Lincoln's Ambient Album Turns NYC Into 'The City That Sleeps'

A Gotham lullaby by Anders Rhedin and Hudson Rouge

Lincoln, Hudson Rouge and musician Anders Rhedin created an ambient album of music designed to lull folks to sleep. In an intriguingly counterintuitive move, it incorporates the sounds of perhaps the most bustling metropolis of them all—New York City. 

Dubbed "The City That Sleeps," the endeavor features eight tracks, each an hour long, inspired by these Big Apple neighborhoods: Times Square, Central Park, the East Village, Chinatown, Harlem, Chelsea, and the Seaport and Financial Districts.

Rhedin took various sounds from those areas—birdsong, trains, traffic, rain, assorted hubbub from the streets—and wove them into moody electronic compositions for this Spotify playlist:

Rhedin explains his approach in the project video below:

Lincoln and Hudson Rouge have explored music before—most recently for the brand's NYC installation with rods that glowed and hummed at the touch of a hand. 

Agency execs offered these insights about "The City That Sleeps."

On the inspiration for a sleep-inducing album…

Jon Pearce, global executive creative director, Hudson Rouge: "Lincoln has a partnership we manage with the South Street Seaport. We have installations there year-round, where people can interact with the brand and see and test-drive Lincoln vehicles. It's a terrific venue, since so many New Yorkers and travelers congregate down there. Our social and branded content teams, led by Monique Frumberg, wanted to enlist a group of influencers to spend a night under the stars in a 'glamping' experience [luxury camping] with Lincoln vehicles, to help them understand how today's Lincolns take care of you in a way that encourages an overall sense of calm and well-being. [This took place the night of Aug. 15 on the rooftop of Pier 17.] Our creative team, ACDs Gong Liu and Caspar Bock, took the experience a step further when they enlisted musician and composer Anders Rhedin to debut an original album of calming "music" to encourage sleep through the night—in the city that never sleeps."

On going all-in with an eight-hour playlist…

Jon Pearce: "We have been using music to make a contemporary cultural statement for Lincoln since we first got the account. Strategically, we know that music is a passion for our target, the 'culturally progressive' individual. And so, in our mission to advance Lincoln in the hearts and minds of today's luxury car-buying consumers, we have really tried to walk the walk in our approach to music. It's not just about slapping a popular song on a commercial. People can see right through that. It's so desperate and inauthentic."

On a high-profile music venture with pop star Beck…

Jon Pearce: "Our first big action for Lincoln, back in 2013, was connected to a campaign called 'Hello, Again,' designed to re-introduce people to a 90-plus year old brand they thought they knew, but didn't. We brought in Beck to reinterpret David Bowie's 'Sound and Vision' with a 167-piece orchestra in the round. It was a live event in L.A., attended by journalists, influencers and culture leaders. But then we created a digital experience out of it all, where thousands could enjoy it. It got a lot of press, and suddenly people gave Lincoln credit for bringing something very wonderful and contemporary into the world—just as they were doing the same with a revamped line of new vehicles."

On a 2017 Grammy-timed spot with guitarist Gary Clark Jr. ...

Jon Pearce: "Lincolns feature state-of-the-art Revel sound systems, which many people aren't aware of. So, we commissioned an amp, using Revel technology as well as textures and materials from the Lincoln Continental. Then we brought in Gary Clark Jr. to validate the awesome sound in concert. Our brand strategy for Lincoln is all about the revitalizing feeling they give you. We live in such a stressful world these days, it's important to find the places where you can feel, and be, your best. We spend a ton of time in our cars. There's a huge opportunity for Lincoln to be a part of the solution in this stressful world. Music is a big part of that." 

On selecting a collaborator for "The City That Sleeps"…

Caspar Bock, associate creative director, Hudson Rouge: "Anders Rhedin is a Danish artist who got his start producing rock and pop music. He co-wrote the title track from the Scandinavian hit TV series The Bridge and was even nominated for a Grammy. As he became more successful, Anders got interested in using the powers of music and sound in less traditional ways. His research led him to create experiential musical meditation concerts—known as 'sound baths'—in Los Angeles, and he released a highly praised ambient album. Anders is a personal friend of one of the Hudson Rouge creatives, which made the collaboration possible." 

On Rhedin's recording process…

Caspar Bock: "We gave Anders a list of neighborhoods to sample sounds from. Logan, a Hudson Rouge intern, was sent around NYC neighborhoods with a Zoom dictaphone, emailing Anders sound examples on the go, and taking creative direction in real time. The team spent hours in Times Square trying to capture the most annoying soundscape of honking taxis possible, just to be able to turn it into calming white noise. [Later, in the studio] Rhedin used a process known as 'granular synthesis' to process conventional sounds into 'drones' resembling white noise. White noise has been proven to calm people and make them sleep better, so Anders' process turned the sounds that usually keep New Yorkers awake into sounds that now help them fall asleep. In addition to the white noise, the album features a minimalistic soundscape created by conventional instruments, turning it from 'scientific sound' into an actual piece of art."

And here's the coda…

Jon Pearce: "One more amazing fact involving music and Lincoln: In the new Aviator, instead of those annoying beeps and dings that most cars use as warning tones when you forget to plug in your seatbelt or leave a door open, they used calming notes recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Between the Revel systems and ultra-quiet interiors for great acoustical conditions and DSO chimes, music plays a big role with this brand."

"The City That Sleeps" merges several recent trends. First, of course, is the proliferation of sleep-oriented podcasts and playlists from marketers such as Casper. We've also seen playlists of all sorts serving as promotional vehicles—KFC's collection of songs that namecheck the brand being a prime example. Finally, there's the inclusion of sundry native sounds in branding ventures. Over the summer, Bacardi and Swizz Beatz mixed barroom noises into a track, while Singapore Airlines created a song using the clacks, whirs and dings made by one of its Airbus A350s.

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.