Rhythm Meanings: Beats by Dr. Dre, “Be Heard” (2016) and Nike, “Instant Karma” (1992)

I present two brilliantly edited ads:

Beats by Dr. Dre “Be heard”

As the brand demands, the editing is heavily on the beat. Everyone is pounding their chests in time and the cuts are almost always on the measures of the song. With a boost from a roaring crowd, the intensity ramps up tightly in sync with “Seven Nation Army.” My favorite moments are the spinning-and-landing bike at 0:42, right at the turnaround of the first loud measure incorporating Jack White’s searing lead guitar, and a rhyming follow-up at 0:45 with Simone Biles spinning high in the air on White’s triplet.

The meaning: like White sings at the start, “I’m gonna fight ’em off,” that is, live my own life fiercely inside my headphones.

Compare David Fincher’s 1992 “Instant Karma” Nike ad, which also exploits a rock song but uses slow motion, abstract symbols, and more oblique editing and gets a kind of push-pull going between different senses of time and exertion. I think it registers on an entirely different plane, one of detached contemplation, maybe with an affinity to a runner’s high:

The meaning: “We all (variously) shine on” in our global playground.

1992.  2016. Contemplate these moments.

About Steve Smith

Emeritus Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Millsaps College
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