Songs take on a whole new life in the wake of a new singer and a new sensibility. Take the Police’s ‘Every Breath you Take,’ which is generally considered to be about a lover turned into a stalker turned into a crazed psychopath over the course of three minutes. In the hands of an accomplished gorgeous orchestral and beautiful female singer, the song takes on this gorgeous embodiment. Nirvana’s Rape Me is about the devolution of the music industry and its large grip on Nirvana’s sense of self and the importance of art in capitalism. In the hands of someone less talented, it might be a little more nonsensical.
Songs can be created with something specific in mind, but it is ultimately the output of the singer that can drastically reinvent the message and conveying organicness of a song. The Pixies is a wonderful grimy alternative pop group. Some of their biggest tracks, ‘Here Comes Your Man’ and ‘Monkey Gone to Heaven’ are bouncy pop numbers filtered through the idiom of early 90’s college radio rock. Underneath the surface are lyrics of loneliness, disenchantment, and pain. Saves the Day, a late 90’s emo/rock group, have famously delivered big punk/pop hooks over lyrics of beheading an ex-girlfriend or burning alive.
All this has led us to a recent Apple iPhone 5 marketing campaign that deployed Pixies discreet Surfer Rosa-era tune, ‘Gigantic,’ to the arrangement of about 25 people playing around the new innovations and features of the iPhone 5. It is a cute song, spearheaded by the elegant voice of Phoebe Bridgers in the role of Kim Deal with her subsequent chanting of ‘gigantic gigantic, gigantic, a big big love.’ Unbeknownst to at least ONE person in this project, the Pixies ‘Gigantic is about a large black member. But this is atypical Pixies, and a perfect encapsulation of a song taking on a grand new form in a totally different light. The Pixies song is raw, sinister, and oddly cute in its ill-placed naivety. Phoebe and her posse of composers bring the song along a minute long escape of soaring violins, bubbling marching band percussion, and throttling basswork.
This is essentially a commercial, and one that Phoebe Bridgers likely had no hesitation to be a part of. The Pixies are shockingly well respected, and Bridgers own tunes seem to capture that spirited punk rock energy of old Pixies. This is not to say that Bridgers is a punk artist. She is more akin to a folk or acoustic arranger, but her somber reflections and daring lyrics recollect the eeriest moments of Kim Deal’s background and main vocal work of the Pixies. She mentions a gun with no qualms, and sings about the dark impatient of death in ‘Waiting Room.’
Instrumentally, her music has little to do with the Pixies in any direct way. But if this trifecta- the Pixies, Phoebe Bridgers, and the marketing team of Apple- prove anything, it is that music is handled and vanquished in the eye of the beholder. Something related to genitals and presented with such obscure weirdness could masterfully be reinvented in a whole new light.
In the Apple commercial, all that is left is the big hook. And why waste it on such bizarre subject matter when it can reflect so much more gigantic?