Mikey McCleary might be one of the few white men that Indians would truly love, especially the ones who grew up watching TV in the 2000s and early 2010s. Born in Chennai and originally from New Zealand, McCleary’s popularity grew when he started composing, writing, and performing jingles for leading companies such as Vodafone, Coca-Cola, Levi’s, and so on.
Characterised by breezy vocals and playful instrumentation, McCleary’s tracks were so soothing that he became an instant endorphin-supplier for many an average TV watcher who might not expect much musicality from a 30-second ad. After making quite a name for himself, he compiled his most popular ad songs for a delightful album and aptly titled it TV Dinners.
TV Dinners is a time capsule in itself as it features the full versions of his jingles. These include the joyous The World Is Our Playground which was featured in one of the many Vodafone ‘pug ads’. Similarly, the power ballad Chase Every Dream (featuring Anushka Manchanda) was a part of a Levi’s campaign while the peppy Just A Little Crush (featuring Shalmali Kholgade) was popularised by a Lakme Facewash commercial.
While McCleary joined forces with a number of featured vocalists, his own vocals also shine in the album. He doesn’t try to charter any melodramatic scales with his style mostly being hushed-down, soulful, and laidback. I Don’t Know Wher I’m Going and If I Go Mad bear testimony to this. And of course, the versatile maestro also assumes charge of the instrumentation that includes the sax, xylophone, mouth organ, among others. Acoustic guitar and ukuleles are also an essential part of the ensemble and some of TV Dinners’ tracks do benefit greatly from feel-good strums.
The overall tonality of TV Dinners is such that it would make you feel like venturing out on your neighboring street, and walk all the way on a lazy evening. The naivety and introspection arising from the album as a whole are perfectly suited for a traveling playlist as you end up finding beauty in the mundane and appreciating the little things in life. As McCleary himself sings in the second chapter of the tracklist, ‘the world is our playground’.
Even the album’s accompanying visuals celebrate the aesthetics of simple outdoor locations while also featuring McCleary’s high-profile acquaintances like the 2010s-era versions of actors Ranveer Singh, Kalki Koechlin, and hairstylist Sapna Bhavnani. TV Dinners was and will always be a memorable time capsule.
Even though the nature of advertising and music was changing in his time, McCleary presented a simpler vision of the present time. In an ad-space dominated by capitalistic chitter-chatter, the songs of TV Dinners contributed to these large companies while also introducing audiences to its composer’s very own brand of ‘TV pop’.
Ad jingles have been etched in the heads of the idiot-box watchers for a long time but McCleary’s tracks subverted the ‘ad-like’ nature of these jingles and stood well as independent songs on their own. This is perhaps what makes this 2014 album truly one of its kind. It doesn’t attempt to be revolutionary but its charm is enough for it to play on repeat.
Since his ad career skyrocketed, McCleary also started composing for film soundtracks. With Bollywood oversaturated with cringe-inducing remixes, McCleary adopted the pseudonym ‘The Bartender’ and brought his jazzy charm towards yesteryear classics like Khoya Khoya Chand (from Shaitan), Dhak Dhak (from Nautanki Saala), and many more.
Some of his recent work includes composing a song for Gully Boy and contributing to the soundtrack of the Amazon series Four More Shots Please. But despite his stellar discography, TV Dinners will continue living in a special place in the hearts of his niche fans.
If you’re in the mood to cheerfully spend a lazy weekend, you know which album to turn up.
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