The Super Bowl of Selling: The Best and Worst Ads

Did the big game deliver? What was the best moment? What was so quirky that you kept on thinking about it? And what was a complete waste of everybody’s time?

Roughly 111.3 million people watched last year’s Super Bowl, so advertisers were confident enough to pay $4 million dollars per ad. Why? Because it isn’t just football fans who tune into the big game: an estimated 54% of those millions of eyeballs tune in just for the commercials.

Ads that feature big-time celebrities, ridiculous special effects, or are just plain funny are what people expect. But did the big game deliver? What was the best moment? What was so quirky that you kept on thinking about it? And what was a complete waste of everybody’s time? Read on to find out, and then post your own opinions below.

Several movie spots made their debut last night, including World War Z, Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Disney’s Oz: The Great And Powerful, and The Lone Ranger.

CBS took advantage of any available advertising space by plugging all their series, especially their upcoming police drama Golden Boy.

This year’s biggest trend was online participation, with a Lincoln road trip commercial that ends at their official website and a user-voted ending to an Audi prom night commercial.

The most overrated example of this was a three-way race for Coca-cola. Website visitors could vote for the cowboys, showgirls, or “outlanders” (Mad Max rip-offs) to get a sip. Surprisingly, the showgirls won because a quacking duck clock distracted the guys. Seriously.

Another trend was the slightly disturbing air of darkness to the night, with Stevie Wonder as a Voodoo magic man for Budweiser and Willem Defoe as the devil in Mercedes Benz’s “Sympathy for the Devil” spot.

“It’s only weird if it doesn’t work” seemed to be the motto for most of this year’s ads, don’t you think?

Unfortunately, there was a lot of sleaze to shuffle through this year, with the annual female-bashing attempts for attention from GoDaddy.com and a spot for Gilden that dealt with a man retrieving his shirt from the sleeping partner of a one-night stand. Yuck!

Did that make anyone want to go out and buy a T-shirt?

Don’t think these ads were all heartless, however, as Dodge Ram brought us a stirring tribute to the American farmer.

There were also huge, big budget ads that took a lot to sell a simple idea. The best example of this was an epic family day with The Flaming Lips for Hyundai.

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The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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