Up in every way

“Nothing can stop me, I’m all the way up”, the song goes, and it manages to pack a whole bagful of uses of up into a few verses.

(#1) “All the Way Up”, with drugs, bitches and hoes, sex (“I’m that nigga on Viagra dick”), bling, success

And then Mountain Dew (the soft drink) extracted just a bit of the song for its own purposes.

(#2) Dewey Ryder triumphantly quenching his thirst to be first

(#3) … and cooling the fever of success

On the rap song, from Wikipedia:

“All the Way Up” is a song by American rappers Fat Joe and Remy Ma, featuring American rappers French Montana and Infared. It was released on March 2, 2016 by RNG (Rap’s New Generation) and EMPIRE, as the first single from their collaborative album Plata O Plomo.

The hook / chorus of the song (by Infared):

Nothin’ can stop me, I’m all the way up
All the way up
I’m all the way up
I’m all the way up
Nothin’ can stop me, I’m all the way up

(Insistent and ear-wormy.)

A contributor’s comments on the genius.com lyrics site:

“All The Way Up” is a celebratory uptown anthem full of braggadocious lyrics by Bronx rappers Fat Joe, Remy Ma, and French Montana.

The term “all the way up” means to be high and excited; at the pinnacle of your emotional spectrum.

Up in spirits, high on drugs, at the peak of success, having the advantage on competitors, and more, including sexually aroused (and past the point of no return: “nothing can stop me”): note the Viagra dick. 

[Now that Viagra has come up, a brief digression on a phrasal idiom:

get it up: vulgar slang (of a man) achieve an erection. (NOAD)

What’s interesting here is that the idiom looks decidedly euphemistic, in its use of it to refer to the penis and in its use of up (rather than hard) to mean ‘erect’, but nevertheless it counts as a vulgarity. It’s hard for a referring expression to escape the stigma of its referent.

A side point of interest is that, by using causative-transitive get, the idiom frames an erection as an action (with an agentive subject) rather than a state change (with an affected subject): He got it up in seconds (causative with agentive subject) vs. His dick got / went / sprung up in seconds (inchoative with affected subject). In this idiom, getting an erection is something a man does, rather than something that happens to him.]

The NASCAR moment. An announcement on the ad site The Drum on 10/26/17:

Soft drink Mountain Dew is introducing new creative starring actor Danny McBride as a “future legendary driver” and a replacement for Nascar racer Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt is retiring after this racing season and has been a spokesperson for Mountain Dew for over a decade. Instead of going the somber route when he retires at the end of the season, Mountain Dew is staying true to its brand and releasing a humorous tribute piece by BBDO.

The two-minute-plus spot will introduce the world to a new character named Dewey Ryder, played with brash confidence [by] McBride. Ryder enters with a cameraman capturing the scene as he meets Earnhardt for the first time and announces [himself] to him as his replacement for the first time. He then shows a shockingly humorous lack of knowledge about the car and the equipment.

The Ryder character is both astonishingly ignorant and absurdly self-assured; he’s a fool and an asshole. In contrast, Junior is competent, amiable, and reserved. The commercial came out this year; you can watch it here. An excerpt from the script:

[Ryder:] Junior! What’s up, what’s up, what’s up? [Junior:] Do I know you? [Ryder:] Dewey Ryder, guys. I’m Dewey Ryder. I know this is probably super bittersweet for you, uh, but I brought my camera crew here in the hopes that we could capture a little passing of the torch moment here between you and I? Oh, nobody told you? [Junior:] No. [Ryder:] Oh, this is awkward. I’m the new you! I’m the guy that Mountain Dew’s been looking for! You know, I’m gonna be driving race cars super fast in circles. Hobnobbing. Endorsementing. Riding wild, Mountain Dew all the time. [Junior:] In that? [Ryder:] Yeah! Yeah. [Junior:] Nobody races in shorts. {Ryder:] Uh, well, Dewey Ryder races in shorts because Dewey Ryder does not like to get super sweaty…

Eventually, Ryder takes the Mountain Dew bottle from Junior and exults in his new status — he’s now on top, all the way up — in #2 and #3 above, while the hook from “All the Way Up” plays.

Musical quotations in commercials. Bits of music of all kinds get used for their affect in commercials: they communicate joy, triumph, excitement, sexual arousal, seductiveness, daring, playfulness, patriotism, whatever. Classical music and all sorts of popular music: folk, blues, rock, pop, rap. Mostly, the original context and content of the music is abandoned in favor of a shot of affect — as above, where the black street-thug narrative of the rap original is reduced to a shout of triumph.

The disjuncture between the original content and context of a piece of music and the message communicated by a commercial quotation from it can be vast, as it is in the case at hand. The BBDO ad people who created the Mountain Dew commercial seem to have calculated that the audience for their product (centrally, Southern white working-class men, people who are likely to be NASCAR fans) would probably be ignorant of the full narrative in the rap song.

Background notes. On the actor who plays Dewey Ryder, from Wikipedia:

Daniel Richard McBride (born December 29, 1976) is an American actor, comedian, and writer. He starred in the HBO television series, Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals, both of which he co-created with frequent collaborator Jody Hill. He has also starred in films, such as The Foot Fist Way (2006), Pineapple Express (2008), Up in the Air (2009), Your Highness (2011), and This Is the End (2013).

… He was raised in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, where he graduated from Courtland High School and attended North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Note his age and his origins in the middle South. Both match Junior closely, except that Junior comes from what amounts to a royal family of NASCAR. From Wikipedia:

Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr. (born October 10, 1974 [in Kannapolis NC, and raised there]), known professionally as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jr., or just Junior, is a retired [in 2017] American professional stock car racing driver, team owner, and is currently an analyst for NASCAR on NBC. He also competes part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driving the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro for his team JR Motorsports. He is the son of NASCAR Hall of Fame member Dale Earnhardt Sr. He is also the grandson of both NASCAR driver Ralph Earnhardt and stock car fabricator Robert Gee, the brother of Kelley Earnhardt-Miller, the half-brother of former driver Kerry Earnhardt, the uncle of driver Jeffrey Earnhardt, the stepson of Teresa Earnhardt, and the older half-brother of Taylor Nicole Earnhardt-Putnam.

And then on Mountain Dew (again, with a connection to the middle South), from Wikipedia:

(#4) Eight flavors of Mountain Dew on display in a grocery store cooler in May 2010

Mountain Dew … is a carbonated soft drink brand produced and owned by PepsiCo. The original formula was invented in 1940 by Tennessee beverage bottlers Barney and Ally Hartman. A revised formula was created by Bill Bridgforth in 1958.

… Between the 1940s and 1980s, there was just one variety of Mountain Dew, which was citrus-flavored and caffeinated in most markets. Diet Mountain Dew was introduced in 1988, followed by Mountain Dew Red, which was introduced and subsequently discontinued in 1988. In 2001, a cherry flavor called Code Red debuted. This product line extension trend has continued, with expansion into specialty, limited time production, region-specific, and retailer-specific (Taco Bell, 7-Eleven) variations of Mountain Dew.

… “Mountain Dew” was originally Southern and/or Scots/Irish slang for moonshine (i.e., homemade whiskey). Using it as the name for the soda was originally suggested by Carl E. Retzke at an Owens-Illinois Inc. meeting in Toledo, Ohio, and was first trademarked by Ally and Barney Hartman in the 1940s. Early bottles and signage carried the reference forward by showing a cartoon-stylized hillbilly.

… The tune “Good Old Mountain Dew” has been recorded and covered by artists like The Stanley Brothers, Grandpa Jones and Willie Nelson. In its original bluegrass context, “Mountain Dew” refers to moonshine.

As it happens, I’m pretty much immune to the attractions of both NASCAR and Mountain Dew, but not to rap music, so I found Mountain Dew’s use of “Nothing can stop me, I’m all the way up” jarring.

2 Responses to “Up in every way”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Mike Pope on Facebook:

    “Mostly, the original context and content of the music is abandoned in favor of a shot of affect”
    I remember a ketchup commercial that used Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” to suggest that the product was so thick that people would have to wait for it to pour. This was, um, not the context that Ms Simon had in mind.
    There’s also a class of commercial that uses a song but rewrites the lyrics to fit the context. Not that I can think of an example right now.
    Here’s a piece on the different ways that commercials use pop songs:


  2. [BLOG] Some Tuesday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky starts from noting a sample of a rap song in a Mountain Dew commercial and goes interesting places in his […]

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