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July 29, 2008

The New, Miserable Bubblegum Pop

Everyone likes Chris Brown, and why shouldn't they? He's easy on the eyes and smooth as hell. Just look at his music videos—the man doesn't walk in his Nike high-tops; he glides. We can't forget his delightful supporting role in 2007's urban coming-of-age story Stomp the Yard. And yet, Chris Brown is not as infallible as he appears on life-size posters across America's teenage girls' bedrooms.

No, Chris Brown is no better than 50-Cent slinging Vitamin Water or Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish singing in a cowboy hat for Burger King. He may, in fact, be worse. A lot worse.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the artist's single, "Forever," is actually a commercial—for Doublemint gum. The song, which had been heralded (by me) as an R&B godsend, not to mention—as per Chris Brown's usual—smooth as hell, is in truth a veiled marketing campaign that brings new, miserable meaning to the phrase "bubblegum pop."

Sure, the line, "double your pleasure/ double your fun" is an obvious allusion to the chewing gum stalwart…now. But we all just took it as another instance of Brown's playful banter and smart lyrical styling, not a literal plug or knowing wink at the bankruptcy of cultural integrity. And yes, he puts a stick of green chewing gum in his mouth at the start of his music video, but how were we—or MTV for that matter—to know that what we were watching was actually a commercial?

The story reports that Doublemint owner Wrigley Co. plans to reveal its maniacal plan this week, no doubt to much corporate fanfare and the evaporation of a million teenage souls. You could say that this was inevitable, that the rampant product placement and blurring of the lines between art and commerce have made this moment years in the making, but it still hurts to see it come to this.

What is most distressing to us, though, is the idea that many other popular music singles could actually be shadowy advertisements. Think about it. The Police's "Message in a Bottle?" What if that was never really a metaphorical lament on man's inherent isolation, as Sting would have us believe, but is really just about Pepsi? The Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"? Who's to say that's not about Cadbury Eggs? Anything ever put out by Prince—that legitimately may be one continuous condom ad. The terror is boundless. REM's "Everybody Hurts" is actually a commercial for Prozac. Destiny's Child "Bills, Bills, Bills" might as well be an H&R Block promo. Sir Mixx-Al-Lott's thumping ode to the fleshed-out female form, "Baby Got Back;" that's a goddamned Chili's commercial.

It's a dark day in America, kids. God knows Trident would never pull that shit.

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