McDonald’s call-and-response jingle for its “I’m lovin’ it” campaign is possibly the most iconic jingle of the past decade. Even more than 12 years after its 2003 launch, if you walk down the street singing “ba da ba ba bah,” someone will probably subconsciously sing back, “I’m lovin’ it.”
But who exactly coined this uber-infective earworm has always been a bit of a mystery. As some might not know, and others may try to forget, the campaign launched with a full-length version of the song featuring Justin Timberlake on lead vocals and produced by The Neptunes. On official pressings, the song has four “written by” credits: The Neptune’s Pharrell Williams, Tom Batoy, Andreas Forberger and Franco Tortora. As the site Songfacts points out, those latter three people are “film/TV composers, and are not known associates with either Timberlake or The Neptunes. This leads us to believe that the song samples something they wrote.”
That leaves one well-known name clearly in the writer’s spot – at least when it comes to the Timberlake song: Pharrell. During an interview with Steve Stoute, CEO of marketing firm Translation, the company that worked with McDonald’s on “I’m lovin’ it,” Hot97 DJ Ebro Darde mentioned Pharrell. Stoute wasn’t having it though.
“No, you know who did that?” Stoute says. “Pusha T. That's crazy that Pusha T wrote the song for McDonald's.”
The problem though, is that Stoute doesn’t have his story completely straight. In addition to the Pusha T claim the marketing exec said the “I’m lovin’ it” launch happened in 2004 – which a 2003 New York Times article proves is incorrect. He also says he isn’t able to remember how much the deal was worth. Whether these are small oversights or indicative of larger memory issues is up to you.
Another thing to consider is that this isn’t the first time a story about the so-called writer of the jingle has taken the Internet by storm. Back in 2008, a number of news outlets ran with the headline that the “composer” of the jingle had committed suicide. In that case, a deeper dive reveals that famed ad exec Paul Tilley had committed suicide, a man the typically reputable New York Times described as a guy “who oversaw teams that created the ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ campaign for McDonald’s.” Overseeing a campaign and composing a jingle are two very different things.
Pusha T, for his part, does seem to be taking credit though. His representative confirmed several times that the rapper was involved with the jingle. And as the site Highsnobiety points out, there is a minute-long version of the ad that features a rapper that sounds like it could be Pusha T.
So where does the truth lie? I got nothing against Pusha T, and his rap duo Clipse has certainly penned some great hooks in their career. But let’s just say I’m skeptical that any one man can take sole credit for writing the jingle behind such a massive McDonald’s marketing campaign. My conspiracy theory: This is bigger than all of us.