That Led Zeppelin Cover in the Hummer Commercial Sounds Familiar for a Few Reasons
The beginning of the GMC Hummer EV ad, featured during the 2020 World Series, might strike fear into the hearts of Will Arnett fans. “Why is LeBron James narrating?” they might wonder. (Arnett has been the voice of GMC for over a decade.) But then the strains of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” hit you.
It’s a cover version, but Zeppelin fans will notice the pulsing Jimmy Page riff under its electronic mask. And Robert Plant’s lyrics don’t sound any less menacing in someone else’s voice. Finally, after the first verse of “Immigrant Song,” we hear Arnett take the narrative back from LeBron. Everyone can relax.
Well, everyone can relax who isn’t vowing to take the hammer of the gods to those who cover Zep. In this case, the opener to Led Zeppelin III (1970) is in the capable hands of the team behind Nine Inch Nails and the lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
The Hummer ad features a cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ by the Nine Inch Nails crew and Karen O
You might know “Immigrant Song” as one of Zep’s great battle cries. “The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands,” Plant sang in the original’s opening lines. When sequencing Led Zeppelin III, Page knew it was the track to begin the album.
Page pointed to two reasons why he kicked off the record with that track: “that hypnotic riff and Robert’s bloodcurdling scream,” he told The Guardian in 2014. In the cover you hear on the Hummer EV ad, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails did the music and production.
Reznor and Ross nailed their haunted electronic take on Zeppelin. You can imagine Page appreciating the droning intro and build-up to the opening scream. Handling the vocals is Karen O, the lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
O also does a great job honoring the spirit of the original and bringing her own twist to “Immigrant Song.” (Her diction on the spoken parts of the verses is especially well done.) This version first appeared in a 2011 film.
The Trent Reznor-Atticus Ross version of ‘Immigrant Song’ opened ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’
After Ross and Reznor did the score for The Social Network (2010), director David Fincher brought the pair back for 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And he requested they include a cover of Zep’s “Immigrant Song,” with which Fincher wanted to open his film.
Reznor didn’t jump at the chance to cover Led Zeppelin. “It’s asking for trouble,” he told The Hollywood Reporter around the release of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. “Much like covering The Beatles or a classic Stones song.” But he did as Fincher had asked.
Nearly a decade later, GMC returned to that creative well to roll out their electric version of the Hummer (due in 2021). You can argue about the merits of a vehicle that big (it’s a waste of fuel, electric or otherwise), but you can’t argue with the choice of music in the ad. It works just as well the second time.