Heroin Jingles Jangle Nerves
Heroin chic is alive and well and still living on Madison Avenue — except instead of inhabiting waifish models, it has manifested itself as the background music of choice for TV commercials.
In the latest example, whiskey maker Jack Daniel's is featuring the Jane's Addiction song "Jane Says," which centers on the main character's losing battle with heroin addiction, in television spots that began running last year and will continue through March 5.
Volkswagen kicked off the latest heroin-themed music trend by using Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" for its hugely successful Cabrio campaign. Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" has become synonymous with cruise ships thanks to Royal Caribbean. And the maker of the women's contraceptive, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, expertly wove Sixpence None The Richer's catchy but drug-focused cover of "There She Goes" into its spots.
But unlike those examples, which advertise products completely disassociated from the song's content, the Jack Daniel's spot raises thorny issues of responsibility and taste, given that the brand and the tune's subject matter are intimately tied.
"It is both irresponsible and mind-blowing to advertise a product that is a drug itself with a song about drug addiction," said Joel Simon, president and CEO of commercial music production company JSM Music.
A spokesperson for Brown-Forman, the whiskey maker's parent company, claimed ignorance of the song's drug-related content.
"We weren't aware that this song allegedly deals with drugs," the spokesperson said.
This despite lyrics like, "I'm gonna kick tomorrow," not to mention the band's name, Jane's Addiction.
But to be fair, the only lyric heard in the commercial — "Jane says I'm done with Sergio" — is innocent enough. And at least one former musician and current ad exec doesn't view using the song as irresponsible.
"Brands are looking to borrow cachet from a song's sound as opposed to its message," said Josh Rabinowitz, director of music at Grey Worldwide. "They're going for the Jane's Addiction sound, not the message."
But others aren't as sanguine.
"I was utterly horrified by the commercial," wrote one blogger on a Jane's Addiction message board. "[Jack Daniel's] seems to be saying that the user should not even try to 'kick' alcohol, but to embrace the angst and despair of 'Jane.' Appalling."by Peter Lauria