The 9 Best Songs I Discovered By Watching TV Commercials

Hey, DJ Ad Traffic Manager, play my song.

Jul 7, 2014 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

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In my early 20s, I got it in my mind for a flaming hot second that I was going to pursue jingle singing. The idea was extinguished for a couple reasons. First, I found out there have been maybe five people who've ever made a living singing commercial jingles; second, jingles are a dying art.

You may still hear a few classics, like State Farm's "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there" (which was written by Barry Manilow -- fun fact) or some local jingles (my dreams are haunted by the creepy song for injury attorneys Cellino & Barnes), but commercials increasingly feature songs by up-and-coming musicians that haven't been written expressly for the ads.

It's great exposure for the artists, especially since that mind-boggling Shazam app has made it easy to identify songs (and if Shazam can't hear the music through all that annoying ad copy, Google can usually deliver answers); but it's been just as beneficial to me because I've discovered some of my favorite songs, and even one of my now-favorite singers, in commercials. It may or may not be one of the reasons I haven't jumped on the cable-canceling bandwagon here in Brooklyn.

Here are nine songs that I immediately downloaded instead of buying what the commercials they're in were selling me.

"We Just Won't Be Defeated" by The Go! Team
Commercial: Target

The folks behind this commercial must have realized how motivating this song is, because there's not one word spoken in the whole spot. It introduced me to the genius that is a cheerleading recording set to piano, drums and horns. 

"Rescue Song" by Mr. Little Jeans
Commercial: Honda CR-V

To be specific, this is actually "Rescue Song (RAC Remix)," but the non-remix version is just as charming. Living in New York, I won't be needing a car any time soon, but I will gladly spend the money I'm saving on downloads of songs like this.

"Summer's Gone" by Aberfeldy
Commercial: Travelers Insurance

I was so excited to learn this was a real, three-and-a-half-minute song, because there really aren't enough songs out there using what sounds like one of those two-tier electric organs my great aunt Minnie had in her Staten Island home in the early '80s.

"Maybe Tonight" by Nicole Atkins
Commercial: Old Navy

I have no memory of watching the MTV Movie Awards any year, but I must have been watching them in 2008, because that's the only time this one-minute commercial ever aired. Well, thank goodness nothing better was on TV that night, because it introduced me to Nicole Atkins, and she has since become one of my all-time favorite musicians. (I don't know how I managed to miss her 2007 American Express commercial, but hey, better late than never.)

"The Great Escape" by Aidan Hawken
Commercial: American Public University

The idea of going back to school gives me terrible anxiety -- I regularly have dreams that I graduated from college but somehow didn't finish my senior year of high school and have to go back -- so I typically tune out commercials about educational institutions. But as prominent as the voiceover is in this spot, the soaring song underneath got my attention and had me immediately searching for it.

"Moi Je Jou" by Brigitte Bardot
Commercial: Miss Dior Cherie

I'm not a fan of Bardot's politics, and I can't speak more than trois words in French, but when I heard this peppy 1964 song in an equally jaunty (and Sofia Coppola-directed) perfume commercial, that all went out the window.

"Brand New Day" by Tim Myers feat. Lindsey Ray
Commercial: Target 

This is one of those cases where a good song in a commercial led me to a great song. When I saw this Target commercial (whoever picks the songs for their spots is obviously my soulmate), I looked up the artist and found Tim Myers. He's apparently the bassist for OneRepublic, a band I'm not into, but his solo stuff is really worth a listen; especially the amazing "Momma's Boy."

"The Golden Age" by The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
Commercial: Heineken

Heineken excels at putting both great songs and men I'd like to make out with in their commercials. (And for the record: the jazz flute bit in this spot does not actually appear on the track.)

"Flathead" by The Fratellis
Commercial: Apple iPod

You didn't think we'd get through this list without an iPod commercial, did you? Plenty of songs appeared in these now-classic ads, but this is the one that I immediately downloaded and still never skip when it comes on because it makes me feel like a sexy badass.

Honorable Mention: "Surfing on a Rocket" by Air, which was featured in a 2005 Nissan commercial that the Internet seems to have lost.

Your turn! What's the best song you've ever discovered in a commercial?