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Back in November 2020, only days after President Joe Biden was declared the victor of the presidential election, an ad released by Apple to launch a line of new products seemed like a fitting tribute to the way the political tide had turned. Titled "Behind the Mac," the black-and-white commercial features a slew of celebrities (among which are Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar, Gloria Steinem, and Billie Eilish) utilizing Mac and Apple products to pursue their own creative endeavors. But perhaps the more captivating aspect of the ad was the song the company paired it with: "Take Back the Power" by multi-hyphenate singer-songwriter, artist, and rapper Raury.
While the impetus of the ad seems to rest on a thesis statement included in the form of a voiceover by a narrator — that people who use Apple products are a "certain kind of person...who doesn't wait for greatness," the message provided by "Take Back the Power" drifts more toward what the title suggests: people who lack the privilege of the (mostly white, cisgender, and male) elite and wealthy can overcome disenfranchisement through unity and perseverance. And considering the story behind the song, it's unsurprising that Apple chose it when they did.
The song in Apple's 'Behind the Mac' commercial draws some interesting parallels
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In a June 2020 review written by The Eastern Echo, the publication categorized Raury's single "Take Back the Power" as a kind of call-to-arms. Specifically, the song speaks to the nature of oppression historically inflicted on members of the Black community in the United States, referencing "slavery, segregation, and the enduring racism Black Americans face today when taken in context to our current moment in history," per the blog.
This isn't the first time Apple has used themes of revolution to help market and sell their products. The most well-known example of this is an ad from 1984 that helped usher in the release of the Apple Macintosh personal computer. The television advertisement utilized themes from George Orwell's novel 1984 (which the company did on purpose to pair with the year that share's the book's title) and featured a woman running through a theater and breaking the screen. Those seated in the auditorium depicted in the commercial were listless and assumedly under the sway of a Big Brother-like entity.
The story behind "Take Back the Power" can also be attributed to Raury's own struggles — something that made sense for this particular Apple commercial. According to an interview the artist did with DJBooth in 2018, he was unhappy with his recording contract at Columbia Records. "Take Back the Power," released in June 2020, was seemingly a response to finally severing connections with the label.