Mayday!: Mayday!

[19 December 2006]

By Dara Kartz

YouTube has recently been added to the ever-growing list of Google’s corporate roster, purchased for an obscene price tag while adding to the speculation that YouTube will one day become a vehicle for posting more than just incredibly grainy copies of your ex in a compromising position. In fact, the site has already emerged full of potential as a promotional tool for new artists. The free video-sharing service lets users stream video right in their browser windows, makeing video files easy to embed on personal web pages and blogs, and essentially making the need to endure exhausting downloads obsolete. The possibilities for new artists in this realm are endless, as Miami rap-duo Mayday! has discovered. The group enjoyed national press coverage surrounding the single for its debut album, all thanks to the record number of views for its video available on YouTube.

MayDay!‘s homemade video for the track “Groundhog Day” was uploaded to YouTube on a Tuesday in early May, and by 2am that night, the video’s counter had reached over 1.5 million views. The song features Cee-Lo (of recent Gnarls Barkley fame) who provides an obvious hook, but the press immediately looked into the new YouTube phenomenon and, more importantly for Mayday!, highlighted the band’s upcoming album release at the same time. A bit of investigation revealed a number of factors contributing to the group’s YouTube popularity, including its record label’s partnership with an online dating site. Also worth mentioning, is the ingenious utilization of the easy-to-embed feature of YouTube’s format to make the video clip available for easy viewing on a number of heavy traffic websites, particularly online porn sites. Clearly, there was a killer marketing idea at work here, and one that catapulted the band into an incredible position to release its debut record. Yet, for all the attention that this video and single received, not a peep has been heard about this album. Unfortunately, while there was nothing typical about the strategy used by the band and label that lead to the video sensation, there is nothing that comes together remotely as clever on this album.

MC Bernbiz and producer/keyboardist Plex Luthor make up Mayday!, and have been working together for a few years, though with little impact before their YouTube debut. Liner notes on this first release credit Bernbiz for all the words and Luthor for all the writing, playing and arranging of the music on the album. Clearly, each half of the duo has his own marked territory. The group’s bio touts Luthor’s past accomplishments, listing work for the Discovery Channel and various Adult Swim spots, the details of which I can hardly imagine, but I suspect he’ll be the real gem that reveals itself out of this whole project. As much as Mayday! insists on declaring a “hodgepodge of styles” as its own style, it’s really Luthor who makes this happen. With production that draws heavily on rock, and thick guitar licks on tracks like “Angles” one minute, and then pulls out soulful choral vocals for the background on “MACRO/Micro” in the next, it’s the music that stands out on this album. Bernbiz’s skills as a rapper are decent enough, but his style and lyrics are forgettable—the kiss of death for an MC. At the same time though, Luthor is scratching samples over tinkering keyboards in “Chasing Ghosts”, a highlight of the album, and then playing with layering and old-school drum breaks on “Beef”; it’s entertaining and interesting. It’s not Bernbiz’s words that keep the record playing, it’s the freshness of that eclectic hodgepodge that Luthor creates here. And that at least is a far more complex quality than anything YouTube could properly convey.

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