Man, Morgan Freeman’s voice. It can lend dignity to anything! Anything but the Smashing Pumpkins, who have none, and are not interested in getting any back. Still when I first heard this Visa commercial during American Idol a few nights ago (I was just flipping through, promise kids), I had the momentarily shocked face. But by the time I saw it again, on 30 Rock last night, it sort of made sense. Because lately he’s been acting like the songs of his past no longer mean anything to him, and it matches with the terms and conditions he laid out for selling out back in 2004:
[Being offered to commercialize a song is] a fundamentally difficult position to be in. At this point, it’s just free money. Song’s already been played. It’s been exploited. The record company’s literally begging me: go ahead and take these commercials. At this point in my life, I don’t feel comfortable. Those songs are the reason I’m alive. If your music is not sacred to the point where it’s a really, really, really heavy decision about whether or not you would allow somebody else to exploit it, then what’s not for sale?
And on “Today” in particular:
I’m not romantic about the notion of “selling out.” People who are not in your position deciding what is and isn’t selling out I always thought was a crock of s—. The song I wrote, “Today,” which ended up being a pretty big song–that song literally saved my life. I was completely suicidal, and I wrote that song in a cold bedroom on a day where it was like, “I’m either going to kill myself today, or I’m going to live because I’m sick of thinking about this.” When I played it, it was an intense, extreme feeling. Last year, I was offered heavy, heavy money to license that song. I actually turned down two huge, huge, seven-figure-plus deals last year for two songs.
It is no longer an intense and heavy feeling, I guess. Here’s Billy’s Visa commercial: