Hate that I had to have Nike introduce me to this, but I’ll take it where I can get it I guess. After I first heard the commercial I immediately searched and downloaded this on iTunes. Simply brilliant!
This is the song from this commercial (that link is my thank you to nike for paying someone with great taste in music to make said commercial.)
Now….here’s the funny part….and the important part.
Quite frankly, I haven’t seen as fervent of a reaction to a song in a commercial as I have with Saul Williams’ “List of Demands,” which is featured in Nike’s new “My Better is Better Than Your Better” campaign. Many of the uninitiated have been captivated by the song (our own Ryan Wilson’s now a Williams convert, along with a few other anonymous members of the FanHouse Illuminati).
But I, a Williams fan who’s seen him speak and perform live, had a different reaction. After the excitement of hearing another favorite song in a commercial died down, I had to ask myself why “List of Demands” in particular was chosen.
Its sound is immediately striking, brimming with infectious energy, and full of raw emotion and conviction. It sounds like a man with something to prove. In that sense, the mood fits the commercial well. But the lyrics are about a topic having nothing to do with … well, anything the commercial is about. The song is about reparations.
Here’s some of the relevant lyrics (actually the whole song is pretty awesome. The lyrics are at the first link up above. Lyrics (hehe).
I want my money back. I’m down here drowning in your fat. You got me on my knees praying for everything you lack. I ain’t afraid of you. I’m just a victim of your fears. You cower in your tower praying that I’ll disappear, I got another plan, one that requires me to stand. On the stage or in the street, don’t need no microphone or beat. And when you hear this song, if you ain’t dead then sing along. Bang and strum to these here drums til you get where you belong.
I got a list of demands written on the palm of my hands. I ball my fist and you’re gonna know where I stand. We’re living hand to mouth! You wanna be somebody? See somebody? Try and free somebody? I gotta list of demands written on the palm of my hands. I ball my fist and you’re gonna know where I stand. We’re living hand to mouth! Hand to mouth!
O.k. I started of writing about this one thing, the fact that the people who found that video via google trying to guess the name of that great song they just heard on that nike commercial about being the baddest sporty grrl possible heard that great song on a damn commercial about being the baddest sporty grrl possible.
And this has happened before. No, not paragraph long sentences, that only happens when I need to be precise about a certain situation and need a complex statement of truth (to refine the nature of the situation as much as possible in a single thought/sentence). What has happened before is me hearing some awesome music in a damn commercial.
AND ABOUT ME NOT HEARING IT ON THE RADIO.
Instead, on radio I get repetition, repetition, repetition.
Because radio has been destroyed by the pirates of the airwaves, the revolution is embedded in the media. You just have to google it, to get it.
BTW and finally…considering the state of the U.S. economy right now….and Barack maybe becoming President….I think there could be no greater stimulus package for the U.S. than a serious and complete Reparations Stimulus Package.
We could pay for it by killing Clear Channel and going back to the pre-Clinton (Telecom Act of ’96) rules about how much one person can profit by broadcasting the same tired crap to the most number of zombies.
UDPATE: Response from the artist on the selling out.
hey guys. nice convo. (nike owns converse)
1. yes, i approved the use of my song (which i wrote in my bedroom on a thursday afternoon, while Saturn was at school).
2. i wrote the synth line first and remember adding the lyrics, “I want my money back”, while thinking, “what am i talking about?”. But the synth line demanded something badass..so thats what came.
3. I subtitled the song ‘Reparations’ a day or so later ’cause I thought the song would feel more powerful if thought of in the context of something more specific.
4. Nike offered reparations including recoupment for $120 red, white, and black Jordans i begged my parents for in 6th grade. I got my money back.
5. my new years resolution was to take on greater responsibility which means handling larger amounts of energy (and not shying away from it).
6. Nikeresponsibility.com Although, I agree that there is always the potential to gloss over ideas rather than adjust, my research tells me that when one manages a corporation this big, you basically learn as you go and self-correct along the way. Especially when you’re dealing with an issue that is sometimes more under the jurisdiction of the local government and what they allow rather than what the out-sourcing company mandates. Either way, the issue is much larger than Nike, yet since they have been singled out and have such powerful presence, they have actually become the leader in addressing the issue with foreign governments (although they have refused to work with anti-sweatshop groups created within the US).
7. I have never seen a Nike ad and thought “I gotta get those shoes”, but I have thought, “who sings that? I gotta get that album”. which is to say, am I selling Nikes or is Nike selling Saul Williams albums?
8. I made $0 from the sales of that album….so far.
9. As I’m typing this I’m watching Poetri (from Def Poetry’s broadway cast) in an Arby’s commercial.
10. What happened to all the people who said, “Saul, I wish more people could hear your music?”
11. I might consider myself a sellout if I wrote a song FOR a corporation, but an ad exec asking me to use my song in their commercial, strikes me as not much different as a student asking to use my song in their film. Granted I can think of plenty of corporations that I would say no to and a couple of years ago I probably would have said no to Nike, just as I did to Mercedes (but they actually wanted me to write a poem about a car! A poem!). But, yes, I knew that Nike had made certain steps in addressing issues, which I had to research years ago as my neice, who is a formidable athlete, and daughter have both begged me for Nikes. Although I do not personally own a pair, I remember what it was like to be in junior high school. They’re both really excited about the commercial.
12. “A Nike airforce fleet. Custom-made, unique”.
13. I’ve had quite a few pro-football players come up to me in airports and restaurants to tell me that they listen to my music (even before games!).
14. I don’t watch football (unless it’s soccer).
15. ipods ain’t green.