(February 27, 2021). It seems we chart watchers were so focused on whether current pop king The Weeknd could ride a Super Bowl halftime performance all the way back to No. 1 on the pop charts with his long-running (and now “old” by most standards) 2019 hit, “Blinding Lights,” that we lost sight of a much older, Super Bowl ad-boosted pop gem that’s been stealing the spotlight ever since.
And now that song – a catchy 1986 top-10 classic by the legendary British dance/pop duo the Pet Shop Boys – has (finally) received some No. 1 ink in Billboard magazine.
In the issue dated February 27, 2021, “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” – the toe-tapping, partner-in-crime tune in which singer Neil Tennant forms the smart half of the pair (he gives his brains about a half-dozen shout-outs in the choruses) – jumps from No. 5 to No. 1 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Digital Songs chart, continuing its resurgence following its feature in an Allstate ad that first ran during the Super Bowl.
In the funny ad, which has likely aired hundreds of times since the big game on Feb. 7 (and has received tens of thousands of YouTube views), an Allstate customer, while driving through the desert, gets a phone alert notifying him of how much money ($718) he saved on his auto insurance. Clearly happy about it and feeling motivated, he begins singing the chorus to the Pet Shop Boys’ 35-year-old hit (which is older than the driver himself) playing on his radio, as his car’s metal hood ornament becomes animated and joins in on the singing (she adds a nice new harmony to the tune as well!).
The ad is appropriately titled “Duet,” given the guy and his car’s gleeful pairing on the upbeat song. But that title could easily be applied to the tune itself – with its cheeky lyrics about two would-be partners-in-crime (one possessing the looks and the brawn, the other the brains) – or the song’s creators, PSB’s vocalist Neil Tennant and keyboardist Chris Lowe, who’ve been recording together (and topping the dance charts) for nearly four decades now.
Tennant has also said in the past that the lyrics to “Opportunities” – built around the sub-titled hook “let’s Make lots of money” – were inspired by the relationship of Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight’s characters in the 1969 (formerly X-rated) buddy film Midnight Cowboy, itself an Academy Award-winning classic. The “duo” of Hoffman and Voight were famously both nominated for Best Actor awards that year, which they lost to John Wayne for True Grit.
When “Opportunities” first charted in America in 1986 as the followup to Pet Shop Boys’ first hit – the No. 1 smash “West End Girls” – it reached No. 10 on the pop chart and No. 3 on the Hot Dance Club Play listing. The latter chart was an evolution of the old Disco charts in Billboard and a forerunner of the dance/electronic charts that appear in the magazine today.
Its appearance at No. 1 in 2021 on Dance/Electronic Digital Songs marks the first time “Opportunities” has topped any chart in Billboard, although the Pet Shop Boys have topped Billboard’s dance/disco/Club Play charts numerous times in the past 35 years with other hits.
“Opportunities” got to No. 1 by virtue of its 3,000 paid digital downloads last week – a small number by most standards but a significant increase over the amount of purchases it was getting before the popular Super Bowl ad first aired, and – more importantly – enough to rank No. 1. The song’s popularity has been on the rise ever since Feb. 7 and doesn’t appear to be waning anytime soon.
It all just goes to show what the clever pairing of a great tune about making lots of money and an ad about saving lots of it, not to mention the fun irony of a young man – younger than the song itself – and his female hood ornament jamming out together in pitch-perfect harmony, can do for both the song and the advertiser.
In my book, “Duet” sure beats all those Allstate “Mayhem” commercials or all those boring “safe-driving” ones featuring the company’s spokesman Dennis Haysbert (although he does get in his standard voiceover on “Duet”). The 30-second ad is so popular, in fact, that it’s received more than 50,000 YouTube views with more than 400 comments on Allstate’s official channel. Many of the commenters are clamoring for an extended version of the ad – with vocals provided by the young man and his singing hood ornament. How often does any commercial get that kind of reaction?
The ad has certainly raised the profile of actor Devere Rogers who plays the driver. The only question that remains: who is the female singer providing the hood ornament’s vocals? If anyone knows, please provide the answer in the comment section below – or in any of the social media feeds where this article is posted. (Update: readers have since noted that the singer is Lesley McKinnell.).
In the meantime, here are videoclips for the Allstate commercial plus the song’s 1986 full-length hit version, followed by the original recording from 1985 (before it was remixed into the hit we’ve all come to know and love).
Oh, and congrats to the Pet Shop Boys on their latest No. 1 – the brains may have paid off once again!
DJRob is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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