'Apple is even more influential than I thought'

All about the weird, comforting realization you will come to, listening to "Songs from Apple Commercials."

A funny thing happened when I was working with my wife the other day. We were typing on laptops, sipping coffee, and listening to “11th Dimension,” a track from Strokes lead singer Julian Casablancas’ solo album. We both recognized the song, despite neither of us owning the song or album, and my wife said the impossible, even if we were both thinking it: Apple is, in fact, a more influential force on popular culture than is already known and assumed.

You will realize this, too, when you listen to “Songs from Apple Commercials,” a playlist/station/channel/whatever from streaming music app Songza. Songza is similar to established service Pandora only in that they both send consecutive songs to your browser or mobile device based on your playlist parameters. But where Pandora asks you to name songs and artists that you enjoy to generate the playlist, Songza relies more on mood and context. Launch the app, and the “Concierge,” knowing that it’s Monday late morning, asks you to pick from “Still waking up,” “Work or Study,” with or without lyrics, or “Easing the Tension.” Pick a general genre (popular, indie, hip-hop, country), and then you finally pick a playlist curated by their staff of “music experts in New York City.”

Songza is less afraid to give you fine-tuned, specific compilations: “Music from Quentin Tarantino Films,” “Indie Sellouts,” “Chiptronica Carnival,” and so on. Hence the existence of “Songs from Apple Commercials,” which is quite the revelation. My wife and I had never heard of Chilly Gonzales, but we know “Never Stop” from the first few chords. We smirked when we heard the uncensored verison of “Take What You Take”. The playlist streamed for about an hour, and at no point did we really disagree with a track, find it too familiar, or wish for more left-field picks. It was finely balanced, it had direct appeal, and you can probably guess that I’m trying to draw an Apple retail analogy here.

Apple has spent $647 million on iPhone advertising so far, and $457 million on the iPad. So Apple commercials and their carefully chosen pop accompaniments are widely seen. But as marketing chief Phil Schiller told a jury in its recent patent lawsuit against Samsung, the goal is always to “make the product the biggest and clearest thing in advertising.” Generally, you are watching hands, mouths, and iPhone headsets using Apple products in common ways, while a track lilts in the background. Other products aimed at the masses—upcoming movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, radio stations—pick up on the feeling of luxurious near-futurism, and use the same tracks.

What I’m saying is, my mother probably recognizes Passion Pit’s “Little Secrets”. More to the point, she might even know the refrain of “You’re So Damn Hot”, and I can assure you that nobody at OK Go’s music label was vying for the attention of that one specific resident of upstate New York. But Apple is always looking to reach such a (very nice) person, and you, and me, and so now there’s this weird, rare playlist that we all kind of agree with, named for a gigantic electronics company. Times are strange.

The 15-year Apple veteran told the jury the company has spent a total of about $ 647 million on advertising for the iPhone, launched in 2007, and over $ 457 million for the two-year-old iPad.

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