Shazam was the first app I ever downloaded.  It is a boon to anyone who has ever heard a song and wondered what it was.  In those dark days before the internet, there were few ways of finding out what a once heard song was, much less tracking it down.  A whole episode of Married with Children revolved around Al’s trying to track down Arthur Alexander’s “Anna” when he could only recall a short snippet of the tune.  The climax came when he stood in a long line of middle aged music fans humming their tunes to a knowledgeable record store clerk (scene begins at 17:10).

Thanks to Shazam, tracking down those elusive songs no longer requires talking to record store clerks (if you could even find one), many of whom compensated for their low pay and lack of social skills (or prospects) with withering arrogance and condescension.  One tap of your touch screen will “tag” the song and offer you the title and artist, along with options to read the lyrics or information about the artist and, of course, buy the song on iTunes.

I always keep Shazam handy when I am watching TV.  A fair amount of the new music I listen to was first heard in TV ads and shows.

Here are some recent ads and the featured songs:

The “Tricks” ad is for the Nokia Lumia:

Shazam it and you will find out the song is “Fitzpleasure” by Alt-J.

The “Summer Up” ad is for Target:

Shazam it and you will find out the song is “Ula Ula” by Illya Kuryaki & the Valderramas (site NSFW).

Not too long ago, ads, particularly car ads, targeted baby boomers by triggering their nostalgia, playing popular rock songs to remind them of their fleeting youth.  However, as the kicking and screaming baby boomers ceased to be the flattered marks of every con man marketer (at least for anything other than retirement planning),  advertisers shifted strategies.  They began to court generations X, Y and Z through obscurity, knowing cool is always defined by rarity and elitism, or at least the appearance of such.   We hear the shiny new music coming through the walls and want to be admitted.  And buying the shiny new product gets us past the velvet rope and into the club with the in crowd.

The “Birds” ad is for the Kia Forte:

Shazam it and you will find out the song is “Real Hero” by College, featuring Electric Youth.

This song was also featured on the soundtrack to the movie Drive.  Not surprisingly, songs from this, ahem, driving movie have been popping up in several recent car ads.  (In my next blog post I will discuss a new Chrysler ad that uses another song from the soundtrack, “Tick of the Clock” by the Chromatics.)

But Shazam does not always work.

The “Impossible to Ignore” ad is for the Kia Cadenza:

Shazam it and you will find out it is a Kia ad, with a link to the company, but it just identifies the song as David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”  Yes, but this is obviously not the well known recording of the hit, as identified, but a radical new version, the InFiction String Remix.

The “First Light” ad is for Lexus:

Shazam it and you will find out it is a Lexus ad, with a link to the company, but it identifies the song as “Je T’Adore” by Salsation.  Right title, but wrong song by the wrong group.  The song is actually “Je T’Adore” by The Figgs.

But there are still ways of finding these songs.

The first is to track down the video on YouTube.  Even if the post itself does not identify the featured song, viewers’ comments often will.  If that fails, there are several sites worth searching, such as: ADmusicDBAd Tunes and heard on tv.

And then these is the Apple iPhone 5 “Photos Every Day” ad:

Shazam it  and you will find out the song is “Red” by Rob Simonsen, who has composed a whole lot of soundtrack music.  Then you are stuck.  This beautiful piano piece is not available anywhere but in this ad.  Ironically, this song in an Apple ad is not even available from Apple’s own iTunes.

Let’s finish off with a little bit of trivia, where the word SHAZAM came from.  In 1939, Fawcett Comics introduced Captain Marvel to compete with Superman, introduced the previous year.  12 year old homeless newsboy Billy Batson was transformed into a superhero when he invoked the name of the wizard who gave him his powers, SHAZAM, which is an acronym for: the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury (oddly mixing Greek and Roman gods, adding in a king of Israel just for good measure).


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