I Can’t Handle This Song…

Everyone has had the experience when they’re watching a commercial, movie, or TV show and they have to change the channel. What they are watching brings up too much emotion, and it becomes overwhelming. Many times, the subject matter alone can be intense, but most of the time, it is the music that tips us over the edge. Music brings out the love in a love scene, the terror in a horror film, and the happiness in a reunion between two people. Advertisers and directors know the power that music can have over people, and they are not afraid to use it.

In “Ha ha, he said” by Chuck Klosterman, he complains that producers and directors of TV don’t trust America to know when to laugh. Some soundtracks and commercials today would make some argue the same thing about music. Many touching scenes in a movie today can be ruined or drowned out by over the top music in the background, or a soundtrack that is too “epic” for the scene. Or we have all seen the commercials about starving children in Africa…children peer up at the camera while sad violins play in the background. The music triggers your emotion almost faster than the message, because it is more easy to understand. The creators in the commercial are taking a cheap shot at our emotions. 

Not all music in commercials is bad, however. Sometimes, the effect can be so overwhelming, and work so well, that it causes us to rise to action. In “Do good: How Designers can change the world” by David Berman, he claims that advertisers have the power to change the world for the better. Advertisers use music sometimes to do good. TOMS Shoes is an organization that gives shoes away to children in Africa. In their commercials they use “hip” or cool music to make their shoes more appealing to teenagers and young people. The “cooler” their shoes look, the more shoes they are able to give away to Africa. They don’t even talk about the benefits of the actual shoes in their commercial. There is only music and scenes of them giving away shoes to children. Sometimes commercials can make music so popular and appealing that it makes the song more famous. Many people want songs from commercials so badly that they try to find them online. Squidoo is one of those sites where people can find songs directly from commercials. Pepsi, Coke and many clothing lines also try to use young and hip music to make their product seem more appealing.

People can be immune to the effect that music gives them in movies and commercials. The first step: to recognize where your emotions are coming from. When you’re sobbing in a movie, is it because you’re sad at what is happening to the characters, or is the surrounding music and atmosphere overwhelming your senses? The second step: to separate the product from the music. Do you like Urban Outfitters because of the clothes they have, or because your favorite song plays in their commercial? Music can add so much to movies, but it can also ruin them. Same with commercials. When used properly, music can make watching media very enjoyable. But sometimes, it can turn the audience away. It is all about finding a balance.

A freeze shot from a TOMS Shoes commercial; this is the only thing they show in the commercial, while music plays in the background.


About bsmith8

I'm a freshman at Trinity University from Austin, Texas.
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