I’ll start by admitting that not only is opinion divided on this issue among Bruce fans, but that I am in the minority. And, as will be clear, I’m not quite sure why this bothers me:
This is an advertisement for postseason baseball on TBS. The music on the video, and some of the visuals, is courtesy of Bruce Springsteen, from his inspirational song, “Land of Hope and Dreams”.
I’m not concerned with what was done to that great song to fit it into a two-minute time slot. Well, I’m concerned in that I think they botched it, but that’s not why I’m writing this. And I’m not concerned that Bruce has associated himself with baseball … he’s a longtime Yankee fan, he has played concerts at baseball parks (I saw one myself at China Basin back in 2003) … hell, he wrote “Glory Days”.
But, to the best of my knowledge, before this advertisement, Bruce Springsteen had never allowed his music to be used in such a manner. Bob Seger will tell us that Chevy trucks were like a rock, Michael Jackson would tell us to drink Pepsi, Lou Reed would pimp for a motorcycle brand he didn’t personally ride, but Bruce Springsteen didn’t do commercials.
You could argue that Bruce doesn’t need to sell his music to advertisers because he already has a gazillion dollars (which didn’t stop Michael Jackson). When asked why he did those Honda ads, Lou Reed said something to the effect of “if you liked my last album, shut up about the ads, because they helped pay for the music you liked”. If memory serves, Bob Seger said he was proud to have his music played in support of American workers and their products. Not a bad explanation, I admit.
You could even note that a few years ago, Bruce played the halftime show at the Super Bowl, an event which is about advertising as much as it is about anything.
You could point out that it’s not quite clear that Bruce is selling anything other than the greatness of baseball. I’d say you were full of shit, that he’s selling a TBS television show, but some have made this claim, nonetheless.
Many, perhaps even most, of the Bruce fans for whom I have the greatest respect are very happy to see this advertisement. They see it as a chance for Bruce to get his music out to a whole new audience, and they like the idea of seeing/hearing Bruce, no matter the context.
Finally, although I can’t recall the source and am using my fallible memory here, I seem to remember once reading Greil Marcus saying he liked hearing favorite pop songs in commercials, because it forced him to hear those songs in a new context.
Yes, I understand all of this. But the truth is, it bothers me that Bruce Springsteen has allowed his music to be used in a commercial.
(Obligatory disclosure: I hate advertising.)