One, two, three, four, tell me that you love me more
— Feist, 2007
Since the debut of the iPod in the early 2000s, Apple has been a singular driving force in the music industry. Most of that power stemmed from Steve Jobs’ pocket-sized music player and its attendant iTunes Store, a two-handed assault on The Way We Buy Music that made things more convenient, but significantly lowered the margins on The Way We Make Money On Music.
A much more modest way that Apple has changed the music industry is in its role as a surprisingly consistent tastemaker. Since the launch of the iPod there have been iPod commercials, and those commercials needed jaunty soundtracks which Apple — a company that famously produces most of its marketing materials in-house — seems downright thrilled to find, license, and make overwhelmingly popular through the sheer muscle of their ad buys. Feist, Yael Naim and U2 all benefited from key placement in Apple commercials (the latter, famously, also got a surprise album release on every new iPhone in 2014 — a generous act that made sure millions could hear the best album of that year).
It’s been over a decade since Apple first started driving hits with its ads, and the hitmaking potential is still, apparently, intact. Take Cosmo Sheldrake’s “Come Along.” It’s a strange song, a little like if Alt-J recruited a marching band and wrote their lyrics right after reading Alice In Wonderland or Winnie The Pooh. (The song actually namechecks Heffalumps, of “Heffalumps & Woozles” fame.) Quirks aside, the song is on the rise. It’s currently number one on Spotify’s Viral Chart (a good predictor for what will eventually reach the streaming service’s main charts), has nearly two million views on YouTube, and is Number Ten on the U.S. Shazam chart, with almost 280,000 Shazams to date.
The reason for the song’s unlikely success is its recent inclusion in an Apple commercial. In the latest ad for the iPhone XR (and, specifically, the phone’s color capabilities), crowds of people sprint, parkour and shove their way across the screen, all dressed in brightly colored jumpsuits. In the context of the video, the Cosmo Sheldrake song comes across as unsettling, but catchy; psychedelic and kinetic. After watching it, it’s not a huge surprise that anyone reached for their phones to Shazam (a company also owned by Apple) to find out where it came from.