Games

Can Viral Videos Be Art?

Is there such a thing as a highbrow viral video? We'll Never Know the Difference.

On Thursday of last week I received one of those emails that usually cause me to wince. A colleague had sent me a link to a YouTube video that he wanted me to watch. I was all set to hate it because it was going to be political, or about 2012, or have some kitten frolicking in a cardboard box. But, since I knew he would ask me about it later I clicked on the link. Apparently I did the same thing as almost three quarter of a million people have since.

I will freely confess that initially I thought my associate had sent me the wrong link. The video, made by a fan of the indie music group Bad Lamps, had a bunch of close up shots of what seemed to be TV or movie actresses that looked like they were pulled from some VHS tape circa 1987. I didn’t understand what the big deal was until I started reading the comments. Those hadn't been actresses I was watching. They were adult film stars.

So of course I watched it again. This time with a new realization of irony. Instead of showing anything lascivious, in what must have been a moment of artistic inspiration the video’s author edited out all the naughty parts. The selected sections seemed to partially reflect what was going on in the song and partially to emphasize a type of innocent flirtation that the "actresses" could never have intended (knowing what was coming next): the smiles, caresses, the longing looks, etc.

Without prior knowledge as to what they were the images have a restrained 80s feel like something that would play during the montage sequence of a romantic comedy. However, even despite my renewed interest I was somewhat flummoxed as to what could have caused this video to have captured the attention of hundreds of thousands of people: an hour after I had first listened to the song I came back and refreshed the screen to find that 20,000 additional people had checked it out.

Yet as with many viral sensations I figured where there is smoke there must be fire. I decided to forgo my knee-jerk reaction and watch the video with an open mind. I am pleased to report that I actually really like the song, Never Know the Difference, quite a bit. It’s obvious why this fan was moved to make a video for it. The subject matter and song lyrics match perfectly. Also, the musicians are clearly competent at what they do, and it makes you want to sing along. Additionally, there is something interesting about the use of editing and repetition that is effective and charming. It had the feel of a loving version of propaganda to it.

I’m happy to say that instead of the “Please don’t send me this shit,” e-mail I was going to mail to my colleague, I instead replied with a, “Thanks. Enjoyed the link.”

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image