5 Super Bowl Ads Where the Music Stole the Show
We asked Ian Dalsemer and J Bonilla, founders of music company The Elements Music, to dish on their five favorite Super Bowl ad music executions. The conversation swung from middle school dances to Tijuana night clubs to Go-Go grooves and beyond. Enjoy.
NFL 'The 100-Year Game' (2019)
J: I'll get to the music in a second here, but first, how is EVERY performance by these mostly non-actor NFL'ers absolutely spot on? A bit of a masterpiece on several levels by director Peter Berg. The music resonated right away with me because I DJ'ed in my teens (not the cool stuff—I'm talking house parties, middle school dances and weddings), and when I needed a bathroom break I'd put on these amazing "mixtape" CD's that were super long and had tons of songs already beat matched/remixed with hype man lyrics running through them. This might actually be one of the versions I used ages ago. When the Chubb Rock beat comes in about halfway through, it's pure bliss.
Ian: How a spot of this magnitude comes together logistically in the first place, and then is executed so brilliantly, never ceases to amaze me. In the same way you're getting buy-in from an army of NFL legends and current superstars, you then have to clear at least three smash hit records with their equally illustrious collection of artists, publishers and labels. And hearing Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock's "It Takes Two" always takes me straight back to a nightclub in Tijuana, for reasons we'll leave for another day.
Pepsi Halftime Show Teaser 'Get Ready' (2021)
Ian: Sure, it's a massive song ... and obviously a great tease for the halftime show, but what I love the most about this spot is how well it communicates the unifying power of a hit record, and how a great song can create a common experience for people across all walks of life. That's really the holy grail in music creation. Didn't mean to get all deep on you there. Apologies.
J: Preach. I'm also hooked in right away with the kid's xylophone, which we ALL had as children in one form or another. Brilliant move to tease the hook melody in that way up front. I also love that, even as someone who's produced music for ads for years and knows how the sausage is made, I'm left wondering if they might have used some vocals recorded on the shoot, or whether they're all studio vocals. I love when the process can still feel transparent like that at times.
E*Trade 'This Is Getting Old' (2018)
J: Big shout here for the decision to NOT cast lead vocalists in their 50s or 60s and try to get them to sound like 75- or 85-year-olds. You can tell straight away that they went legit and cast some really elderly vocalists, which makes it feel super authentic and a little shaky in exactly the right way. They definitely fudged that a bit for the chorale background vocals, but having some younger foundational voices in that part of the arrangement was the right move. I dig the Go-Go groove they went for with the track, too. Fun execution all around, and definitely the best use of this song since Beetlejuice!
Ian: Yeah, I'm sure it was pretty challenging getting those lead vocals working well together, especially because it sounds like they were likely recorded in different rooms with different gear. I also have to say, "Day-O" was definitely a great song choice here, and the copywriter(s) did a really nice job with the lyrical adaptation. We've seen so many projects where a client hands us a lyrical adaptation of a known song, and it's a bit of a dog's dinner in terms of lyrical flow and rhythm, which is no fun.
Doritos/Mtn Dew 'Doritos Blaze vs. Mtn Dew Ice' (2018)
J: As much as I love me some Missy, I'm team Busta/Dinklage all the way here. Those fast lyrical gymnastics really light up this ad, and are a hell of a tough act to follow for even a phenomenal Missy/Freeman duo. Rewatching this actually made me go back into the Bussa Bus cannon and revisit his earlier Leaders of the New School stuff. Legendary.
Ian: Iconic recording artists, badass thespians, smash records, and great visuals. That'll do nicely.
The Voice 'Super Bowl Commercial' (2018)
J: Some folks might find it tacky to include their own work in a list like this. Apparently we're not those folks. Seriously, though, this one was a beast, and a blast. Ian and I both spent the beginnings of our careers in music making records with some great artists, so thankfully being in the studio with Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton felt a bit like home. That said, I remember a little flutter in the stomach the first time I had to say "That take was great, Alicia ... let's get a few more." They were all gracious and incredible at their craft. We also recorded not one but two choirs for this project. Super proud of our whole team for making this one happen. There's also a little secret about the Carson Daly line that I won't put into print, but I'll dish on if we hang out and you ask.
Ian: Yeah, this one's personal. Had the best time bringing this to life with the whole Elements team. We gathered Nashville's top studio musicians to craft a legit and original country tune to start the process. Then, we had an amazing time in the studio working with these four superstars. We were braced for mayhem, but it was actually fairly smooth sailing start to finish.