A disappointed letter to the Mainstream


it was worth it just to learn some slight of hand

Dear Mainstream,

So listen, we’ve been getting along pretty good lately, don’t you think? I mean, it’s hard to argue with you all that much when both Arcade Fire and The Shins have their new albums debut at #2 on the Billboard charts (#1 in Canada for the Fire). Plus, as McNutt wrote about last month, you’ve been putting out some pretty great singles lately which, really, is all that I ask out of you.

But sometimes you just don’t friggin know how to leave good things alone. Case in point: Modest Mouse.

Your decision back in 2004 to take “Float On” and turn it into a moderately-successful hit was a stroke of rare genius. Not only is it a great song, but it came from a quirky little band that had spent years earning their stripes and greatly deserved the attention. And while it was odd and strange and kind of creepy, I also won’t begrudge you for allowing the Kidz Bop Kids to cover the song for their seventh album – the blogs ate up the fact that one of the most shameless of commercial musical creations was co-opting their music. It was cute (and can be downloaded from Idolator).

But then on Wednesday night, less than a week before Modest Mouse release their long-awaited Johnny Marr-aided follow-up record We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, you just had to go ahead and allow “Float On” to be co-opted by THE most shameless of commercial musical creations: American Idol.

To refresh your memory – since yours, Mainstream, is shorter than most – here’s the weekly Ford-sponsored music video/car commercial/affront to decency that aired on Wednesday:

Now Mainstream, I know what you’re going to say: how is this any different than Kidz Bop doing the song? Haven’t Modest Mouse used their songs in a car commercial before? Isn’t this exactly the same?

No it’s not, Mainstream. And I could waste my time trying to explain to you why, but the good folks over at Best Week Ever put it best: “this was like the modern musical equivalent of the Kennedy Assassination, Watergate and Jack Nicholson getting killed at the end of Easy Rider, all happening in front of us, at the same time, set to the soundtrack of Avril Lavigne covering ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”. In short, sensory rape.”

So Mainstream, in the future PLEASE ask me before you go ahead and co-opt some of my best work – I can give you all sorts of advice on “artistic integrity” and “authenticity” and all sorts of other essential concepts that, if you’re planning on co-opting, can prevent monstrosities like this from happening. You know, for all the shit that my followers often throw at you, I believe that you and I can do great work together, Mainstream, but we have to keep the lines of communication open. Hopefully this letter will be a good start.

Please keep in touch.



P.S. A reminder for how “Float On” is supposed to sound:

Watch: Modest Mouse – “Float On” (music video)

Watch: Modest Mouse – “Float On” (live on CBC’s Zed TV)

…and for good measure (considering the new album comes out on Tuesday):

Watch: Modest Mouse – “Dashboard” (music video)


One response to “A disappointed letter to the Mainstream

  1. Hey Ryan,
    Your post about Modest Mouse shows exactly what’s wrong with music right: American Idol.
    Anything that Karaoke show touches withers and dies. The tendancy to try to take music and “make it your own” when its not your own music in the first place is KARAOKE.

    Poor modest mouse. I just hope they got some good royalties for both the use of their song on both American Idol and for shilling mustangs

    Keep up the good fight.

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