Pop, Pop, Pop!

The three “Pop”s in the title above refer to that magical instance when: Pop (1) meets Pop (2) and it results in a Pop (3), a piece of pure perfection.

Or, to be less vague, it’s when Pop (Singers) collaborate with Pop (Drinks) to make commercials that become pieces of Pop (Culture) perfection.

Now, singers have been shilling sodas for decades, but starting in the early 1990s and peaking just over a decade later, the big soft drink companies of the world went all-in on their popstars + pop drinks mission, and the results just kept getting bigger and better. Today I’m going to touch on just a few notable ones that have remained my favourites over the years.

Also, be sure to check out the very end of the post for a little gem that predates this whole era and is not only a blast from the past but a blast of yesteryear pop culture that will blow your mind.

Paula Abdul (Diet Coke)

Paula Abdul brought a whole new visual dynamic to pop music when she burst on the music scene following years of choreographing music videos for other artists. It only made sense then, that in the early 90s she was tapped by Diet Coke to be their spokesperson and star in a series of commercials that utilized her talents as both a vocalist and dancer. The most notable of these was a highly ambitious project that took remastered film versions of older Hollywood stars like Cary Grant, Groucho Marx and Gene Kelly and integrated them into newly-shot scenes with Abdul (remember, this was LONG before CGI and hologramming). For Abdul’s part, she was already a pro at dancing with and reacting to someone wasn’t actually there (namely, one MC Skat Kat, the animated costar of her “Opposites Attract” video), so she’s aces all around. Also, I believe at the time, this was one of the most expensive commericals ever made.


Spice Girls (Pepsi)

Somehow during their non-stop whirlwind tour of world domination in the mid 90s, the Spice Girls found the time to do some shilling for Pepsi – and it was some serious, next-level cross promotion. In this particular advert, our lovely Spices are singing the track “Move Over” from their then-current second album Spiceworld. One of the oft-repeated lyrics of “Move Over” has the girls chanting “Generation Next, Generation Next”. And guess what Pepsi’s slogan at the time was? Yup. So, with Pepsi’s slogan earworming its way onto every Spice fans playlist, not only did “Move Over” become “that Spice Girls song in the Pepsi ad”, it became “that Spice Girls song that IS a Pepsi ad”.


Britney Spears (Pepsi)

And then there was Britney.

This is what I feel is the peak of the popstar/pop drink collaboration era, because I doubt we’ll ever see such a long-running, high profile pop/pop collab as the one forged between Britney and Pepsi. One that resulted in the pieces of pop culture that is their Holy Trinity of ads from the early 2000s. Each Pepsi commercial that Spears did was an EVENT and they were treated as such (and premiered during Super Bowls, natch). The first was a full-on music video, (Brit’s “The Joy of Pepsi” is closer to an actual commercial single than commercial jingle) with Britney and her legion of backup dancers taking over a Pepsi factory before relocating to a rooftop billboard (hello Justin Timberlake cameo!), while the third was a historical mini-movie set in the Roman Coliseum and featured not only Britney, but Pink (!) AND Beyonce (!!) as gladitors singing “We Will Rock You” (also there, in a non-singing role, Enrique Iglesias – because, why not?).

But my favourite was her second commercial (showcased below) which featured Britney in snippets of Pepsi ads from “across the eras” and fans could vote for which version got her full stand-alone commercial (decade-old spoiler alert, the 50s version won). How much do I love this one? Well, let’s just say that I ripped the audio from it, put it in my iTunes library and it is STILL one of my most top-played tracks ever (what that says about me, I’m not so sure…)


Beyonce (Pepsi)

As I mentioned, since the Britney era we haven’t seen as  many of the high profile pop/pop ad campaigns as before, but that doesn’t means the soft drinks companies have gone soft on pop stars. These days they just seem more focused on smaller campaigns featuring more “niche artists” like Tori Kelly and Janelle Monae. However, Beyonce did do an advert for Pepsi just a couple of years ago, that for some unknown reason was never released. But it is STUNNING, and it is right up there with the best from Brit’s heyday, so it’s being included here as well.


And now for an extra-special, way,way back bonus:

Ann-Margaret (Canada Dry)

This musical number/crash course in late 60s pop culture is BONKERS and I love it. If ever there was such a thing as a “soft drink expert”, Ann-Margaret has convinced me that SHE is IT, now and forever. Cheers!


Pop Star to Movie Star

PROBLEM: Two singing sensations are ready to make the leap from pop princess to silver screen starlet. However, the project choice is crucial. The right role could be sweet as candy and open up doors to a whole new career, the wrong one could be toxic and only open doors that lead right back into the recording studio.

CASE STUDIES: Britney Spears and Mandy Moore

When Britney Spears burst on the pop music scene in 1998, her instant success had every record label in town scrambling to sign their own teen queen. Many of these hopefuls came and went without leaving much of an impression, but a few managed to click with audiences of their own. One such performer was Mandy Moore. By 2001, Spears and Moore had both racked up multi-platinum record sales (or rather, in Spears’ case, multi-multi-MULTI-multi-platinum) and each had the burgeoning fan bases to prove they weren’t just flash-in-the-pan successes. It was no surprise then when it was announced that both singers would be headlining movies the following year. Neither girl was hardly a stranger to acting (two seasons of  The New Mickey Mouse Club and a stint on Broadway for Spears and a supporting turn in 2001’s The Princess Diaries for Moore),  but this would be the first time each would be carrying a major motion picture. So what types of films would be chosen to herald their hopefully breakout performances?

SOLUTION: Target that fan base – it’s (teen) chick-flick time!

The choice was wisely made in both camps to find films that would resonate with their core audience – teen girls. Figuring that out was the easy part. Executing it was a little more difficult.

Unfortunately for Spears, it seemed that everyone involved with her film debut figured that once they had a poster with “Britney Spears” above the title they could call it a day. And while that may have gotten people into the theatres to see Crossroads, it didn’t do them any favours once they were in their seats. A dull, vapid coming-of-age road trip film (a quick scan of the  film’s review synopses on Metacritic show a high prominence of the word “lame”) with a star devoid of any of the exuberance she normally demonstrates on stage didn’t exactly convert anyone to the “Britney Spears – ACTRESS” camp. In fact, Spears spends her  time on-screen pretty much  looking and acting just like how I’d imagine her on a typical tour rehearsal day – singin’ a few songs, trying on various midriff-baring outfits, carrying on half-hearted conversations – all the while looking like she’s thinking “Dang, y’all – I really need to go on a Cheetos run. Are we done with this boring stuff yet?”

Thankfully Moore fared a bit better, since some apparent thought went into finding her a proper vehicle. Her film was A Walk To Remember – a sweet, heartbreaking teen romance based a well-loved Nicholas Sparks novel. And while it was squarely aimed at her teen girl fan base, the Mandy Moore on-screen was different from the one they knew. Playing a shy, plain girl with brunette locks was a far cry from the bubbly, blond, MTV-ready Moore that audiences were used to, but her charm and chemistry with costar Shane West still managed to successfully pluck at their little heartstrings. Not all critics were on board with the film (admittedly, it does get a little schmaltzy), but it nonetheless showed them and other viewers that Moore was at least serious about acting and her earnest performance showed she was willing to get invested in a role and try things outside her comfort zone.

RESULTS: Well, if you caught my sly lyric references in the beginning of this post, you may know where this is headed.

The films, which both had similar production budgets of around $12 million, also had similar (moderate) box office success. Domestically, Crossroads pulled in $37 million while A Walk To Remember netted $41 million*. But audience attendance and audience reaction are two different things, and in that respect, Remember has walked all over Crossroads. The  imdb.com pages for these films show that Crossroads has a cringe-worthy average user rating of 3/10 while A Walk To Remember is nestled nicely at 7.2/10.

It’s no shocker then that Crossroads is (so far) the one-and-done for the silver screen adventures of Britney Spears and she’s since focused on what she does best – churning out hit music. On the other hand, Mandy Moore has seen her singing career take a backseat to her ever-growing acting career a number of times since A Walk to Remember first resonated with movie-goers. In the past 10 years she has managed to carve out a consistent and respectable acting career for herself, appearing in such films as How to Deal, Chasing Liberty, Saved! and Because I Said So as well as providing the voice of Rapunzel in Disney’s 2010 blockbuster, Tangled.

*(source: Box Office Mojo)