The opening track on Paul Simon’s 1986/87 album Graceland, titled “The Boy In The Bubble,” is an ode to the “miracle and wonder” of modern technology.
“Staccato signals of constant information
a loose affiliation of millionaires
and billionaires, and baby
These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long-distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all.”
In the ’80s, it was the rise of 24/7 broadcast media, a burgeoning telecommunications industry and medical breakthroughs like “the baby with the baboon heart.”
Twenty-five years later, we live in a new era of miracles: instantaneous peer-to-peer communication, real-time global information networks and unfettered access to limitless media. Technology is, once again, turning the status quo on its head and sparking revolutions around the world, figuratively and literally.
It’s a poignant time for the re-release of Graceland, a pivotal album in Simon’s career. Not just a commercial and critical success, it’s notable for introducing world music to many American ears, and Simon experimented heavily with electronic drums and synthesizers — a new creative direction for him at the time.
The anniversary collector’s edition comes in a fancy package, and contains exclusive, unreleased material. But more than that, Simon’s team is tapping into digital media with the hope of reaching a new and socially engaged audience.
“When I first met with Sony Legacy to discuss this project, we all agreed that we wanted to find some creative ways to breathe new life into a classic record, and to reach a younger demographic,” says Elliot Fox of Sneak Attack Media, who oversaw the digital campaign. “We all felt that the ideas and music on Graceland have the potential to live on forever, and people of all ages just need a chance to interact with them.”
Their key point of entry: Instagram.
The #Graceland25 contest launches today, and the team wants to see Instagram travel photos from fans. With the #Graceland25 hashtag, simply share the best Instagrams of your journey to Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, and you could win the 25th anniversary box set, a Yamaha acoustic guitar and other prizes. Those familiar with the record know that travel and rebirth are important themes, and this collection of “vintage” visual travelogues is fitting, according to Fox.
“Instagram provides a simple yet profound means of expression — to share an experience or emotion through a photo,” Fox tells Mashable. The agency will use the web tool Statigram to collect the entries and pick the winners.
But there’s more to the digital campaign. Sony Legacy aims to explore the rich history behind the creation of the album, much of it recorded in South Africa with local musicians during the apartheid regime. It introduced American audiences to artists like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and mired the release in international politics.
“Sony Legacy had so much historical information and interesting content from the making of this album, and we all felt that an interactive tab would be the most exciting way to share it,” says Fox. They plan to utilize the platform Thinglink to tell the visual story of the album’s creation, and integrate it into Legacy’s Facebook page on June 5.
Thinglink allows brands to create interactive layers on top of static images. Users who mouse over “hot spots” on the historical timeline will get additional information, links, music and videos that offer rich context. “Thinglink makes it so easy to share multiple pieces of content, and to allow people to interact with it,” says Fox.
To top off their social campaign, Sony looked to YouTube, often the primary destination for young music fans. Cover song videos are big, and the label tapped some indie rock heavyweights to perform their renditions of Graceland classics. Guest artists include Givers (see below), Oberhofer, Bosco Delrey, Brett Dennen and more to be announced.
“The band Givers from Lafayette, Ala. contributed a cover of the song ‘That Was Your Mother.’ They were able to bring in legendary musician Dickie Landry to play saxophone on their cover,” says Fox. “Landry is actually credited with playing saxophone on the original version of the tune for Graceland. The outcome was pretty astonishing.”
Does Graceland have a special place in your musical memory? Do you think it still speaks to today’s connected generation?
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