Walking The Oat 🥛

The case for the highly derided Oatly Super Bowl commercial being actually very good at its mission, and as a musical homage of sorts.

This song may be stuck in your head all day.

For some reason, people can’t get behind sincerity and simplicity. But Oatly CEO Toni Petersson offered both in spades last night when he caused bafflement among football fans.

All he needed was a field, a cheap keyboard, a song about a kind of milk for humans, and a simplistic wail.

Music fans who know their history probably see Petersson paying homage to one of alternative music’s greatest underground icons, singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston.

I get it, it’s not everyone’s taste to see a grown man wail in a somewhat child-like voice with a simple sentiment. But that was what Johnston, who evolved into a respected songwriter in his own right, did nearly four decades ago, as his handmade cassettes, over the span of a decade, traveled from the streets of Austin, Texas to the ears of major rock stars like Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth. And lots of other people, too. He transcended simplicity over his 35-year career.

Johnston, who died in 2019, had demons, he had mental health problems, and his life was full of challenges. But the music (as well as the art) he created was simple, and his audience greatly appreciative.

In many ways, Petersson was evoking one of Johnston’s best-known compositions, “Walking the Cow,” which also relied on a simple keyboard melody and untrained vocal. If it did not come up in the production process for this commercial, I would be shocked—they are similar enough that I took it as a stylistic homage.

Now, buying oat milk is not everyone’s cup of tea. Often vegetarian alternatives have faced a tough time winning over the public in the supermarket, with plant-based milks one of the few things that has made true inroads.

Which raises the question: How much of the negative reaction to the Oatly commercial has to do with the fact that the product is seen as undesirable by some, and how much of it is just that the commercial is unusual for its venue?

Oatly had a choice with that ad: Either do something general that everyone else has seen before and have their mission fail to hit a mass audience, or go weird and possibly win the conversation on social media.

I think Oatly chose weird. Which I support. (Their brand work favors this, too.)

Anyway, Toni Petersson should embrace his new career as an outsider musician. I have seen Jandek and B.J. Snowden in concert. He would be great with that crowd.

Time limit given ⏲: 15 minutes

Time left on clock ⏲: 6 seconds (whew)

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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