Rolls-Royce tops the list, featured in 11 different tunes by such artists as Future, The Weeknd, and Kodak Black. Ferrari is a close second. Chevrolet, Lamborghini, Bentley, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche each get touts in several songs. Among non-car shout-outs, old standbys Hennessy cognac and Nike’s Air Jordan sneaker label got the most. We also found that it’s not just alcohol, guns, clothing, and super luxury making it into songs anymore—software, cookware, and even Band-Aids are making the grade.
As far as the song including the most name-checks, the crown goes to “Bad and Boujee” by hip-hop group Migos, which climbed all the way to the No. 1 spot on the charts early this year. It includes 19 brand mentions, from Instagram and Klout to Segway scooters and, um, Crock-Pot slow cookers. Car references are sprinkled throughout the song, too. They rap about a “lamb” and a “frog,” nods to Lamborghini and Porsche. There’s also a reference to the Ferrari 458 Spider, a drop-top convertible that costs more than a quarter-million dollars. The Rolls-Royce Ghost gets some attention as well.
The obvious question when musicians mention obscure brands is, are they getting paid? Sometimes they do. As with television shows and feature films, brands like to insert themselves into pop culture, and music is no different. Dozens of music videos show off stuff from Beats, the Jimmy Iovine/Dr. Dre headphones brand owned by Apple Inc. The item appears in several of Lady Gaga’s music videos, from her breakout hit “Just Dance” to “Poker Face” and “Telephone.” Beats Pill speakers, meanwhile, are clearly visible in videos from Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Nicki Minaj.
It’s often unclear what’s a paid placement and what’s not, however, since artists generally don’t disclose the deals. No, Drake wasn’t paid by Rolls-Royce to include the Wraith in “Portland,” or its bigger and pricier cousin, the Phantom, in “Jumpman,” according to the manufacturer. But Chris Brown’s 2008 hit “Forever,” which featured the line “double your pleasure,” turned out to be an extended version of a chewing gum jingle for Wrigley’s Doublemint.
There’s a middle ground, however. Rolls-Royce, for example, will sometimes provide cars to be featured in music videos, said company spokesman Gerry Spahn. When someone uses the car as a shorthand for luxury, it helps the brand, he said. And besides, celebrities and musicians make up about 20 percent of the automaker’s customers, so it has the potential to be a sales strategy, too.
The $400,000 Phantom is Rolls-Royce’s signature vehicle, but the company has attracted much hype for three other models it’s released since 2009: the Ghost, Wraith, and Dawn. All have garnered song mentions, with the Wraith topping the tally with four.
While parent company BMW AG keeps close tabs on the Rolls-Royce brand, Spahn said they’re more than happy for the exposure. Last year, Rolls-Royce had its second-highest sales numbers ever, delivering more than 4,000 cars to wealthy customers around the world. Even if the car’s desirability increased, production constraints limit the company to a maximum of 6,000 cars a year, said a person with knowledge of its operations.