The underhand world of the soundalike is no place Danny Canter enjoys.


It’s no more a revelation that sex sells than it is that sex sells harder and faster with a soundtrack keeping time. Those old Levis adverts – they wouldn’t have worked with the sound off, would they? And so popular music and advertising have been going at it forever. Today they’re banging so furiously that neither the product nor the music needs to be as playfully steamy as 1985’s Marvin Gaye/Launderette ad for shrink-to-fit 501s, or Wrigley’s Greyhound bus commercial of the ’90s, where two frighteningly good looking travellers share a stick of gum to Free’s ‘Alright Now’ and then definitely have sex well into the following two adverts of the break. All commercials, from Morrison’s to Mastercard, feature songs we know, and most of us have come to accept that musicians need to get paid and the ad people are the only ones left with money in the bank.

Britain’s most gluttonous ice cream, Magnum Infinity, has the sex down. Their current television ad features a troupe of fit office girls clambering around one lucky bitch deep-throating a wang-sized chocolate lolly that comes out the size it went in. Magnum Infinity – clever. They’ve got a tune too. Yeah, I know that song, it’s – oddly – ‘Gay Bar’ by Electric Six. Only it’s not at all – it’s a song that sounds a hell of a lot like ‘Gay Bar’ by Electric Six. It’s certainly close enough to have you singing ‘Gay Bar’ to yourself shortly afterwards, and these sound-alikes – these opportunistic, underhand compositions written by company lawyers to make sure that just enough notes from the originals are nudged out of line to avoid a suing – they are the worst!

You might struggle to feel any sympathy for Coldplay, but they seem to be repeat victims, as their songs are twisted ever so slightly by companies that couldn’t afford the asking price or – much more likely – couldn’t get permission to use the real version of ‘Life In Technicolor’. I first noticed it when a hooky rendition of ‘Warning’ by Green Day (a truly terrible song in any case) was selling shampoo in 2000. Muse’s gnarly take on Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ was once used without their permission. The perpetrators just re-recorded it, the Muse way. It wasn’t their song, but they had made it into something else, and now someone had copied it so well that most people thought the band had sold out, before we were all ok with it.

It’s not (just) about the money, though. Certainly not for the Coldplays and Muses. It’s about forced association, a pretty dirty lack of respect and, without the risk of sounding melodramatic, theft. And bands are getting a bum deal. It’s not as if you could promote, I don’t know, a sex dungeon with a slightly altered image of Ronald Macdonald, is it? And not just because no one would come.

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