Commercial Casualties.

Remember the baseball player Joseph “Shoeless Joe” Jackson? He was tried and acquitted for fixing the 1919 World Series. Still doesn’t ring a bell?

How about this: Baseball lore has it that when Joe was leaving from one of his trial dates a scruffy heartbroken young fan tugged at his coat and spouted this infamous line:

“Say it ain’t so, Joe…”

Joe had no response. My point? Sometimes we believe in an artist, their music, their messages and what they stand for. We embrace their struggle to exist in “the corporate machine” without being a part of “the corporate machine”. Then there comes a time when that beloved artist shows flashes of assimilation and words like “sellout” & “traitor” become the adjectives of choice.

I was watching television some time last month and a commercial for Vitamin Water came on, I proceeded to undergo my usual zone-out where I think of much more important things than the product being forced upon me but something broke my trance, the song towards the end was KiD CuDi’s “Pursuit of Happiness”.

With that, I’d like to list some “Say it ain’t so, Joe” moments. Moments where your favorite, or at least likeable, indie/”grassroot” artist “sold out”.

i. The Doors: “Light My Fire”

Light My Fire is one of The Doors most popular songs. So popular that Buick wanted to use the song, and phrase, for the campaign of their new Buick Opel GT.  Instead of  Morrison‘s usual love call:

“Come on baby, Light my fire…”

The lyrics were changed by Buick to say:

“Come on Buick, Light my fire…”

Morrison, who was still in London after the band’s European tour had just ended, was not present at the time when the group agree to sell Buick the rights to “Light My Fire”. When Morrison returned to the states he found out about the deal and became enraged. He quickly killed the deal, threatening to “smash an Opel with a sledgehammer on television should the (presumably ready) commercial be aired.”

It was said to be a turning point in the band’s career where Jim began to lose faith in the band because of their eagerness to sell out for a “quick buck”.


ii. Santigold: “Lights Out”

The eclectic Santigold. I was first introduced to Santigold’s music during a summer barbeque down in L.E.S. in 2008. For me, her music represented an experience I was going through. The area that I was interning in had a began to have a profound effect on me. I was beginning to absorb new cultures, ideas and people. The pragmatic drag of midtown and one track culture of the Bronx misled me to think that there was nothing more to life than work and kicking it on the block; abstract self expression was an after thought and more than likely frowned upon.

Santigold’s music, among other things, show me a new freedom. It spoke to our generation. There was an exclusiveness about it. So imagine my dismay when I’m watching television one day and a Bud Light Lime commercial comes on sporting Santigold’s Lights Out” & Creator as its theme music.


Creator“, along with “Lights Out”, has appeared in commercials for Bud Light Lime in the United States, and VO5 hair products in the United Kingdom. Similarly, “You’ll Find A Way” was featured in the EA Sports video game, FIFA 08, with “L.E.S. Artistes” featured in some versions of its sister game NHL 08 and “Creator” featured in NBA 08. Her songs can also be heard in commercials for the Ford Flex. Her song “Say Aha” was featured in a Zune-Arts video.


iii. Green Day: American Idiot

Green Day, the prodigal son of punk. Many grassroot fans have casted the band off as sellouts since Dookie. Personally, not being a grassroot fan, I always found them dope. I had always admired them from a far for years, air guitaring to Minority and getting all emo to Good Riddance (Time Your Life). But when I discovered their punk rock opera American Idiot had been adapted to Broadway I cringed in disbelieve.


I now knew what those early fans felt. I recently started listening to early punk and from that I was able to gain a better understand of why fans considered Dookie to be their sellout point. That understanding then gave birth to an iota doubt. I somewhat discredited their artistic integrity yet had nothing but utmost respect for their musical evolution. They were still good in my book.

Until this…


iv. The Kooks: “Shine On”

The Kooks. Indie rock‘s 50 Cent. I say this because of their feud with other bands, most notably Arctic Monkeys and Razorlight. But I digress, I first discovered the Kooks while foraging for new music late last summer. First forming in 2003, they were still relatively new… especially to me. I particularly took to their song Shine On. I can recall singing the song to myself for about 2 weeks straight in August. Then I saw a commercial for Michelob fruit beer…


Now I’m not naive. The Kooks aren’t exactly an underground garage band, they’ve had their radio success. But this Michelob ad still stung.


v. KiD CuDi: “Pursuit of Happiness”

And now for the grand finale, the great Scott Mescudi. CuDi spoke for all the lonely stoners who freed their minds at night. Those individuals in high school who, despite not being the coolest kids in school at the current time, were the future of “cool”. He was the budding hero for loners, stoners, geeks & nerds alike. But like all of our heroes, cultural vampires flocked to feast upon him.

Enter stage left: Vitamin Water.



The “Pursuit of Happiness” was supposed to be an anthem for adolescents (Both Pre, Post & in between) who were lost in life. Who felt pressured by the woes of their emotions and society. In this song, we found solace and a sense of direction. Sadly, that direction now point towards Vitamin Water.

Hate Disclaimer:

I am all for respecting one’s hustle. I just ask that, in the search for the almighty dollar, he or she does not lose their soul. I am aware of the proverbial rape that occurs in the music industry and what we call “selling out” may actually be an artist’s attempt to ensure their own financial stability when their music isn’t “cool” enough for us more. After all, the joneses can be cruel.