Thursday, November 21, 2019

Joanna K. Love's "Soda Goes Pop"

Joanna K. Love is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Richmond.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Soda Goes Pop: Pepsi-Cola Advertising and Popular Music, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls about midway through chapter three and summarizes my analysis of a set of three 1985 “The Choice of a New Generation” Pepsi commercials featuring Lionel Richie. This page connects my overarching theory of redaction—the practice marketers have used to select, censor, and restructure musical texts to fit commercial contexts in ways that revise their aesthetic meanings and serve corporate aims—with the main point of the chapter: that redactive practices were applied to the music and visuals in mid-1980s commercials featuring popular musicians in ways that supported emerging ideologies of neoliberalism in the U.S. The middle paragraph on this page (cited below) summarizes the analysis done in previous pages:
After three minutes of spectacle, sentimentality, and Pepsi pop slogans, it is obvious that the brand offers its drink as the only ‘choice’ for those who wish to be included in the new generation. The first number, ‘You’re Looking Pepsi Style’ foregrounds the product by featuring Richie’s specially composed jingle set in a generic adult contemporary musical style. Images of young professionals demonstrate how the ideal neoliberal consumer should look and act. The second scene transitions to one of Richie’s recognizable older hits, ‘You Mean More to Me.’ Not only are its lyrics modified to fit the commercial’s family-friendly, sentimental story line, but Pepsi gives viewers a momentary break from the hard sell. This allows Richie to embody the ideal citizen and demonstrate that despite his success he maintains the moral values important to neoconservative audiences. The campaign’s final vignette, ‘Pepsi Feels So Right’ is set to the tune of Richie’s recent hit ‘Running with the Night.’ This commercial brings viewers into advertising’s (and more specifically into Pepsi’s) most recent trend: the performance of new(er) hit songs injected with lyrics that showcase the brand and offer guidance to those who seek fulfillment in the commodity.
The bottom of the page then begins to explain how these commercials imitated the brand’s groundbreaking 1984 commercials with Michael Jackson (analyzed in the previous chapter), leading to a discussion about why Richie’s spots were not received with similar acclaim.

The Page 99 test offers a useful snapshot of the types of arguments and analyses employed in my book. Someone perusing this page might be intrigued enough to either turn back to the beginning of the chapter to see how I arrived at this conclusion, or to keep reading to find out how my methods apply to the other commercials discussed in this chapter. Ideally, this page would encourage readers to go back to the beginning of the book and read the whole thing!

This test applied surprising well to my book, demonstrating my aim to show the many ways that popular music in commercials proves integral to communicating specific values, norms, and ideas. There is so much excellent writing on advertising and music, but much of it ignores or glosses over the fact that the sounds themselves are coded with historically significant tropes that create important connotative and denotative possibilities. My aim is for this book to foreground discussions about the music and to show how and why popular music has been, and continues to be, a powerful force in American advertising.
Learn more about Soda Goes Pop at the University of Michigan Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue