Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Dylan 1

I’ve felt that it was damn near my duty to post about the new Victoria’s Secret commercial for days now, so here goes.
Frankly, being a big fan of both underwear models and Bob Dylan, I think it’s incredibly cool. Beyond that, though, the reaction is rather muddied. The first reaction is a hearty Why? Why did Dylan do this (speculations to follow), but moreso, why did Victoria’s Secret recruit the (not-too-pleasantly) aged folksinger to hawk join a beauty in hawking bras?
It’s a juxtaposition on the oddest level. It was odd enough when the company’s add campaign simply featured the song.
To be sure, it’s a talk piece. Some of my favorite reads on the subject have been Slate (which links to the add), the Seattle Times and Pitchforkmedia, which led off a review of the new Bootleg series album with its own analysis:
“My favorite thing about Bob Dylan's Victoria's Secret commercial is the (not so farfetched) possibility that there are viewers in America who won't recognize Dylan's smarmy mug, and, incapable of sketching a line from his figure to the song playing in the background, must contend with an otherwise preposterous cameo, a wrinkled, peculiar-looking man nonsensically interrupting the provocative struts of an underwear model selling prepackaged titillation. Without the proper context, it's impossible to know that the weathered face peering awkwardly at the camera once hocked his very own brand of shockingly alluring taboos, as furtive and dangerous as pink satin bras and lace-edged panties.”
Apparently, Dylan gave a newspaper interview in 1965, when he slyly said the the biggest temptation to selling out came from “Ladies undergarments.”
When it comes down to Dylan’s motive, my best guess is sort of a mixture between mild boredom and a resurgence in Dylan’s drive to simply weird people out. And why not?
With Modest Mouse (Nissan), the Who (Hummer), and Nick Drake (VW) all in surprisingly tasteful auto commercials and Moby’s quest to deliver Play to television one track at a time, television advertising has changed remarkably. For one thing, while still annoying, ads are more artful in general. I can’t figure out for a second how that sells more product, but ad agencies seem to be reaching for the creative (ie. that Office Space-esque Burger King campaign).
And what is “selling out,” other than an over-used, ill-defined term used only to decry performers. Is taking money for playing music selling out? If so, then everybody always has sold out. I understand that advertising a product is a different beast, but quality music beats that damned obnoxious Chevy “Wrap it up, I’ll take it” jingle any day of the week.
When it comes down to it, the Victoria’s Secret commercial is eminently watchable. It’s curious, to be sure, but it’s not particularly surprising or troubling. It’s just another curveball from the greatest chameleon in American music. Sure it’s not as monumental as going electric, or going acoustic, or going Christian. But just as Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft show his music is as good as ever, an over the top haunting image in a Victoria’s Secret commercial shows he’s as unpredictable as ever.