Happy Hour News Briefs: War on Christmas Edition
By now everyone has probably seen the Holiday Season branding commercial from Target, right? The one that inexplicably has a cover of 1977’s hit by Donna Summer “I Feel Love” as the background theme music.
It seems like an odd choice, as probably more people have associations with it of, um, grinding on the dance floor (shall we say?) than of decking the halls (unless your halls are very much more jolly than mine). Anyway, what gives?!
So I decided to do a little research on the song itself, and this article from Pitchfork was really eye-opening:
There are songs that divide pop history into Before and After. Some are incontestable: “She Loves You,” “Anarchy in the U.K.,” “Rapper’s Delight.” Others are up for debate. Sometimes a song splits pop time in half without that many people noticing its revolutionary implications (think Phuture’s “Acid Tracks”), the impact fully emerging only later. Other times, the rupture in business-as-usual happens in plain view, at the peak of the pop charts, and the effect is immediate. One such pop altering single that was felt as a real-time future-shock is “I Feel Love.”
And I was ready to laugh it off, but I do think that those songs are revolutionary, so I read further and learned about the impact of this song:
Even now, long after discophobia has been disgraced and rockism defeated, there’s still a mischievous frisson to staking the claim that “I Feel Love” was far more important than other epochal singles of ’77 such as “God Save the Queen,” “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,” or “Complete Control.” But really it’s a simple statement of fact: If any one song can be pinpointed as where the 1980s began, it’s “I Feel Love.”
And as an ’80s kid, my attention was got:
The reverberations of “I Feel Love” reached far beyond the disco floor, though. Then unknown but destined to be synth-pop stars in the ’80s, the Human League completely switched their direction after hearing the song. Blondie, equally enamored, became one of the first punk-associated groups to embrace disco. Brian Eno famously rushed into the Berlin recording studio where he and David Bowie were working on creating new futures for music, waving a copy of “I Feel Love.” “This is it, look no further,” Eno declared breathlessly. “This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next 15 years.”
And here’s the thing. Whereas when I first saw the commercial, I thought it was a strange choice of music, but then when I pay attention to the visuals it all begins to make sense.
Target is signaling a break.
There’s the old: normative depictions of straight, white, holiday celebrations, and now there’s our modern world: chosen families, mixing it up and combining in ways that Ward and June could never have foreseen. It’s a rich palette of colors, on the walls, and in the families, it’s pretty glorious, and it indeed feels like love.
One more really glorious bit of work from Target: they sponsored Sam Smith, an openly gay man to cover the song. Subversion has never sounded so sweet.
Now before you come @ me, I know Target is a big, national chain, and with that comes all the problems of rapacious, late-era American Capitalism, but every little victory counts, and if Republicans want to have a fictional War on Christmas, I’m glad to have Target fire back at them and own it.
We know that the Evangelicals are going to be on this like white on a Baptist, so be prepared.