Last night I was shocked to see that Subaru was using The Pogues’ “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” in a commercial revolving around a mother driving her kids to pee-wee hockey. In an age where record sales are declining, it’s somewhat understandable that artists would give away their rights to commercials such as these, but as fan it does take away from the integrity of the specific song. “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” at least musically has a celebratory tone (as do a lot of Pogues songs) but the title alone would at least give an indication of what the song is about. “If I should fall from grace with God, where no doctor can relieve me,” Shane MacGowan growls through the first line. “If I’m buried beneath the sod, but the angels won’t receive me.” This is the song of a man owning up to his demons, admitting that perhaps he is damned after all, and seeming content with that. The Pogues’ lyrics have more in common with The Wire’s Jimmy McNulty driving wasted and wrecking his car underneath a Baltimore over-pass then a suburban mother driving her kids to hockey practice.
It’s kind of a moot argument to cry foul and accuse artists of “selling out” when lending their songs to commercials. I just have a problem with the context in which many of these songs are used. I recently went to the Notre Dame/Navy game last weekend, and I was surprised that Navy actually came out to the field to Rage Against the Machine’s “Testify” – a song that criticizes mass media, Big Oil, and makes numerous references to George Orwell’s 1984. Rage’s music is bombastic and can get a crowd moving, but did anyone involved in the sound for Navy think about the meaning behind the song?