A musical Mad Libs came to life over the weekend as indie forefather Beck covered “Old Man” by Neil Young in an ad for the NFL. The TV spot promoted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ upcoming game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, October 2nd. Beck’s rendition, available now on streaming services, was used to highlight the age gap between six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady, 44, and 27-year-old Patrick Mahomes, who led the Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl LIV in 2020.
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While the league’s ad executives no doubt patted themselves on the back for syncing up the line “24 and there’s so much more” with footage of Brady (who won his first Super Bowl in 2002 at age 24), there’s one person who isn’t impressed, probably. The song’s author, Neil Young, has been famously against licensing his music to any commercials throughout his seven-decade career. The Canadian singer-songwriter even made this a focal point of the title track to his 1988 album This Note’s For You, calling out music icons who lend their works to commercials, “Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi, ain’t singin’ for Coke/ I don’t sing for nobody/ Makes me look like a joke.”
The entertainment industry has long either ignored or been oblivious to Young’s aversions to commercialism, with MTV even awarding the music video for “This Note’s For You”—which is basically just four minutes of references to 1980s TV commercials—the Video Of The Year trophy. But after his 2021 deal with Hipgnosis Songs Fund wherein he sold off the publishing rights to half his songwriting catalog, Young may not have much of a say anymore. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but at the time Hipgnosis founder Merck Mercuriadis told ABC News, “There will never be a ‘Burger Of Gold,’ but we will work together to make sure everyone gets to hear [Neil Young’s songs] on Neil’s terms.”
With his hands possibly contractually tied, Young was forced to utilize something he hates just about as much as commercialism: social media. On Monday night, the Neil Young Archives posted a captionless still of the “This Note’s For You” music video showing Neil’s face behind a beer bottle labeled “Sponsored By Nobody.”
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Stereogum has reached out to Neil Young’s representatives asking whether the Hipgnosis deal allows Young’s songs to be used in commercials without his blessing. This latest capitalistic spat comes after Young started the year by going toe-to-toe with Spotify after the musician accused the platform of willfully spreading COVID misinformation via its distribution of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. The feud led to a number of artists including Young, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and more taking their music off Spotify and the streaming service adding content advisories and information links to podcasts that discuss COVID.