Weekly Obsession: Playing our song

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 8:05pm

State tourism slogans have a way of infiltrating the zeitgeist, turning into collective earworms so effectively even the most cloying pop chanteuse would be jealous.

Try to think about Massachusetts tourism … and now spend the rest of the day trying not to sing “The Spirit of Massachusetts.”

Until last week, Tennessee’s slogan was “The Stage Is Set for You,” and had been thus since 2004.

For some reason — and whoever figures out which slogans work and which don’t will be taking their vacations in a far more appealing locale than Bucksnort — that particular slogan didn’t quite have the sticking power of “Tennessee: Sounds Good to Me” or “Follow Me to Tennessee” (there’s another jingle that’ll get stuck in the collective brain for a few hours).

So the state is reverting to another old favorite: “We’re Playing Your Song,” which was the slogan between 1987 and 1995, though it certainly seems like it lasted longer.

The tourism department insists this wasn’t a reactionary choice; in fact, they say, “The Stage Is Set for You” did well, but sometimes it’s just time for a change.

And in this case, they hearken back.

A quick review of the tourism campaigns reveals one thing: The state is perfectly happy with music being the go-to image for the Volunteer State.

All of the slogans play on Tennessee’s contributions to the great American songbook — except for “Follow Me …” — but even that is most memorable because of the tune penned to accompany it.

Even with our professional sports, scenic vistas, centuries of history, delightful off-the-beaten path museums chronicling everything from Casey Jones to the history of towing and recovery — we are happy to pull out the guitars and the fiddles and have folks just come down for a listen.

And come they do: Tourism is a big business, employing 170,000 people, with 50 million annual visitors and a $14 billion economic impact.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And if it is a little stale, find a melody that worked before.

Filed under: City News