By now you may have already seen Mary J. Blige sing her heart out on behalf of the “exciting things happening” at Burger King, namely its crispy chicken snack wrap. Or, you may have clicked on a link that was supposed to lead to the commercial but found that the spot had already been removed. The video spread quickly yesterday and was met with a collective “WTF?” from the internet community, so it seems that even Burger King has figured out that there’s something funky about the ad besides Mary’s signature soulful vocals.
But there’s not really one glaring problem with the ad, there are a few problems, each of which contribute to a general feeling of malaise that’s hard to ignore.
1. Yet Another Black Person Singing About Fast Food Chicken. Watching MJB put her whole back into singing a fried chicken carol forces me to ponder how far we’ve come as a people, a contemplation that I just don’t have time for in 2012. Annie The Chicken Queen of Popeye’s fame comes to mind, as does McDonald’s Chicken McNugget r&b love song. The stereotype about black folks loving chicken is hundreds of years old, yet it seems more rampant in fast food advertising of the past few years than ever before. We clearly have larger issues to worry about than the proliferation of old myths, but when a legitimate commercial seems to mirror itself after a spoof of its own subgenre, there’s a problem.
2. She Seems Crazy For No Good Reason. The other ads in the new Burger King campaign feature Jay Leno, Salma Hayek, and David Beckham but none of these have been removed from the chain’s Youtube channel. They’re all a little bit weird, from Salma’s Spanish-language effort in a nerd costume, to Jay Leno driving one of his classic cars inside of a Burger Kin to grab some BK with a random black friend in the passenger seat. But at least all of these spokespeople portray actual customers who behave relatively normally by approaching the counter to buy some food. For some reason, Mary J is dressed in strange biker chick wear, so excited about snack wraps that she’s interrupting a random patron to shout their praises from the middle of the restaurant. The song is a remix of “Don’t Mind” with lyrics about fresh lettuce and French dressing instead of the original words. It sounds like something you’d make up with friends while acting goofy, crack up about for a minute, and then redeem yourself by making sure that everyone you’re cackling with is registered to vote.
3. Those Snack Wraps Look Nasty. Food photography is a wonderful thing, and that’s why the burger you get from an actual restaurant never looks like the ones you see on television. Yet these crispy chicken wraps look nasty even when they’re all dressed up! Sure MJB has done commercials in the past, so I’m not arguing that I’m supposed to believe she’d eat a snack wrap any more than I’d believe she uses any particular product…I know she is not eating those things. But it’s downright impossible to believe that anyone would see this commercial and (on the way to buying Mary J Blige’s new album My Life II…The Journey Continues, of course) head over to Burger King expecting something worth singing over.