The teaser trailer for Inside Out featured Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.” Recent trailers for The Peanuts Movie and Daddy’s Home use The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” respectively.
The “Coming Soon to a Theater Near You” part of going to a kids movie is a haven for Dad Rock. But why?
These songs have become so ingrained in the culture that they likely speak to any and all generations. The grandparents in the audience will form an attachment to the movie because they remember rocking out to those 8-tracks when they were in junior high. The parents in the audience will fondly remember those songs because they were played on the classic rock radio station they listened to in high school. And Snake People will recognize those songs because they beat their friend on that level of Rock Band. So there’s a connection point in that song to a wide range of age groups, even if they’re all primarily White Boy Music.
That doesn’t change how kind of weird it is that these songs are being seen as so inoffensive they’re used to sell a kids movie. It reminds me of “Born in the U.S.A.” or “Fortunate Son” being used at political campaign rallies when they’re songs about disillusionment with the American Dream and raging against the privileged draft dodgers, respectively. “Sweet Emotion” is about sneaking out with a girl to play Boggle and includes the declaration that she can’t pin the fact that “the rabbit done died” on the narrator. “Baba O’Reilly” is about back-breaking work and getting what’s due. “Highway to Hell” is about living a hedonistic lifestyle free of consequences.
These songs used to be embraced by, if not the counterculture exactly then certainly by youthful groups who were staking their independence from their parents, society or both. Now they’re being used to sell relatively inoffensive movies to a broad audience demographic.
This is likely a symptom of the people in charge at the studios being fans of this music and so looking for opportunities to work them in, regardless of how incongruous the experience may seem. But there must be some research showing this particular tactic works – or at least that it doesn’t hurt. Maybe it is just as simple as how the songs, after decades of regular rotation on radio and other media, have lost all meaning. They’ve become part of the background, detached completely from their original context and moment. So instead of being revolutionary anthems that powered generations of youth they’re not commodities that can be repurposed in a marketing machine that loves easy nostalgia.