Willie Nelson's ad for Chipotle Mexican Grill, which was released on YouTube in August, moved into the big leagues Sunday night, becoming one of the highlights of CBS's Grammy Awards telecast.
As Maura Judkis of the Washington Post wrote, "Coldplay’s Grammy performance was quickly followed up by a better one — a Coldplay song, 'The Scientist,' covered by Willie Nelson, in a commercial for Chipotle."
Elizabeth Olson of the New York Times noted that it was Chipotle's first-ever national television advertisement. The clip had already received more than 4,000,000 views on YouTube, and AdWeek named it the second-best ad of the year last November. All the proceeds from the sale of Nelson's track on iTunes go to the non-profit Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.
Among the responses on Twitter:
Willie Nelson makes everything better. Including Coldplay songs. #chipotlecommercial
— Texas Humor (@TexasHumor) February 13, 2012
OH: "Who's singing though?" "It's that guy, that one who always gets arrested for pot." "Willie Nelson?" "Yeah!"
— Abby Phoenix (@aphoenix) February 13, 2012
I have never felt as lied to as by this Willie Nelson Chipotle ad.
— Michelle Collins (@michcoll) February 13, 2012
I almost shed a tear. RT @ discomaz: The Chipotle commercial with Willie Nelson singing Coldplay was just amazing.
— Adam Polselli (@adampolselli) February 13, 2012
I thought the Willie Nelson cover of Coldplay was going to be an ad for PETA, not Chipotle.
— Cristela Alonzo (@cristela9) February 13, 2012
Back in August, some recognized the ad was part and parcel with Nelson's farm activism , while others felt that it was selling out.
Countered the Atlantic Wire's Ray Gustini, "This isn't selling out--selling out would be doing an ad for a burrito chain about how terrible sustaining farming is.
To both sides of that argument, we do have one blast from the past:
This Taco Bell clip (which became the subject of a Bill Hicks routine ) was released in 1993 (despite what it says on the YouTube title), not long after Nelson reached a final settlement with the IRS over his unpaid back taxes. Back then his manager, Mark Rothbaum, told the New York Times , "we felt it was important to let America know Willie was corporately attractive."