What Sarah McLachlan Thinks About Her Iconic Sad Commercials

Millions of people will be flocking to their TVs (or the ones at their local bar) on February 12, 2023, to catch the action between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII (that's 57, not "ell-vee-eye-eye"). They'll also be sticking around for the halftime show featuring Rihanna, not to mention the star-studded Super Bowl ads that have become as much a part of the night as the game itself. Once, these commercials were simple promo spots, but Apple changed the game nearly 40 years ago with its iconic Macintosh ad featuring a regimented dystopian world. "[Y]ou'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984,'" the slogan promised. Flash forward to the present: Our personal technology has evolved beyond the original Mac, and Super Bowl ads have become more complex — and more expensive. According to Ad Age, every 30-second spot from pregame to final play will cost $7 million to air.

While some Super Bowl ads have earned top marks for their humor or cleverness (think: Clara Peller shouting, "Where's the beef?" in the famous Wendy's ad). Others have been total downers, as in the maudlin Nationwide ad from 2015. It featured a boy speaking from the afterlife about the joys he would never get to experience because he was killed in an accident. This year, the lineup will include one that offers the best of both: a hilarious spoof of one of the most tear-jerking commercials of all time, featuring the musician who helped make it famous.

Sarah McLachlan can't watch her famous ASPCA ad

Back in 2007, Sarah McLachlan was approached about appearing in an ad for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and she readily agreed. The result? This famous ASPCA spot showing various dogs and cats in shelter cages, looking absolutely miserable. Some are filthy; one is missing an eye. As McLachlan's plaintive song "Angel" plays in the background, the singer appears onscreen and asks, "Will you be an angel for a helpless animal? Every day, innocent animals are abused, beaten, and neglected, and are crying out for help." 

The heart-tugging ad helped raise $30 million for the ASPCA, according to the Charlotte Observer (via Elite Daily) and still pops up, usually on late-night programming. There's no data on how many pets have been saved over the last 16 years because of the McLachlan ad. Yet, despite all the good that came of it, McLachlan has some regrets about lending her name and voice to the campaign. In a 2015 interview (excerpted here in Cinema Blend), McLachlan explained, "It was brutal doing those ads," she said. "It was like, 'Can you just be a little sadder and a little more this and a little more that?'" And after all that work, "I can't watch them," McLachlan said. "It kills me."

She might feel differently about her latest national ad, which will air during Super Bowl LVII. The only tears it's designed to produce are ones of laughter.

McLachlan appears in a spoof of her famous sad ad

Busch Beer's new Super Bowl campaign explains the basics of surviving in the wilderness. In this YouTube preview, a rugged guide explains that adventurers need three things: food, drink (he pulls a six-pack of Busch Light from a clear spring), and shelter. Just as he presents the last item, Sarah McLachlan herself emerges from the tent, accompanied by a furry animal companion. As the mournful melody of "Angel" plays, she starts her familiar speech: "Hello, I'm Sarah McLachlan. For just dollars a day, you can help helpless animals find shelter." Around her, an owl and other forest animals peer into the camera.

Her heartfelt plea has no effect on the unimpressed guide. Opening his can of Busch, he informs her, "Wrong shelter, Sarah. Also, that's a wolf." This sendup of the iconic ASPCA ad is as clever as the Rakuten throwback commercial featuring Cher from "Clueless," and it promises to be one of the most-talked-about ad series of the game. Alas, it appears that McLachlan only appears in one of the "survival guide" ads; others in the series include a black bear encounter and a warning about identifying poison ivy. ("Leaves of three, let it be. Cans of six, take your pick.") But now that you've seen this parody, you may never look at the original commercial the same way again. (It's still important to support rescue-animal groups, though!)