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Dubstep Selling Candy, Helping to Stop Human Trafficking

Dubstep "Nerds"

Once upon a time, dubstep was made by nerds — dudes obsessed with dubplates, bass bins, and other hallmarks of soundboy culture. Now, however, the genre is being used to sell Nerds — that is, the colorful sugar-crystal candy made by Nestlé’s Willy Wonka brand. A new commercial for the pebbly confection takes aim at the ADHD set with a theme song set to dubstep’s signature LFO wobble and whooshing synths, drops and all. Much like Weetabix, which used Mord Fustang’s “A New World” to soundtrack a Matrix-like routine by the nine-year-old dancer Arizona Snow and a cast of acrobatic teddy bears, Nestlé has figured out that nothing says “sugar rush” quite like a wavetable bass riff.

In a repeat of the “electronica” boom of the 1990s, when the music of artists like Moby, Dirty Vegas, and the Crystal Method became inescapable on prime-time TV, dubstep is steadily wubbing its way into the commercial landscape. GoPro, a maker of HD video cameras designed for extreme sports, used Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” in an action-packed spot featuring the pro kayaker Ben Brown, while (an unofficial!) Coca-Cola ad opted for Skrillex’s remix of Avicii’s “Levels” for a recent commercial in the U.K. The beverage company Brown-Forman tapped Vokab Kompany’s half-stepping electro to sell Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper, a Tabasco-laced variation of the whiskey-flavored liqueur. And Microsoft, a company famous for middlebrow branding, answered the question of what a dubstep remix of Train might sound like when it used the British musician Alex Clare’s “Too Close” in an advertisement for Internet Explorer.

Dubstep’s supercharged strains have even turned up in such unlikely places as a trailer for Red Tails, a film about WWII’s Tuskeegee Airmen, and a racy PSA for Stop the Traffik, a non-profit group that combats human trafficking.

While many commercials have utilized pre-existing music, Nestlé’s Nerds ad may be the first to feature dubstep (or “dubstep,” at least) that was written and recorded explicitly for the product, complete with one of the most annoying refrains ever to sully the Saturday-morning airwaves — “Take the tab and tear it / Shake your box and share it / Double flavors, pair it / Nerds!”

It’s ironic that rave culture, which once delighted in putting a druggy spin on children’s television (consider Smart E’s 1992 pop-rave hit Sesame’s Treet), has now come full circle. As formerly countercultural sounds nurture a new generation suckling at the boob tube, the term “kandi raver” gains a whole new meaning.