Home Depot’s controversial in-store music reflects a shift in suburban ideals
As I concentrate on reading labels in the Home Depot spray paint aisle, I catch myself humming along to the 90s TLC bop Waterfalls. I don’t think much of it until my next visit when I spend an extra 3 minutes browsing the aisles as I mouth the lyrics to Adele’s classic song Someone Like You.
Some feel differently about Home Depot’s in-store music. Van Neistat’s video essay “A Desperate Plea to HOME DEPOT” declares their “god-awful 90s pop music” as cruel and horrible. This controversial in-store music across various store locations in the U.S. has invaded the emotions and spirits of customers in mysterious, indescribable ways. Similar to how it’s hard to describe why our favorite color is what it is. It either compels you to grab your noise canceling headphones (like Van Neistat) or embrace the dust covered aisles as you quietly jam out to the tunes.
I’d argue that combining 90s/2000s pop with the somewhat intimidating hardware-woodwork-construction tone of Home Depot creates a paradoxical nature that can cultivate inclusivity. It broadly shatters who is welcomed to the space and the suburbia fairytales we’ve grown up with of who is to mow the grass. Or who is to utilize the tool box at home.
Which side are you on? Hate it or love it?
In doing further searching, I found playlists devoted to music played while shopping at Home Depot (one includes jazz-pop artist Norah Jones of all people). On Van Neistat’s YouTube video, a thread of comments are left on how the catchy alternative-rock music playing as they shop deeply impacts them. One person commented how the music led them to purchase another drill bit because it made them stay around the store longer.
Alternatively, there are other YouTube comments and Reddit posts where an overwhelming number of people express how this music is enough to literally drive them insane. It bothers them enough that they visit another hardware store where silence is preferable.
Embracing duality in materials and roles
I’m a twenty-something year old who treats Home Depot to some extent like the craft store Michaels. In my eyes, both stores have yarn/thread, wood, paint, and tools. It’s these expectations I give myself on what I can take on by myself that shifts my perspective on being a “modernized” independent female. Is there something innately feminist-punk of mashing up more industrial heavy duty materials in traditional hand crafting applications?
I’m reminded of the assemblages by Venezuelan-American artist Marisol. These sculptures contemplate the boundaries we set for ourselves in a culture where capitalistic nuclear families, fetishized commodities, and gendered roles are prevalent.
Marisol’s Women and Dog from 1963–64 features her iconic boxy individuals with painted clothes and exaggerated features. With influence from Robert Rauschenberg’s combine paintings, she uses readymades like the dog leash and purse to create an uncanny resemblance that helps the sculpted individuals pass as real humans (Farago). The disturbing yet humorous qualities confront the viewer with familiar imagery. It captures the behavioral cliches of women and around the ideal family in the 60s.
Marisol passively invites the viewers to notice ways they are missing out on the complexity of the figures who are being boxed-in. The gendered expectations we set for women and girls foster a lack of curiosity. No one dares to cut the wooden boxes in half to further inspect where it’s hollow or solid. The multiple female faces signify motion almost like the woman is trying to escape yet remains trapped in place. Who is trying to escape? Will anyone help her escape or are we content with the familiar imagery selectively detailed for us?
Why are you so bothered?
Music is subjective. Maybe it’s how my personal preference favors the catchy 90s pop music that is played on repeat at my local Home Depot. I would probably express annoyance if metal-punk music was playing full blast.
My shopping experience in a hardware store like Home Depot is more welcoming when I hear Adele or Norah Jones playing. Like sweet and sour or salty and sweet, the contrasting music works as a pleasant surprise in a place like Home Depot. It’s just a sign of the times where the lines between gender roles and consumer pools are becoming blurrier. I expect myself to be able to use a lawn mower, fix a leak, build a bookshelf, or take on other handiwork tasks. As Billie Eilish once famously stated: the world’s a little blurry.
In response to Van Neistat’s plea for silence to be favored over in-store music, I plea to keep it how it is (maybe play some Spotify coffee-house-jazz). For what it’s worth, TLC’s song Waterfall is quite catchy — don’t deny it.