Macy’s Co-Opts AIDS Anthem to Sell Jewelry

Posted on: December 8th, 2010 at 6:18 am by

It’s that time of year again. Christmas trees are getting decorated, menorahs are being lit (and driven around town), and people all around the world are dying of AIDS. Wait, what?!

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For its newest commercial, Macy’s, the department store synonymous with holiday parades and miracles on 34th Street, has co-opted a song from a musical synonymous with poverty, struggle, and AIDS. How festive.

“Seasons of Love,” the tear-jerking song from the ‘90s Broadway musical RENT, asks the question “How do you measure a year”? Is it in “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes” or is “daylights, sunsets, cups of coffee, laughter”? Macy’s hopes shoppers will measure their year with moderately priced, forgettable looking jewelry it’s selling this holiday season.

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In its quest to measure a year, the 30-second TV spot runs through a montage of benign middle-American imagery, such as football games, breakfasts in bed, and frolicking on the beach. At times it gets real clever and offers literal interpretations of the lyrics, such as with the scene of the small child getting its hair cut at a barber. All a far cry from tragic incidents that take place in RENT’s New York City year – eviction, HIV infection, suicide, drug abuse, death, etc.

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Macy’s, a New York institution itself, should know better than to appropriate such a meaningful song for cheap holiday thrills.  But hey, why stop there? Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” is powerful, but imagine how much product Macy’s could move with Ke$ha making in-store appearances rapping “Bring us your tired, poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…because we got mad values in store for them this Christmas, yo!”

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