Despite an increasingly fragmented media landscape in which television commercials rarely go â€œviralâ€ â€” outside of the Super Bowl â€” December of 2019 will go down as the month America couldnâ€™t look away from Pelotonâ€™s bizarre holiday ad. The spot has been written about extensively and the lead actress in the ad even went onto the Today show earlier this month to blame her overly expressive face for the backlash. One character not seen in the spot, but who plays a large role in the ad is Canadian singer Tal Bachman, whose 1999 hit â€œSheâ€™s So Highâ€ soundtracks the viral commercial.
â€œWhen I got the request, I didnâ€™t think much of it,â€ he says from his home near Vancouver, speaking for the first time since Peloton started airing the ad in November. â€œA few weeks later, the ad explodedâ€¦ Funny olâ€™ world!â€
More from Variety
The 51-year-old says he has â€œgotten lots of messagesâ€ from fans and friends since the commercial gained traction on social media, â€œalmost all of them were positive,â€ he notes. â€œThe controversy surrounding the ad hasnâ€™t been all positive, of course, but I donâ€™t care about that. People love to freak out over stuff, so whatever.â€
That â€œSheâ€™s So Highâ€ reached its zeitgeist moment this year is fitting as itâ€™s the 20th anniversary of the upbeat pop song, which still enjoys a healthy amount of recurrent airplay at radio in the United States. In fact, it keeps turning up in pop culture. Earlier this year, Emma Stone singled it out as a favorite she likes to sing at karaoke sessions during an interview on â€œThe Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.â€ A few years ago, during the final season premiere of HBOâ€™s â€œGirls,â€ the song is heard as the ensemble gathers around a bonfire on the beach, and a surf instructor is playing â€œSheâ€™s So Highâ€ on his guitar.
To what does Bachman attribute the tuneâ€™s lasting legacy? Planned timelessness.
â€œIâ€™m pleased it has lasted this long, but Iâ€™d be lying if I said we didnâ€™t arrange and mix â€˜Sheâ€™s So Highâ€™ with the goal of making it sound timeless,â€ Bachman says. â€œWe wanted it to get played forever, so Bob Rock [who co-produced the song] and I spent a lot of time trying to make it sound like it could have come out in â€™66, â€™79, â€™99, â€™08, or any other year. The goal was to create a recording which, in its sonic character, the listener couldnâ€™t peg to any particular era. We believed if we did that, it could get played for years, and on multiple formats. Iâ€™m grateful all our little strategies seem to have worked!â€
Further, Bachman says the pair specifically avoided production pitfalls that might make â€œSheâ€™s So Highâ€ sound dated in the future. â€œIn the late 1990s when this all happened, a lot of songs on the radio at the time tended to have the same sonic tricks in terms of reverb and delay,â€ he says. â€œThese things come in and out of fashion. When I sat down with Bob, I said â€˜I donâ€™t want to do any of that stuffâ€™ and I donâ€™t want to use these echoes, or reverbs or any of that.â€
Of course, the fact the song became a hit at all (the tune went Top 20 in America twenty years ago) is its own story.
â€œI was just grateful at the time that I got anywhere,â€ Bachman says. â€œItâ€™s difficult sitting in an office with an A&R guy who listens to your songs and says â€˜I donâ€™t hear anything hereâ€™ which, of course, had happened to me several times before I signed with EMI.â€
Landing a publishing deal with EMI was Bachmanâ€™s big break, he says. â€œI had written a song called â€˜If You Sleepâ€™ that got me in with the EMI publishing people in New York City and we were heading towards that final long form contact,â€ the artist continues. â€œSo EMI heard it, they really liked it, so then I became buddies with all of those EMI guysâ€¦ and I wanted to show them that I could write more than one song that they liked. So, I came up with â€˜Sheâ€™s So Highâ€™ a few weeks after I met them.â€
Inspired by hearing Sheryl Crowâ€™s â€œIf It Makes You Happyâ€ at a mall, Bachman planted a seed in his mind for a future hit that eventually became â€œSheâ€™s So High.â€
â€œThe sound of the ride cymbal [of â€œIf It Makes You Happyâ€] really stuck me in that song â€“.and of course the chord sequence and the chorus. That really got me thinking. One of the many things that I picked up on as a young songwriter was that I was trying to learn how to write songs by studying other songs that I liked is that there was something cool about, like sudden leaps upward in the melody line in certain songs. I heard that at the end of the chorus on â€˜Helpâ€™ by the Beatles, I heard that on a lot of Beach Boys songs, and I saw Pavarotti one night doing a song where at the end of a piece he did a fantastic vocal leap upwards that was unexpected.â€
By the time Bachman had finished â€œSheâ€™s So High,â€ he and EMI and were still negotiating a possible deal.
â€œI wanted to keep the talks going [during contract negotiations with EMI] and I didnâ€™t want them to lose interest,â€ says the Winnipeg-born singer. â€œAnd I didnâ€™t want them to think that â€˜If You Sleepâ€™ was my only song, so Evan Lamberg, who was one of the guys at EMI publishing that was interested in signing me, flew out from NYC and he popped by my rehearsal studio in Los Angeles where I was practicing,â€ Bachman continues.
â€œI just started to play â€˜Sheâ€™s So High,â€™ and got into the chorus and halfway through the chorus Evan reached out and put his hand on the neck of the guitar and said in a heavy accent â€˜Tal, this is a smash!â€™â€
Bachman soon after signed his deal with EMI after playing the team the tune, and the rest is history.
â€œJust in those few rolling weeks, they were the ones who started pitching me to all of the record companies, whose lower level people had already rejected me previously,â€ he says, noting that EMI music publishing was instrumental in helping him land his record deal at Columbia, label under the Sony Music umbrella. â€œI had nothing going on until the EMI guys, especially Rick Krim, heard my stuff and then all of the sudden I had a big publishing deal, and a record deal.â€
So whatâ€™s the songwriter working on these days?Â â€œI currently have a music-driven comedy/drama show under consideration at Netflix called â€˜Starglow,â€™â€ Bachman says, adding: â€œItâ€™s a cross between â€˜Curb Your Enthusiasm,â€™ â€˜The Chris Isaak Showâ€™ and â€˜Zoolander.â€™â€
Best of Variety