The same way TV had to figure out how to do things in three minutes to work on YouTube, music is becoming more clever in a shorter, more commercial space.
Daft Punk. Beyoncé. Daft Punk. Beyoncé. Daft Punk. Beyoncé. By August, the whole Internet will be just those three words, repeated forever like a prophecy written by a lazy monk. Never have two artists commanded the conversation with an unrelenting omnipresence. Every after-work bar chat, overheard rant on the subway, and 7AM platonic spoon is about them, which is crazy when you think that until Monday, neither act had released an album or a proper music video. Most of this hurricane of comment, backlash, and retort has been sparked not by songs, but commercials, repeated and written about to the point of ad nausea.
Beyoncé’s has now released three global commercials—for O2, Pepsi, and H&M—each of which featured brief snippets of new music but were mostly just her wiggling around a bit while Robert Webb (or whoever does calming commercial voiceovers in your territory) told you to buy something. Daft Punk’s ads were at least for Daft Punk, but they were still ads.
Some people have been a bit snotty about this, but who’s to say the 30 second spot is any less valid format than the three minute pop song. Certainly, Daft Punk have innovated far more spectacularly in their ability to promote a record than any artist in recent memory, so much so that people at an IRL music festival with real life performers, or watching the Oscar-winning film The Social Network on Channel 4 on Sunday night, only lost their shit when Daft Punk’s spot came on.
To watch this ad, I had to watch another, lesser, ad before it. That's how good an ad it is.
Daft Punk finally released their record this week, which I guess made Beyoncé have second thoughts about going on an international comeback tour with one crazy blog track and a bottle of Pepsi Max to her name. So while we don’t have a track from the actual Beyoncé album, there is a new track from The-Dream’s album, which is basically just a Beyoncé song but probably a bit better because it features 2 Chainz on it and it didn’t have to be approved by the 167 people who stand between Beyoncé making music and Columbia releasing it.
Confusingly, the full version of the song that was on the Pepsi ad has also been released. This song is also produced by The-Dream, but is supposed to be on Beyoncé’s album (but might not be because no one really knows what’s going on). Basically, Beyoncé has spent the past five months going, “YEAH, SORRY, IT’S ALMOST FINISHED, THERE’S JUST THE ONE THING I NEED TO CHANGE, BE WITH YOU IN 10” like a fucking freelance journalist.
So the ad isn’t replacing the song, but it’s definitely becoming a proper format for musicians. Artists can no longer get away with 30 seconds of Zane Lowe shouting "THE ANTICIPATED DEBUT ALBUM" over their music video and then shove a Tesco logo on the end so that they'll pay for it. With Kanye aping Daft Punk’s Coachella vibes and broadcasting his face on trendy buildings around the world, a lot of artists will be rethinking their campaigns. The same way TV had to figure out how to do things in three minutes to work on YouTube, music is going to have be clever in a shorter, more commercial, space than a music video.
Which will hopefully mean the end of shit like this.
Follow Sam Wolfson on Twitter @samwolfson