Bob Dylan's Super Bowl ad: Selling out, or sign of the times?

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The decades-old debate about what constitutes "selling out" in music has grown to become a tired one. The music industry itself has irrevocably changed. Music has become so ubiquitous in advertising, movies, TV, and video games, that drawing any type of line in the taste-making sand over what selling out truly means in this day and age is ultimately a futile and foolish endeavor.

Yet Bob Dylan's appearance in a Chrysler ad during the Super Bowl last night proves that there are still plenty of fans with their pitchforks (and clever hashtags) ready to skewer any musician that they believe has crossed over that illusory line from respectable artist to corporate shill.

See Also: Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" turns 50: How much has actually changed?


Now, the message that Dylan delivers during the expensive ($16 million) two-minute ad is ultimately a good one, especially for anyone interested in American commerce and the revitalization of the U.S. auto industry. Sure, the image of one of the most iconic songwriters in American history blandly repeating advertising copy is initially a shocking one. But Dylan has appeared in commercials before -- in a Cadillac Escalade advert from 2007, his recent Pepsi spot with Will i.am., and who can forget Bob creepily cavorting around with Victoria's Secret models seven years ago. (And, even his hero Woody Guthrie was the host of Model Tobacco Company's radio program, Pipe Smoking Time, back in the the 1940s.)

Advertising clearly isn't new territory for Dylan, and he's made a career out of brazenly flouting the expectations of his fans by doing exactly the opposite of what people predict. Quite frankly, he doesn't really care what we think, and never really has. That is part of what makes him Bob Dylan, and one of the many reasons why we love him so.

My issue with Dylan's Chrysler spot doesn't have anything to do with him actually appearing in an advertisement at all. I just wanted the ad itself to be better, and to come close to being worthy of the iconic legend who is starring in it. Now, for a man not accustomed to delivering many messages that don't come in song form, perhaps it remains out of Dylan's realm to breathe much life into any lengthy monologue, especially rather trite ad copy.



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50 comments
Georgia Lauritzen
Georgia Lauritzen

No sellout. People who say that are jealous. Bob Dylan can do whatever he wants to do.

Tyler Chip Moody Suter
Tyler Chip Moody Suter

Selling out? Here's some advice, folks, take all the money you can get and enjoy your life. Sell out? Give me a break. The only people who have to worry about "selling out" are those who have not earned the status Bob Dylan has.

Chris St.Germain
Chris St.Germain

The commercial started with "Has there ever been anything more American... than America?" At that point my brain seized up and I didn't see the rest.

Joe Jakubik
Joe Jakubik

I'd like to see the check he's getting. No fail there.

John Ulstad
John Ulstad

Being out of the ordinary is ordinary for him, I wouldn't consider anything selling out when he's done whatever the fuck he wants for so long. Every word he says is treated as controversial and it's both stupid and funny.

Joe Duggan
Joe Duggan

Bob Dylan can pretty much do whatever the hell he wants after about fifty years of music.

David Kay
David Kay

Just like Prince, Zimmy's just paying the bills.

Tim T Praxaya
Tim T Praxaya

They should've stereotyped more races and their products, Asians and phones, Swiss and watches, Indian and customer service, Black people and drug dealer, Mexicans and their cocaine etc......

Perri Pryor
Perri Pryor

Chrysler: the Italian owned, Canadian and Mexican built American car company.

mplstim56
mplstim56

why so sure he didn't write the copy, or parts of it? 

  I would guess he would rather read his own crappy stuff than read somebody else's ad copy....

   what did he get paid for this//// millions or like, $585,432.12? Plus a 200 painted psychedelic......



MNjoe
MNjoe topcommenter

Actually Bob, I let Minnesota brew my beer - Surley, Summit and Grain Belt.

Deborah Anderson Nelson
Deborah Anderson Nelson

Don't try to pin him down and put him on a pedestal..he's an artist and fights your comfortable idea of who he is..or who you think he should be...I admit I was mad at BD for the underwear ad, but so what. No greater artist alive. oops contradiction that's quite a pedestal. :)

Pinko Thinker
Pinko Thinker

that was obviously his evil twin brother. case dismissed.

Marcos Maiero
Marcos Maiero

That is not Dylan talking, but rather an impersonator... So yeah there is no dignity here and Dylan needs to be led out into the pasture.

Megdylan Polcher
Megdylan Polcher

I thought the opposite. I didn't think it sounded gravely enough in the commercial.

Matthew Martin
Matthew Martin

That is unfortunately his voice. Listen to any of his current albums... smoking has really taken its toll :(

Bill Boudewyns
Bill Boudewyns

I liked it but it seemed like he was lip-synching?

Megdylan Polcher
Megdylan Polcher

Was that even his real voice? Sounded nothing like him. I think they completely dubbed it.

Daniel Castor
Daniel Castor

First it was German and now Italian-owned Chrysler? real american!

Joe Jorgensen
Joe Jorgensen

Yes, because Neil Young is so unsuccessful and insecure. And Dylan is about as poor as Willie Nelson's pot dealer.

Bob Taugner
Bob Taugner

Green Day created their best music after they *ahem* "sold out." So don't knock it.

Mackenzie Denny
Mackenzie Denny

MY grandfather had a story about a small radio broadcast he was working on once, and one of the people auditioning was Orson Wells. After thinking "who am I to judge weather Orson Wells is good enough for my small time project?" he realized, "I guess even he has bills to pay!"

Jeff Skinner
Jeff Skinner

For the first time in 20+ years, I understood what he was talking about.

Paul Harcey
Paul Harcey

I was hoping it was going to be something along the line of what Clint Eastwood did a few years back, but it fell short.

Lynn Quijada
Lynn Quijada

He's fab. Haters hate regardless, especially on the internet and when asked for their opinion.

Trent Heiss
Trent Heiss

sell out? whatever people. we have all sold out in one way or another. don't lie to yourselves.

Patrick Toth
Patrick Toth

"What's more American than America?" Who wrote this ad, a sixth grader?

Fredlock Dobbs
Fredlock Dobbs

I'm mad that he was trying support the moribund American union worker. Disgusting!

Pam Damela
Pam Damela

It was a terrible commercial for many reasons. Major Dylan Fail.

Chris Erhard
Chris Erhard

I'd say Chrysler sold out to the Italians/Fiat...

Yankee Doodle Pablo
Yankee Doodle Pablo

Many people also felt Dylan sold out when he went electric (and got over it.)

Aaron M Vehling
Aaron M Vehling

"Selling out" is the rallying cry of less successful and insecure artists, especially nowadays when the ability for an artist to earn an income from their craft is virtually nil. These guys -- even Bob -- need to take what they can get.

eriktmpls
eriktmpls

@kristaprints I didn't mind it--I just wish that the ad would have been executed better. I'll gladly watch Dylan do anything, really.

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