Chili's New Ad Transports Us Back To Junior High Dances

A nostalgic Baby Back Ribs collaboration between Chili's and Boyz II Men has got us weirdly wistful.

Utter the words "Chili's" and/or "baby back ribs" and you'll probably find yourself reflexively singing the old commercial jingle out loud, like I'm doing right now. You know the earworm I'm talking about. (Barbecue sauuuce.) And you're about to be singing it again in late 2023, because Chili's has partnered up with R&B trio Boyz II Men to remake the jingle. Hearing the fresh take on the song has immediately transported me back to my junior high school dance days. In a good way.

Chili’s “Baby Back Ribs” jingle featuring Boyz II Men

Boyz II Men's a capella harmonies were the staple of slow dances back in my junior high school days (yes, I'm starting to feel old), so the production of the freshened up "Baby Back Ribs" jingle has me feeling unexpectedly nostalgic.

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The new commercial, which you can watch on YouTube, shows the trio sitting in a Chili's booth, trying to avoid singing the catchy jingle before they order their food. Eventually, though, they succumb to performing their own version in the restaurant beneath a spotlight. It's a flashy rendition featuring the group's signature harmonies, and unfortunately for me, the song will now stuck in my head again for the rest of the decade.

The history of Chili’s “Baby Back Ribs” jingle

The person responsible for coming up with the jingle everyone knows is writer and advertising creative director Guy Bommarito. The song came out in 1997 and has been living in our minds rent free pretty much ever since.

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In a 2015 interview with mini documentary producer Great Big Story, Bommarito says that when he wrote the song, he hadn't even wanted the assignment. As he put it, "Jingles had gotten to a point where they were the lowest common denominator form of advertising, and everybody avoided them because they were typically annoying and unpleasant."

But Chili's insisted upon including one in its commercials, so Bommarito produced a jingle rather than delegating it to anyone else on the team. In a 2017 interview with Vice, he said he slammed it out in five minutes. A friend, Tom Faulkner, recorded the melody over the phone.

Later Faulkner would produce and officially record the song (with William "Willie" McCoy singing the bass "barbecue sauce" portion). After it aired, the ad campaign took on a life of its own, and needless to say, it ended up selling a lot of ribs.

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The jingle not only kept appearing in ads, but would later be sung by the members of N*SYNC and would appear as a gag in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. This would be an incredible run for any song, but it's even more incredible considering Bommarito initially expected that the jingle "would be gone after six weeks." By the time of the 2017 Vice interview, Bommarito had still never even tried the ribs.

I haven't been to Chili's since 2021, when I reviewed its entry in the fried chicken sandwich wars. But goddammit, I'm human, and sometimes the intersection of advertising and nostalgia gets to me too. Thanks to Boyz II Men and Chili's, I'm thinking wistfully about my teenage years, singing that contagious jingle to myself, and I'm craving baby back ribs. In 2023.

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