Mental Floss

Whatever happened to Muzak?

Ransom Riggs

Sure, they still play music in elevators -- and in waiting rooms and shopping malls and just about everywhere else these days, it seems -- but it's not exactly elevator music, AKA Muzak, that we're hearing. Gone are "Girl from Ipanema" and spine-tinglingly bad re-instrumentations of Beatles songs; instead, we're assaulted with the same top 40 hits, lyrics and all, that we hear constantly on the radio and on TV. Like Kleenex and Hoover, Muzak is the name of a corporation than has come to represent and entire substrata of products, or in this case, music. But the Muzak corporation, founded in 1934 and indeed responsible for most of those canned "Ipanema" covers, has rebranded itself entirely; it now focuses on selecting and playlisting existing recordings.

Given Muzak's face-lift, I figured I'd be safe from that grim reminder of inevitable death which confronted my parents and their generation each time they heard a favorite song from their youth played by an orchestra of French horns while they had their teeth cleaned. Unfortunately, I hadn't counted on Paul Anka: