Dolly Parton loves Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza, so I imagine I will too. I don’t really care if she’s being paid to be a part of an elaborate promotion. Especially if she keeps donating her money to develop revolutionary, life-saving vaccines.
This is a roundabout way of explaining why I find myself eagerly awaiting the launch of “Mexican Pizza: The Musical,” which is set to drop on Taco Bell’s TikTok channel at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST. I'm told by the powers that be at Taco Bell that it runs between 13 and 15 minutes, features 21 performers and contains four to five songs. Parton will make a cameo, and she has already teased the ad-in-a-musical’s-pajamas on the aforementioned channel.
Still, try as I might to remain steadfastly unironic about my mission to watch this thing, I’m feeling slightly queasy. Because I really hate how social media has bred a new form of advertising that — come to think of it — resembles Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza: It's a messy mashup of ingredients masquerading as an earnest idea.
There is something hopelessly (ahem) cheesy about the musical’s set-up, which has been unspooling online since March, when the 26-year-old rapper-singer Doja Cat posted a jingle about the Mexican Pizza that she wrote using what she calls a “monstrosity of a beat.”
The lyrics, “I got beans / I need meat / I need a shell with the sauce and cheese,” represent the pinnacle of what can be written about the culinary creation, which was discontinued from the menu in 2020. The purpose of the song? To urge Taco Bell to bring the item back, which it did with gusto in May — even though it’s pretty obvious that was the plan all along.
The musical, however, appears to have emerged from left field — presenting an opportunity that Taco Bell’s marketing partners could not pass up. Shortly after Doja Cat’s Mexican Pizza TikTok spread across the internet, a TikTok influencer named Victor Kunda posted his hilarious vision for what a rehearsal for “Mexican Pizza: The Musical” would look like.
In the video, Kunda wears a black tracksuit and dances with laserlike focus while singing the ludicrous lyrics in a staccato voice and asking for a cast member to perform the moves with “a little less stank.”
The post went viral, and a ridiculous ad campaign was born featuring a bunch of really cool people, including Kunda and the musical’s writers, Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, the songwriting duo known as Barlow & Bear, who just won a Grammy for musical theater album for “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical.”
Doja Cat and Parton will also make cameos, and one can only imagine what they’ll be doing. The mind reels. Taco Bell has even created a faux yellow Playbill for the show, which it says is being released by @Tacobell Theatre.
I’m not sure how I ended up mired in the minutiae of “Mexican Pizza: The Musical,” or how I find myself preparing to attend a show at Taco Bell’s TikTok theater. Scratch that. Actually, I do know. I really love Parton, and when I watched Kunda’s deft, tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek rehearsal, I found him genuinely charismatic and funny. And I’m not alone — Kunda was featured in British Vogue in late March, under the headline “How Victor Kunda Became Fashion’s Favourite TikTok star.”
Hint: Not through the wiles of his management, which somehow failed to send him to two different Zoom interviews I scheduled through Taco Bell’s music agency. I wanted to talk with Kunda — to find out more about how the ground beef was made, so to speak, when it came to creating the musical.
Instead, I found myself sitting alone in a Zoom room of my own creation. Party of one in an existential quandary about how exactly I came to be in this position. Were the secrets of “Mexican Pizza: The Musical” worth the effort?
I had already struck out once before my Mexican Pizza Zoom doom. I had driven several miles to my nearest Taco Bell in a quest to buy a Mexican Pizza — to understand its peculiar charms. I was not fated to find out, because the Mexican Pizza was not available. A sign on the drive-thru menu read simply: “SOLD OUT. Your love consumed all the Mexican Pizzas.”
I checked again today. The Mexican Pizza is no longer sold out. I imagine after “Mexican Pizza: The Musical” airs on TikTok, our love will once again consume all the product. After that, our love will move on. To the next viral video. To the next ad campaign designed to look like so much off-the-cuff fun.
Our love is messy like that. Messy like beans, meat, sauce and cheese on a crispy shell.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.