This is the sort of thing that probably wouldn’t happen here. I just don’t think Americans take their pop charts quite as personally or as democratically as they do in the U.K. Earlier this summer, a brand of kid’s shoes put out an ad featuring “Birdhouse in Your Soul”, the 1990 major label debut single by They Might Be Giants. The duo of John Linnell and John Flansburgh have, since they started recording original songs onto a standard answering machine in the early 80s, become the godfathers of nerd-rock, and now that their original fans (like me) are pushing middle age with mortgages and children, the band have found renewed success recording four albums of “children’s music”, and performing alternate shows for grown-ups and kids on tour. The idea of sticking TMBG’s loving ode to the nightlight into an ad for kids’ shoes might’ve been genius if it weren’t so self-evidently perfect.

I don’t know how it’s working out for Clark Shoes, but it seems to be doing well for They Might Be Giants. The song re-entered the British Top 100 pop songs late last month. Of course, songs featured in popular ads often get enjoy a run on the pop charts here as well – just as Sara Bareilles, Yael Naim, or Phoenix – but those successes seem more like happy accidents. In the case of “Birdhouse In Your Soul”, a strange populist cause – okay, a facebook group – has formed around keeping the song on the charts and trying to advance it to the top spot. That said, after four weeks, the song has only gone so far as #70 (on the chart dated 8/21; the song falls back to #72 on the 8/28 chart).

But that’s not to say it couldn’t eventually succeed. This isn’t the first instance of the Brits attempting to cook their pop charts. See also: Buckley v. Burke. In 2008, after Alexandra Burke won the TV talent show The X-Factor, a campaign by apostles of the tragic 90s singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley attempted to thwart Burke’s cover of the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah” from making its predicted number one debut over that year’s Christmas sales week by urging fans to download Buckley’s own version of the song.

It's a Brand New Record for 1990!

The campaign failed, but just barely. Buckley’s song charted at #2 behind Burke’s. Still, the TMBG song, while it may linger on the chart for as long as the ad airs, probably won’t reach those sorts of heights. For one thing, “Birdhouse In Your Soul” isn’t being pitted against another version of itself, or even another song. Moreover the Alexandra Burke debut was a one-off event sales week; it was also a holiday week, and it’s a holiday week that The X-Factor has annually co-opted for just this eventful purpose. So Buckley v. Burke was framed as the classic battle over artistic legitimacy between a tragic rock icon and a freshly minted “mass-produced” pop idol for the very soul of the pop chart.

As a fan of both Burke and Buckley (although, when it comes to “Hallelujah”, count me in with Team John Cale), I, frankly, prefer not having to choose sides. They Might Be Giants‘ Elektra debut record Flood was essentially the first record of 1990, and “Birdhouse In Your Soul” was instant classic that still makes me giddy and giggly every time I hear it – even more so now that I’ve got two kids singing along with me.

Here’s the original video from 1990: