David Bowie—the music icon who passed away over the weekend, after a battle with cancer—leaves the world with an impressive collection of music that is being rightfully celebrated following the announcement of his death. But Bowie was also a regular brand collaborator and starred in some campaigns, including a truly unique one for French bottled water in which The Thin White Duke demonstrated no shortage of humorous self-awareness.
In the late 1960s long before Ziggy Stardust, Bowie was a struggling entertainer not above starring in an ad for the British “Pop Ice Cream” brand Luv. Demonstrating that Bowie’s career was blessed from the beginning, his Luv ad was directed by another
up and coming Brit, Ridley Scott (Alien; Blade Runner ).
In 1987, Pepsi partnered with Bowie for a short spot in which Bowie as a mad scientist creates Tina Turner, Weird Science -style—to the beat of his own song “Modern Love.”
Watch the 1987 Pepsi ad here:
Bowie was made for MTV and vice versa, so no surprise to see him championing the channel in its infancy.
While not the star, Bowie does appear in the spectacular mid-1980s ad for the National Coffee Association.
Like so many of his peers, easy Japanese ad money proved too strong a lure for Bowie, as seen in this ad for Takara sake.
In 2013, Bowie got his own Sirius XM channel. But a decade earlier, when the two satellite radio brands were battling it out as rivals, Bowie was the centerpiece of XM’s messaging. This campaign was a hint that Bowie, in his older age, was self-aware enough to laugh at his career.
More on how much automakers love Bowie later. Mercedes got Bowie’s endorsement in a magazine spread.
Bowie and his wife, Iman, were as turn of the century as (Tommy) Hilfiger.
David Bowie and wife iman for Tommy Hilfiger.
Peak self-mocking Bowie came a year later though in the form of an ad for French bottled water brand Vittel.
Bowie’s last starring role in a brand partnership came in the form of the extravagant short film I’d Rather Be High (L’Invitation Au Voyage) for Louis Vuitton. And, of course, there are the commercial uses of Bowie’s music. The infectious and unmistakeable riffs were, not surprisingly, in demand for branding purposes. Back in the late 1990s, at the peak of its power, Microsoft built a campaign around Bowie’s song “Heroes.”
Most recently, Cadillac employee Bowie’s “Fame” for its Escalade spot.
Ironically enough, a few years before that, Cadillac rival Lincoln was using Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (covered by artist Cat Power).
Cars seemed to fit Bowie. Two years before Cadillac, Kia used Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” for its top-end sedan.
And let’s not forget BMW’s use of “Changes” during the Super Bowl for its new clean diesel technology.
Then there is “Under Pressure,” a song that commercial makers love for all the obvious reasons.
Some time in 2013, between an ad starring Bowie and an ad using his music, Sony made him a creative director of sorts for its Xperia smartphone campaign, which used a remixed version of his song “Sound and Vision.” Following the popularity of the campaign, Bowie placed a longer version of the remix on his own website, noting that fans’ “prayers have been answered.”
10. “Life on Mars?” (1973)
This was hardly Bowie’s first hit—by the time of its release, he’d already broken through with “Space Oddity,” and Ziggy Stardust was in full ascent—but “Life on Mars?” remains, without question, the most quintessentially Bowie-ish Bowie song of his early career: A weirdo rallying cry gussied up as a cabaret number, with lyrics so alien and disorienting, listeners still puzzle over them today (“It’s on America’s tortured brow/That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow”). But there’s nothing inscrutable about the tune’s joyous, ozone-scorching chorus, and its success ensured Bowie’s outsider-hero status for decades to come.
9. “Golden Years” (1975)
This is your Bowie on drugs: Nearly worn out, and fuming on a mix of cocaine and desperation, he holes up in L.A. and returns with Station to Station, an album of sincere funk and tautly engineered Krautrock that sounds like the work of a man in love with a half-dozen musical styles at once, yet unwilling to settle down with any of them. “Golden Years” is just one of the album’s highlights, a future-thinking throwback that was funky enough to earn Bowie a spot on Soul Train.
8. “Modern Love” (1983)
Is there any way to get across just how ecstatic and life-conquering Bowie’s 1983 hit can make you feel? There is not. Luckily, though, this scene of Greta Gerwig sprinting through the streets of Manhattan in Frances Ha while “Modern Love” plays comes pretty close.
7. “Strangers When We Meet” (1995)
Bowie’s ’90s catalog was erratic, to say the least, but his voice and inquisitiveness remained intact, and there are plenty of more-than-worthy entries for those willing to dig around, from the paranoid tech-scuzz of “I’m Afraid of Americans” to the messy grandeur of “Little Wonder.” But this straightforward (for Bowie) tale of old friends and fading memories was one of the loveliest of his career.
6. “Under Pressure” (Isolated Vocal Version) (1981)
Bowie’s hit with Queen is (deservedly) beloved for its crystalline piano-plinks, its against-all-odds feel-goodedness, and its buoyant bassline (which was later sampled for Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”). But this long-circulated alternate version—which strips out every element save for Bowie and Freddie Mercury’s vocals—is a reminder of just how beautifully supernatural Bowie’s voice could be, even in his quietest moments.
5. “Young Americans” (1975)
Ain’t there one damn song that can make you break down and cry?
4. “Suffragette City” (1976)
A pure-sex tempest of Little Richard boogie-woogie, glam-rock riffage, and unchecked schoolboy hormones, “Suffragette” not only has the most appropriately wham-bam mid-song breakdown of any rock song ever, it also features one of the deliciously weird trajectories in modern pop-culture history: A horndog anthem by a fictitious bisexual alien that would become, over the decades, an unlikely gym-jam for classic-rock-lovin’ doods and dads. Outta sight.
3. “Blackstar” (2015)
Released as a single last month, the opening track of Bowie’s brand-new Blackstar album is a 10-minute-long rumination about death and identity that should feel like a pre-emptive self-eulogy; instead, it’s gorgeously spacey and propulsive. Every artist’s later work grows in stature after death, of course, but listen to this intricate mini-opus and ask yourself: What other sixty-something musician could have journeyed so far into himself and returned with something as affecting as this?
2. “Changes” (with Alicia Keys) (2006)
The clip above is fuzzy, but you won’t care: This is Bowie, in his last ever public performance, playing the 1971 song that, eons from now, will still be one of his most-quoted, most-karaoked, most-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherised hits, despite never having made it near the top of the charts in the U.S. Has any song ever so perfectly (and maybe inadvertently) encapsulated its performer—his outlook, his ethos, his appeal—than this one? And has any performer ever spent so many decades looking so good in a slim-cut suit?
1. “Heroes” (1977)
Bowie had just hit 30 when this was released—old enough to know heartache and defeat, but young enough to be hopeful nonetheless—and the result is the greatest, most gorgeously beguiling space-opera love-song epic ever, a wall of swan-diving synthesizers, gut-wrung vocals, and cold-war heat (plus some dolphin imagery). It’s been covered by numerous artists, but,to Bowie’s great credit, never fully recaptured.
Compiled, edited and posted by: Jimmy Adesanya (Facebook.com/LinkedIn)
Additional Credits: Sonic more music, Wired, Videoarcheology.
For: ©thebrandradio 2016. All rights reserved.