Fiona Apple is having a great summer. "Hot Knife" was officially released as a single with a music video that is getting great notices all over the place. She's also picked up a huge advertising deal with fast food chain Chipotle promoting their new iOS game and corporate rebranding.
Fiona Apple feels like an odd choice to promote a restaurant that serves a whole lot of meat. She's an animal rights activist and a vegan who notoriously purchased a 1-800 line one digit off from the Butterball turkey hotline to advocate for a meat-free lifestyle at the holidays. But then you see what the new Chipotle campaign is with her cover of "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.
Apple's interpretation of the cheerful anthem of discovery and hope is haunting. It's a total transformation. There's a devious edge to the arrangement that belies the optimistic lyrics. She's delivering the song with a snarl, not a smile, and that makes a huge difference.
Why so dark? Because the new Chipotle campaign is all about wholesome, sustainable food production. The video, called "The Scarecrow," is about a scarecrow who arrives for work at a big farming corporation and uncovers the truth behind commercial farming. He sees chickens injected with growth hormones and cows trapped in cages to be milked dry. He fights back when he realizes his own home-grown produce and recipes can start to change the world.
Of course Fiona Apple would sign on for a campaign against the industrial farm complex. As an animal rights activist, she wants people to see the truth behind the conveyor belt approach to meat preparation. She might not eat anything on Chipotle's menu besides their vegetarian options centered on beans, rice, peppers, and salsas, but that doesn't mean she would have to take an antagonistic stance toward the meat consumption connected with the business. Chipotle is trying to take steps to create a more humane fast food restaurant and Apple believes their message.
I do, too. I've seen enough documentaries on slaughterhouses and industrial farms to know what the cost of low prices at the grocery store is. Fiona Apple's performance combined with the beautiful and shocking cartoon is getting a lot of press. People who would never choose to watch real undercover footage from the killing floor are getting a big taste of why companies like Chipotle and animal rights activists fight for better conditions for animals.
"Pure Imagination" actually ends on a more optimistic note. By the time the scarecrow realizes he can fight against the harmful farming/livestock practices, he's greeted with a far more familiar arrangement. The angst and despair of the dark days at the corporation lift to a much more energetic and happy form. There's even a literally uplifting key change, going higher and switching to orchestral rather than synthetic instruments when the Scarecrow sells his first burrito created through organic, sustainable farming.
If it takes a new twist on a lovely song and a cute and creepy video to encourage change, so be it. Media has the power to be a tool for the improvement of society if we're willing to embrace creations with strong messages like this. "The Scarecrow"/Fiona Apple's "Pure Imagination" represent advertising with a higher purpose than just moving units. It's an entertaining and educational piece of art that can be appreciated and understood by all ages as something worth discussing.
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