By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
It's either the most radical piece of music crit I've seen in ages, or the least self-aware moment this side of Britney Spears begging her beau to hit her, baby, one more time. Here's the thing: the couple in the car are white, extremely very J.Crew white. And the vast majority of people on the street, in the rain, are African Americans. It's New Orleans, but it might as well be Harlem World.
What the commercial knows is that sounds do have colors. In fact, it admits exactly what any number of kids and critics will try to deny that hip-hop and electronica are both race musics. Moreover, they have a fucked relationship. The people on the street are the music, busy being the soundsand that's hip-hop. The couple in the car simply receive the music, digitized and denatured in their rolling isolation chamberand that's electronica. The daily life of the city is translated into a soundtrack for day-trippers.
It's actually a perfectly lovely song, by some guy named Master Cylinder: the kind of kraftwerk that German car companies know we know about, signifying a precision-engineered techtopia. But warmer, as befits a wagon for the folk. The commercial's supposed to be a perfect moment, when everything in the world is in sync. This is supposed to make us feel good, in touch, integrated. And we will all buy Volkswagens here in our cars, we feel safest of all, we can lock all the doors, it's the only way to live.
But the commercial's too smart for its own good. As the relationship between the two musics becomes visible to the couple, the couple becomes bemused and then freaked out. Finally it's so intense that the driver has to kill the song. The sounds disappear suddenly the street is silent. "That was interesting," he says; they exchange a look, take a corner, and drive on out of that bush, and the electronica track rises again, quieter now, unattached to anything outside the car, cut loose from its roots, perfectly white noise.