Cola marketers rob the grave
Opinion by Michael S. Miller
Hank Williams Sr. died long before I was born, and I never met Freddie Mercury, lead singer of rock's most baroque group, Queen, so I'm being presumptuous by speaking for them. I'm not even a big fan of either of them, although they have each placed songs in my permanent mental jukebox.
What links them is that both men are currently being used by cola companies to sell their liquid candy.
Coca-Cola's C2 is marketed as having "half the sugar, carbohydrates and calories of regular colas." According to an April 19 press release, C2 is the result of "more than a year of research and development."
It probably took them that long to learn how to spell "phenylketonurics" and "phenylalanine," two of the words featured on the C2 can in bold type, all-capital letters.
One of the C2 television commercials features people from several carefully chosen demographic groups enjoying the slightly chalky taste of C2 while Freddie Mercury sings "I Want to Break Free."
"I want to break free from your lies/You're so self satisfied/I don't need you/I've got to break free," Freddie sings.
No, wait, that wouldn't sell cola, would it? In the commercial, Freddie sings the second verse:
"I want to break free/I've fallen in love/And this time I know it's for real," are the lyrics used in the commercial.
Now, heaven knows Freddie Mercury was not above the occasional histrionics, but when he wrote and sang his song of yearning and desperation for freedom, do you think he had phenylalanine in mind?
If Freddie were alive and had sold his song to the suits at Coke, I might have been vaguely disparaging. But Freddie's dead, and can no longer decide how his music and voice can be used. Whoever owns the rights to his work should concentrate on maintaining his catalog of records, and not throw away his passion and life's work so Coke can link its phenylketonurics to the quest for freedom.
This transgression against taste is not as egregious as when Yoko Ono lent confirmed alcoholic John Lennon's image to Absolut Vodka a few years ago, but it's still shameful.
On the other side of the cola wars, Pepsi is hawking Pepsi Edge, which is marketed as having "half the sugar, carbohydrates and calories of regular colas," the exact claim C2 trumpets.
Makes you wonder who the double agent is.
Instead of phenylketonurics, Pepsi Edge uses a sweetener called "Splenda," which the Splenda Web site says, "can be a great addition to healthy meal plans for children."
Isn't that great news, mom? If your kids won't eat broccoli, just sprinkle some Splenda on it and be guilt-free!
Pepsi Edge's television commercial hijacks Hank Williams Sr.'s "Your Cheatin' Heart," which features lyrics that prophesied the effects of too much caffeine:
"You'll cry and cry and try to sleep/But sleep won't come the whole night through."
As with Freddie, Hank has no control over his music, so the onus falls on the estate caretakers who do. Isn't there a more noble way to keep the music and memory alive than pimping the work to Pepsi?
It's also worth noting that C2, with its red can, and Pepsi Edge, with its blue can, neatly symbolize the upcoming presidential election.
C2, like the Republicans, uses scary terminology to deliver its message. Pepsi Edge, with its friendly sounding "Splenda" and eye-rolling attempt at edginess and hipness, is like the Democrats.
And, like the two candidates we are contemplating this fall, neither C2 nor Pepsi Edge really has anything new to say or offer; it's just empty promises, bitter aftertaste and shameless marketing.
"once upon a midnight dreary, while i pondered, weak and weary"
We miss you freddie, darling!:)