The Elements Music takes a look at the themes and trends that won the Entertainment Music jury’s favor at this year’s Cannes Lions.
The winners of the Entertainment Lions for Music 2022 once again showed how a brand or creator’s currency lies in their ability to challenge and impact culture. Metal-winners this year used music to disrupt the status-quo and stand-up to the system, in a deeply authentic way.
We took a closer look at the themes and music trends in the work of the 17 lucky winners (from a total of 390 entries)
If words fail: Weaponize music as Truth
As long as music has existed, it’s been a source of protest: a way of both expressing silenced voices, and mocking the establishment. This year’s only Grand Prix winner ‘This is not America’ Ft Ibeyi by Residente is a searing parody of Childish Gambino’s (also Lions Music Grand Prix-winning) “This Is America”. How meta.
In a visceral piece of entertainment that’s the three-quarters rejection of US imperialism and a quarter protest against the treatment of indigenous Latin Americans by corrupt governments, Residente draws you in, assaults your senses with provocative imagery (mothers breastfeeding babies through barbed gates, Argentine Tango dancers sashaying against a backdrop of brutal police violence) and raps over the top:
“America isn't only the USA, pal
You have to be so stupid, such an airhead
It's like saying that Africa is only Morocco
Gambino, bro, this is America”
Both videos offer a sucker punch to the powerful elite but with very different agendas at the heart. Might we see the third installment next year?
Perry Fair, Cannes Lions Music Juror comments: “Residente was like a megaphone to culture, it stood out because of its craft, but also the visuals - which could be seen as polarizing. But as we discuss the role of empathy in judging work and the nature of the work as a global message. The conversations lasted hours and were full of perspectives from the most diverse room of judges I’ve ever seen. Choosing a Grand Prix is never easy because all of the work is groundbreaking. And this one was a great decision.”
Residente wasn’t the only musician to take on social injustice issues. In Gold-winning “Teenage Dream”, artist Katy Perry lends her famous song to Sandy Hook Promise to highlight the chasm between the carefree life her original song promises versus the tragic reality of school shootings.
And silver winner “Sonho” (one of only five winners outside of the USA) tells the story of funk performer Nego Bala’s life in “Crackland”, one of São Paulo’s forgotten neighborhoods where crime is rife and a spell in prison is the only escape. Nego’s 11 minute video draws attention to the +42k teenagers (majority black) in prison, resulting from the institutionalized racism so embedded in the country.
Brands as music labels
It’s not exactly news that brands are waking up to the fact that entertainment drives emotional connections and, even for die-hard cynics, music wins fans.
Gold winners Jif (Lil Jif Project) and Applebee’s (Fancy Like) both hit the high notes with their partnerships: Jif with rapper Ludacris and Applebee’s with the underdog musician, Walker Hayes. One legendary, one a relative unknown. Both brands sought to transform poor consumer sentiment and lagging sales with a musical phenomenon to restore their relevance with a younger generation.
In clever perfect-content-meets-perfect-context plays, Jif and Applebee’s both released original music via the GenZ favored platform, TikTok, which is how 75% of TikTok users – about 600 million people – say they discover new artists.
Hashtags #JifRapChallenge and #FancyLike saw earned engagement explode on social channels, further amplified by paid media, with both campaigns scoring stunning business results: Jif boosted share by 3.4 pts at the expense of Private Label and Skippy, giving it the highest category share in over 10 years and even received a Grammy nomination for Best Country song and Applebee’s outperformed the category to have its best year ever!
Music as an immersive experience
At a time of peak isolation, brands sought to bring every inch of the musical experience to fans in exclusive “access all areas” deals that not only won brand fans but also made history.
Pepsi’s Bronze-winning “Half-time Ultra Pass” used breakthrough 5G technology to enable at-home viewers to watch the 2022 Super Bowl half-time ensemble Hip Hop slot up close. To do this they covered the stage with nine 8K 360 cameras and beamed crazy amounts of data over the Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband network to fans around the county as a fully interactive, second-screen experience. In fact, they live-streamed more data-per-second over the Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband network than ever before.
Prime Video’s “Staroake” marked the launch of Italian singer Laura Pausini’s film by performing the first-ever karaoke in the sky. In a truly 360-degree experience, 500 drones flying over the Colosseum Park in Rome were synced to the original movie song, which culminated in a QR code that appeared in the sky after the song lyrics -directing people, of course, to immediately access the film on Prime Video.
“The meteoric rise of technology and immersive “Sound-On” experiences has changed the landscape of music for media. As a music production house, we’re excited to adventure into this uncharted sonic territory and challenge ourselves to explore new possibilities for how audio can enhance and transcend existing sonic boundaries and create transformative, valuable, immersive experiences.”
Scoring a musical affront
A host of 2022 Lion winners threw shade at the establishments in what was a huge year of activism for the Cannes Lions Music category. If 2020 was the year for bringing attention to social injustice issues-particularly institutionalized racism - 21/22 were the years for action.
Google’s Gold-winning “Black-Owned Friday 2021” used Grammy award winner T-Pain to pen and front the soundtrack for its initiative to actively "Search, shop and support Black-owned"—garnering more than 11 million views in a month.
Mercado Livre had a similar objective but different execution with its “Black Business Beats” campaign. Here they enlisted two of Brazil’s biggest rap stars, Djonga and Tassia Reis, to rap about black-owned brands, which amounted to a 60% average increase in sales for each emerging black business they mentioned. Normally, it’s luxury white-owned brands that reap the benefits of Hip Hop mentions, but these campaigns sought to turn this tradition on its head.
The best work proved that authentic brand and artist collaborations can pay off
The shocking power of music
Whether it’s breaking taboos or pushing boundaries, music has always been the spearhead of cultural change. We saw hopeful rebellion in Lion-winners this year with work that smashed open dialogues around important topics: gun crime, racism, imperialism and the gender gap. Some were appropriately dark and moving (“Teenage Dream” for Sandy Hook promise”) whilst others were joyfully light.
The “Industry Baby” music video for Columbia Records saw Lil Nas X sentenced to five years in prison for being gay, in a part social-commentary part joyous camp prison- escape drama; that drew attention to the mass incarceration of black men and homophboia. What is so clever is that the video was in response to a lawsuit filed by Nike Inc, against the art collective MSCHF, who designed the Satan Shoes as promotion for Lil Nas X's song, "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)". Knowing the attention this would receive, Lil Nas X and team seized the moment to produce this music video: to turn a positive into a negative. Viewers were encouraged to donate to The Bail Project. Best yet, the video was the most talked about/controversial music video of the year with close to 8M likes and over 450k comments on youtube.