What ever happened to commercial jingles? When I was growing up, it seemed to me that most products had their own theme songs: “My bologna has a first name — it’s O-s-c-a-r,” “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz,” “Hershey is the great American chocolate bar,” “What walks downstairs, alone or in pairs, and makes such a slinkety sound?”
Today, most commercials just use pop songs that have little (or nothing) to do with the product. I enjoy a good pop song, and in fact have discovered some through their commercial use. But the jingle mostly has gone out of fashion.
Well, save for Parry Gripp. The frontman of Nerf Herder (perhaps best known for the theme to Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Gripp writes lots of songs that harken back to the commercial jingles of yore — except that he’s generally not selling anything. He’s just writing very hummable ditties about his various obsessions… which usually include food or animals (especially hamsters and cats).
People seem to either love or hate Gripp, and probably for the same reason. After one listen, his songs stay with you. They’re earworms. If you find his work too “pop” or simply too “silly,” you probably won’t appreciate “Hamster on a Piano” on an endless loop in your head. On the other hand, if Gripp’s melodic whimsy appeals to your ear or to your sense of humor, his songs are too fun to resist.
Gripp appeals to the part of me that sang along with the “Slinky” song and tuned into Dr. Demento’s radio show every week. And, as some of the mixes I’ve posted here begin to reflect, I enjoy nearly all varieties of music. To quote Ray Charles, “It’s like Duke Ellington said, there are only two kinds of music — good and bad. And you can tell when something is good.” I like that statement because it establishes no aesthetic criteria other than each person’s particular taste. And that’s as it should be. When it comes to music, people should not feel obliged to apologize for their taste — say, admit liking a certain type of music, but then dismiss that type of music as “a guilty pleasure.” With music, there are no guilty pleasures. To paraphrase Charles’ citation of Ellington, there’s only good and bad, and you can tell when it’s good.
If you enjoy Parry Gripp or Ray Charles or Duke Ellington or Esquivel or AC/DC or Ella Fitzgerald or the Sex Pistols or Jay-Z or Beethoven or Emmylou Harris or Fats Waller or [insert name of artist/composer here], then that’s good music. If you don’t, then listen something you do enjoy.