There's a thin line between promoting a product and selling your soul, and where it lies depends a lot on who you are and what you're promoting.
But taking cash to write a song praising a product - not as an advertising jingle, but to sit in your repertoire? That's not even a grey area, it makes you no better than Fay Weldon.
Step forward Fergie, who is now pocketing cash and singing praises of Candies, a US clothing chain. But obviously, if you're willing to replace your creative process with your pocket book and contract negotiations, it might just as well be AT&T, or McDonalds, or Swift Boat Veterans for Justice:
“Candie’s will reach teens, but it has no say over exactly what Fergie will sing, or when. Fans might think she is just singing about candy. But it’s got to work in the song. Fergie does not sing jingles.”
The implication that a jingle is less honest than this just won't wash - at least when Justin Timberlake goes "ba-ba-ba-ba-ba, I'm loving it", the deal is explicit and clear.
It's interesting that Fergie's people are clearly embarrassed by the deal, with their "some people might not even realise it's an advert" bluster. But if that was the case, what exactly are the clothes shop paying for?
[UPDATE: 12-07-07: Fergie says she's going to take legal action against The Sunday Times over the original story]