Ron Rosenbaum

The Dilemmas of Capitalism: "Melt" With GM's SUV?

Every time I hear it, it freezes my blood. In a good way. That song “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You”.

One of the most beautiful, underrated, cult-fave love songs of the past quarter century. A one-hit wonder by a group called “Modern English”. One I first heard on the soundtrack of the naively winning flick “Valley Girl”. An early 80’s attempt to commodify youth culture that is lost in the awesome shadow of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, eternally great (Sean Penn’s Spicoli rules dude!) A movie I saw in the companyy of the late great super-subtly witty companywriter Veronica Geng. We both loved it (the movie), but I loved the song more.

It captures the moment of eternal longing and eternal fulfillment fused–melted. A song about fusion, about the way love makes each party in some way melt indistinugishably into the other at certain times; when you can “stop the world together. Somebody I love just old me theGerman phrase “durch ein anderem” (I think). About the interchange of souls on the molecular spiritual level. It’s a theme Shakespare’s Sonnets (and often the plays as well) return to over and over.

So feeling the way I do about that song, how am I supposed to react when I hear it used in a GM car commercial? For an SUV no less. One that depicts, in a faux surreallist way, all the car parts of the venerated SUV flying together and fusing into SUVness to the sound of “I’ll melt with you”. An attempts to use the song to construe the car as a kind of Lucretian love magnet holding the disparate parts together in a melting spell.

A song that expresses Norman O. Brown (Love’s Body), Wilhelm Reichian sublime dissolution not merely of private property but private identity, private parts. Not exactly Max Weber’s individualist “Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism”.

I don’t know how to feel. Or rather I know two conflicting ways to feel. I love it every time I hear the song. And I hate it every time the song stops for the GM pitch. I used to play it on my repeat-one-song function on my CD boombox for hours, maybe days. Hoping that someday I’d feel that way. now that I do, it’s even more sacred. (Download it, i dare you; tell me you don’t agree.)

Nobody’s stopping me from hearing the whole thing any time I want. But I don’t and so in one way I’m happpy even to hear a snatch of it on a GM SUV tv spot.

But still I grew up with a father who taught me to hate the Yankees because “they were like U.S. Steel” a distrust of corporatism that seems to be borne out with every new Enron-like scandal. Yet ideological statism (i.e. totalitarianism) can be much worse than greed-based (but regulatable, ameliorable ) capitalism as the past century has shown. So should I accept it as a gift the someone in the corporate structure recognizes the song for its power but may not recognize how ultimately subversive rather than co-optable it is. (or so i think).

Then there’s “(You Might as Well)Try and) Catch the Wind” the one Donovan Dylan-imitation that actually succeeded in doing Dylan justice. HSCB bank (I think) uses it now, hideously truncated.

It’s not as strong a song as “I’ll Stop the World”. In the first instance the song subverts the commercial message (I think). In the second instance the song is commodified and denatured by the context. in this case the song surrenders to the sell-out.

It can go either way. With “I’ll Melt With You” it’s wrong but it feels so right. “Feels So Right”: the title of a great song by the C&W superstar group, Alabama, who did one of the few great songs to make an extended metaphoric cmparison between love and the judicial system: “Love in the First Degree”. A song that ranks up there with “Melt With You”. But I have to stop. Pretty soon they’ll be using that one for some ambulance chasing law firm.