John Mellencamp’s 21st studio album, “Freedom’s Road,” isn’t due out until next month. But his record label is already worrying that one song, “Our Country,” may be suffering from overexposure.
A pervasive ad campaign for Chevrolet’s Silverado sport-utility vehicle uses 60 seconds of the rootsy song as a backdrop for a montage of images including immigrants waving at the Statue of Liberty and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, meant to evoke nostalgia and American values. Other images in the spot recall rougher patches in the nation’s history, such as the Vietnam War and Watergate.
executives at Mr. Mellencamp’s label, Universal Republic Records, worry that with the ad saturating television broadcasts for nearly six months before the release of the new album, some fans could sour on the song. A commercial-length excerpt of a song may not allow listeners to appreciate its nuances. “Exposure is one of the most valuable assets there is these days,” says Universal Republic President Monte Lipman. “But when you hear the song in the context of a commercial, it doesn’t do it justice.”
Indeed, backlash may be setting in. The ads have already inspired at least one parody video on YouTube, substituting pictures from the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal, guys with beer guts and other unflattering aspects of America — with Mr. Mellencamp’s song in the background.
Mr. Mellencamp plans to record a short interview, designed to be delivered to radio stations across the country in early January. Among the topics the Q&A session is to address is the fact that Mr. Mellencamp wrote “Our Country” as just another of his songs — one he has been playing in concert for at least a year — not as a jingle.
Chevy spokesman Terry Rhadigan says executives at the auto maker rejected an even-harder-edged version of the ad that showed an atomic-bomb detonation.
Though the above meditation on “Our Country” has some funny moments (they finally managed to squeeze in that atomic bomb), I still prefer Pat Burke’s version.