When Irony Eats Its Tail

16 Oct

The story of songs being co-opted by people who grossly misunderstand the meaning is not a new one–all copies of Springsteen’s “Born In The USA” are now required by law to carry an advisory sticker explaining that Ronald Reagan didn’t get it–but does any song have as tortured a history as Randy Newman’s “I Love LA?” Newman, a man who would be described as “arch” if he were more attractive (look it up, it’s in the bylaws), kept the caustic tone of his 70s work alive into the 80s with “I Love LA,” a song that barely holds back its outright contempt for the city and its values. Naturally, less than two years later, Nike used it as the basis for an ad campaign whose thrust was to convince people they were sponsoring the Olympics in Los Angeles that year.1 The song was, of course, presented with a completely straight face. The Los Angeles Dodgers eventually adopted the song as their victory anthem, and it has become a completely integral part of the Dodger Stadium experience to hear “I Love LA” blaring from the sound system after a win. This is, in and of itself, unintentionally ironic. However, tonight was the final Dodgers game of the year, which can mostly be attributable to… well, the Dodgers themselves, who up and got themselves eliminated by the Phillies. And for that, I am blasting “I Love LA” twice as loud tonight. For your benefit, of course, we have the video, which is like a three-and-a-half minute audiovisual equivalent of a neck tattoo of a flamingo.2 Wearing Ray Bans. Hey, at least the bum looks happy in the video.

1 It goes without saying that they weren’t. Nike has pulled some brassy stunts over their existence (lifting Minor Threat album artwork wholesale for an ad campaign, for example), but this is one of the funnier ones. The actual sponsor, Converse, eventually wound up getting bought out by Nike in the end. If we had a time machine, perhaps we could go back to 1984 and tell them both not to bother with their campaigns, since they’ll wind up sharing a parking lot in 20 years.

2 This probably comes up more often in my conversations than it should since I knew someone who actually got said tattoo.

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