Back when we all watched TV on TV sets, commercials rivaled actual programs as cultural touchstones. Like, if you were alive and sentient in the 1990s, you may not know who killed Laura Palmer on Twin Peaks, but you can for sure hum the annoying-ass Meow Mix jingle. Infomercial hosts were our influencers. Products were being crammed into our eyeballs 24/7—but at least a lot of them made up for it by giving us something to sing along to, earworms we’ll take to the grave decades after our big ol’ console TVs went to the landfill.
Here are eight jingles that have stood the test of time and still have us singing along, whether or not we want to.
- Big Red
Okay, I know that 1992 was 30 years ago and 30 years is a long time, but, as a person who still remembers this song by heart, I really struggle with how old this commercial looks and seems! The 1990s are more like the 1950s than they are like the 2020s, and I need to lie down. But first, shout out to the Big Red ad exec who decided the brand was going to be all about sweet tunes and MAKING OUT. Leeeean in to the wholesome sexuality of it all! When you think Big Red, think foreplay! Cinnamon gum has these people all horned up, and I, for one, am here for it. (I do feel a little bad for the people in the carpool who just want to get to work, but, come on, watching Rick and Karen lick the insides of each others molars has to be more fun than rifling through a big stack of papers on a desk or whatever people did at offices in the ’90s.)
Man, you know you’re in for a treat when a jingle starts the way this one does. Go off, “Doo doo wah” kings. This song is an absolute classic, thanks in no small part to an adorable cameo in Clueless. There are a bunch of versions of this commercial with different variations on a theme. Basically, life is annoying and people are scum, but if you eat Mentos you can solve problems in ethically dubious and logistically improbable ways instead of just crying while listening to Simon & Garfunkel in the dark. That’s the power of the Freshmaker, baby!
- Juicy Fruit
This song is still a big hit in my household, even though I have far too much dental work to sit around chewing gum that isn’t sugar free. From those first few jangly notes, I’m totally on board. Things take a menacing turn in the second verse with, “Take WHIFF … PULL IT OUT,” but the vocalist sells it like a pro. Violate me, Juicy Fruit!
- Hot Pockets
Don’t we all want a hot meal without a big deal? Say what you will about Hot Pockets as a food item—I know Jim Gaffigan has puh-lenty to say on the subject—this song is a total bop, the bangs rule, and the turtlenecks are on point. And, you know, if upper-middle-class WASPs what to give themselves two-day heartburn by downing one of those pepperoni pockets, I guess I support them!
Someone get Randy Newman’s lawyers on the phone, amirite? I didn’t remember this jingle from 1991, but I’m now completely obsessed with it and the visuals that accompany it. Why wouldn’t there be a woman in a fur coat manhandling a teacup pig? And don’t you think it’s totally adorable when people sneak up behind you and essentially tackle you from behind? I know I do. And I like the Sprite in you, babe.
Over the past few decades, there have been a bunch of versions of this coffee commercial and its attendant jingle, but this one seems particularly important. Not all that long ago, around the year 2000, America was absolutely obsessed with Irish step dancing. We had Riverdance. We had Lord of the Dance. It was as ubiquitous as Shen Yun, but less unsettling. Anyway, Folgers got in on that action big time. I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me want coffee more than imagining a big mug of it sloshing around in this woman’s stomach.
- Bagel Bites
Precocious children are my kryptonite, but I’m willing to overlook some extremely hammy behavior to enjoy this unhinged song about pizza bagels and when you’re allowed to eat them (always). As a child who made a tray of Bagel Bites every day upon getting home from school, this is truly art imitating life.
- Kit Kat
Um, did you know that the Kit Kat theme song (“Gimme a break, giiiimmmee a break …”) HAS A VERSE?? Is it good? No, not really! But this is earth-shattering info for me. I love the egalitarian vibe of the commercial (construction workers! a small-town beauty queen! old people!), and the whole thing still makes me want to share a Kit Kat with my fellow human, as long as their thumbs don’t touch it as much as this dude’s do.