Arts, Culture & Media

Global Hit

Last Friday, The World's Alex Gallafent played for us some examples of Olympic music. That as you may recall is Damon Albarn of the British band Blur. He co-wrote the theme for the BBC's Beijing Olympics coverage. There are other ways by which music gets the Olympic spotlight. Here's The World's Marco Werman to explain.

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Commercials.

Since last Friday when I started my Olympic TV diet, the music from ads on NBC have been catching my ear. This one for McDonald's is especially cool.

That's the 1960s psychedelic Brazilian band Os Mutantes, the Mutants. Along with Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes were on the front line of the Tropicalismo musical movement in Brazil.

In the McDonald's spot, the Os Mutantes song "A Minha Menina" plays while kids in a youth soccer league seem distraught after losing a match.

Their parents then show up with Happy Meals, and their sadness and shame suddenly lift like a veil. In recent years, Os Mutantes have been name-checked by musical hipsters, from Beck to David Byrne.

So it's a little weird to have a Fortune 500 company introducing the rest of the world to this Brazilian psych rock trio. The blogosphere has been bloated for several weeks already. The music website stereogum has been hosting some heated debate.

Writes one woman: This is ridiculous that such an amazing band in the radical movement of Tropicalismo is supporting such consumerism! Os Mutantes were one of the artists that tried to drive more and more people to be socially aware of political activism...right?

Well, not exactly, explains another blogger.

Os Mutantes have done plugs before.

That's a commercial from the early 60s seen only in Brazil. It's Os Mutantes shilling for Shell, the petroleum company. The ad's in black and white.

Lead singer Rita Lee is a genie sitting next to a gas pump in the desert. Her two bandmates run to her, but...it's all a mirage. Imagine the Beatles in Hard Day's Night, but selling gas.

Some critics are slamming Os Mutantes for selling out...then and now.

But as another writer at Stereogum opines:

"How else are these bands going to make money? You damn kids are getting your music for free and gas prices are making nationwide tours into three city ventures!

Commercials are the new record labels."

Which leads me to ask, what is radio for?

It's the place where you can hear about the cool music in the commercials, of course.

For The World, I'm Marco Werman.

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