradition Merritt upholds even as he subverts the formula in new and brilliant ways."
Among the highlights of the album is a little gem called "The Book of Love." You've undoubtedly heard it in some form at a wedding or in a movie or TV show (like the first Scrubs finale). Whether you prefer Stephin Merrit's quiet original, or the cover version wherein Peter Gabriel croaks out the lyrics over an orchestral arrangement, it is, at its core, a swooning declaration of love (But I, I love it when you read to me/And you, you can read me anything) and consumerism (I, I love it when you give me things/And you, you ought to give me wedding rings) that make it practically ideal for jewelry ads.
And be used in a jewelry ad it has… in a way. Its lyrics have been dumped and its melody plucked and attached to a the treacly ballad generically titled "You Mean The World To Me" by an artist named April McLean. It is this perhaps unintentional "adaptation" that takes center stage in Pandora Jewelry's commercial for their Mother's Day collection:
Before we proceed, I feel the need to state that I have absolutely no problem with selling out — in fact, I think it's a pretty great thing. Usually what it means is that an artist I like can make a decent living, and I get to listen to great songs in ads that air 28 times during my late-night Golden Girls binges.
But I must congratulate everyone involved with this commercial for managing to reproduce the most absolutely cynical song in the Magnetic Fields oeuvre (which is not an easy task)! It's music-by-committee, and I'm sure it works beautifully. All actual feeling and poignancy have been removed in favor of something that sounds like a little girl's music box. It's got the slightly glazed, robotic quality of that Kidz Bop cover of Kanye West's "Heartless", but at least that has some (hopefully unintentional) comedic value.
What are some songs you've seen butchered almost beyond recognition in an ad? Chime in in the comments.