September 22, 2009

Death to "Mr. Blue Sky"

Ricky Gervais is brilliant, and there's sweet promise around a new movie written and directed by him, The Invention of Lying. As part of advance PR for the movie, Gervais presents at the Emmy Awards and kills it, then it cuts to a commercial break which features an ad for his new movie. Sweet!

But sweet quickly turned sour, and I moaned and writhed on the couch during the entire ad because "Mr. Blue Sky" played over the entire advertisement. ANOTHER MOVIE USING THIS SONG?! I swear they're out to get me, and someone must pay for this unceasing lack of imagination and reatrded marketing.

I remember the "Mr. Blue Sky" plague beginning in 2004, with the release of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where it was used only in the trailers, but not on the soundtrack, and it worked very well in this context.

"Mr. Blue Sky" was not a big hit for the Electric Light Orchestra, reaching only #35 on the Billboard charts in 1978, bolstering the theory that really good songs usually don't chart that high because it takes a certain degree of water-down to reach an audience mass that makes Top 20 hits. But it was a fan favorite, and always elicited a positive response when someone ran across it in their musical travels. The song just makes you feel good!

And this is probably why they used it for Eternal Sunshine. But come the same year, at the start of the new fall television season, the short-lived NBC show LAX used it as the theme song. There was a short break until the flood gates broke open and the cinematic redundancy gushed out. Here's the short list of the over-use of "Mr. Blue Sky" in movies:

Martian Child
The Game Plan
Dan In Real Life (I swear this was the second Steve Carell movie to use this song, because upon seeing the trailer, I turned to a friend and asked, "Does Carell have it in his contract that this song must be used in all his movies?")

Role Models

Paul Blart: Mall Cop
The Invention of Lying

It was because of Role Models that I started asking around about why does this song get used so often. Someone in the entertainment field educated me on the basics of song rights for movies, and how the cheaper songs tend to get used more often because of budgets. So maybe "Mr. Blue Sky" sells real cheap, and because Jeff Lynne is a multi-millionaire, maybe he figures, "Why not? I can afford a little largesse." But doesn't he realize how the over-use of this song dilutes its impact? Jeff, where's your dignity?

Someone in the entertainment marketing field said that songs - especially when it comes to the marketing campaign - are used to evoke a mood and reach a specific demographic. So does this mean that each of these movies are targeting the subset of Gen Xers who were in grade school in the late 70s? And are we really that easy to manipulate?

The continual use of this song must serve some important purpose, or have some deeper meaning beyond crass movie studios shooting into a dead vein. So maybe there's a specific someone to blame for this hackery!

I plowed through everyone of these movie titles on IMDB, sifting through page after page of names and companies and credits, just trying to find a common link, and the only person who shows up twice is Peter Rotter, who was listed as music contractor for Martian Child and Role Models. But this is a guy who has worked on, literally, hundreds of movies, and a music contractor basically fills orders rather than gives them. So I feel bad about placing my anger on him, so I merely grumble quietly in his general direction.

But cramming this song down our throats has got to stop. Seriously, just knock it off, because hearing "Mr. Blue Sky" is now a potent form of aversion therapy, and the one I'm angry with now is...

Ricky wields a lot of power and exerts deep control, and he seems like the type who knows better than to go in for sloppy sevenths on the town whore song. Then again, maybe he's " 'avin' a laugh" at our expense, but he's not getting my box office dollars until the death of "Mr. Blue Sky."



Cat Pick said...

It was also used, to great effect I thought, in a Volkswagen Beetle commercial a few years ago. I think Jeff Lynne even re-did a version for them.

John said...

Hmmm...I was just thinking that on Thursday night I was going to have a hankering to hear the Delgados' version and maybe I should just keep playing it on "repeat" mode. Oh, that's right, Toby is coming over on Thursday. This is gonna be great.

vince said...

Well normally i would agree. But i hated that song with a passion when it came out. I remember it was the only song on "Out of the Blue" I extremely disliked. Now it has kind of grown on me, although i would agree it is used was too much in movie trailers.

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