Way back I found a song that was condemning teachers being used in an advertisement promoting teachers. I could have sworn I wrote about it but either WordPress ate it, I have a hacker, or I’m still jumping dimensions. Ron Howard’s still President, right? Anyway tonight’s offering isn’t quite that bad but it still feels like nobody listened to the song when AirBNB put out this commercial.
It’s a sweet little ad, in which a yeti family enjoys a vacation home before showing us it’s a human family, sending the message that, as it says at the end of the ad, strangers aren’t that strange. Not sure I want them living in my house, but that’s what rental homes are for.
The song is Kevin Morby’s “Beautiful Strangers”, a single released in 2016 and while still a calming song, hence why they chose it, once you find out what it’s about the topic is not so sweet. It’s about mass shootings. Enjoy playing Jenga to that knowing the history.
According to genius.com the song in general is a response to various shootings around the world. Granted, Genius even notes that they may not all be confirmed but contributors do sometimes quote Morby himself, some are reviewed, and one has two contributors to it. Clicking parts of the lyrics will bring up information about those lyrics in a little sidebar. The inciting incident for the song according to the contributors include a series of terrorist attacks in Paris, France in 2015, oddily ignoring the victims was the satirist magazine Charlie Hedbo at the hands of a militant Islamist group and just mentioning general terrorist attacks. Morby had just had a breakup but didn’t think a love song was the right thing to do after that and went with a song commenting on the issue of mass shootings.
“Forty-Nine dead” possibly refers to the shootings at gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida in 2016 by a man pledging support to ISIS–the terror group, not the 1970s TV superhero. If he supported her he wouldn’t have done this. Then again, he was nuts. Most sane people don’t go shooting up nightclubs and pledging allegiance to terror groups. As this is the year the song came out I imagine this was also fresh on his mind.
Lest you think this is all about Islamic terror however, Morby refers to Freddie Gray by name. Genius.com contributors pointed to Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr, a black man arrested by police for carrying a concealed weapon. Gray was a victim of lead poisoning as a kid and was apparently well liked but he was also a minor drug dealer with a history of past arrests, including this one. Though he did try to find work according to the linked to article his history made him a poor choice to the places he went, who didn’t want to take a chance, same old story. Gray died from spinal injuries on the way to the hospital. The Genius.com post on this, and this article they linked to, wasn’t clear on what actually caused the injuries, though it mentions a debate on whether or not the officers, suspended with pay pending the investigation, used excessive force. I do not know if the officers were punished or vindicated by the investigation. I guess it didn’t get the play George Floyd’s murder did but Morby did find out about it and added it to the song. Either way it seems out of place in a song focusing on mass shootings and the event took place in 2015 so it wouldn’t be as fresh as the Pulse nightclub shooting and wasn’t as newsworthy as the Charlie Hedbo attack.
Advertisers choose these songs so they don’t have to pay more for an original song. Licensing is easier and cheaper, and there’s a hope that when you hear the song on the radio or streaming that you’ll think of their product or service and it will be fresher in the mind the next time you need or want to buy something. However, while the bits they chose may match the imagery they were going for, if you know what the actual song is, like that teacher protest song from the 1960s being used in a pro-teacher campaign in the 2000s, it feels weird to have a song with that topic being used in an unrelated ad campaign. I’m not condemning anything, this is usually just trivia, but it is interesting how songs are chosen for these things.