Last year, Dolly Parton contributed a song for a Super Bowl commercial. This year, she’s raised her game by appearing in two spots.
The iconic singer-songwriter was planning to be at home Sunday night watching NBC’s broadcast of Super Bowl LVI with plenty of snacks, dips and wings on hand so she could see her performance in two short Big Game commercials from T-Mobile.
“I have to watch it this year, ‘cause I’m in it,” Parton quipped during a phone interview earlier this week.
Parton debuts alongside Miley Cyrus, making a rare joint appearance with the singer who also happens to be her goddaughter (the pair’s past antics were even woven in to Cyrus’ career-making Disney Channel series “Hannah Montana”), for T-Mobile. In two 30-second ads, Parton and Cyrus play concerned celebrities, eager to help guide owners of Verizon and AT&T phones to the reliable 5G service of T-Mobile.
Parton demonstrated her interest in Super Bowl advertising last year when she rewrote her classic song “9 to 5” for Squarespace, the website hosting company, and turned it into “5 to 9,” all about side hustles. T-Mobile put out the call to Parton about six weeks ago, she said, with a “basic idea” of having her and Cyrus try to help American consumers with their phones. “It was a pretty quick turnaround,” Parton notes.
“America’s got a serious problem, so I’m gonna get it off my chest,” Parton says in the ad, making reference to her famous decolletage, while emotional piano music plays. She pulls a cell phone from under her blouse and tells viewers about poor “5G phones trapped on limited 5G networks.”
The concept clearly tickles Parton. “I always carry my phone in my bosom,” she says during the interview. “My boobs are ringing when the phone rings.” T-Mobile no doubt hopes to counter efforts from rival Verizon, which has tapped actor Jim Carrey to reprise his role from 1996’s “The Cable Guy” in a separate Super Bowl commercial.
Parton’s relationship with Cyrus is, by now, one for the ages. Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley’s father, was opening for Parton at about the time when his first big hit “Achy Breaky Heart” was at its apex in the early 1990s. “He had Miley when we were working together,” she recalls, saying that Billy Ray Cyrus told her, “You feel like family. I think you should be her godmother.” Realizing she might not be available as often as the role demanded, Parton consented to be Miley’s “fairy godmother.” Parton recalls holding the now much-tattooed singer when she was an infant with “the most gleeful little face and radiant smile.”
Has she offered Miley Cyrus counsel over the years? “I don’t give advice, but I give a lot of information. That’s kind of how we do,” says Parton. “I try not to throw in my big advice at someone, I just tell them what I’ve been through and things that could happen.”
In the T-Mobile spots, Parton’s “fairy godmother” role comes through, with Parton’s words spurring Miley Cyrus to use music to raise awareness of the 5G rollout. So now we can add telecommunications to the many sectors where Dolly Parton has proven to be influential.