FSFT5 – YouTube Musical “Memes”

So people come up to me in the street and ask me, “TempTrack, what do you think of this latest YouTube video?”  To which I usually respond, “huh?”  I’m usually pretty oblivious to many “new” and “cool” things since I am neither cool or hip.  But I do usually find out about things at least a few years after the fact.  For today’s edition of Film Score Friday Top 5 I ask the question of what are some of the best music based internet “memes?”

First, you may ask, “what is a meme?”  Well, according to Wikipedia, it is, “is a unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.”  Specifically an internet meme is one that is spread via the internet, of which the most well-known musical example is Rickrolling (don’t worry, the video is actually part of the great Rocketboom series “Know Your Meme”):

But what are some other examples?  Well, I might have to stretch the definition of “meme” a bit here, but it is all done for a reason, loyal readers.  But let’s start with an oldie but goodie: Yatta!

This video has been floating around the internets since at least 2004, or at least that’s when I first encountered it.  It is a music video for a Japanese band named Green Leaves and the combination of the Garden of Eden costumes, crazy dance move poses, and what might just be the funniest granny ever on the ‘nets (you’ll know it when you see it) make it a hilarious video.  It’s like a funnier version of the Backstreet Boys.  And the mixture of English and Japanese lyrics just sends it to a higher level.

But no meme is truly complete just with just sharing and distribution, a key component is the remix and adaptation.  This is what allows memes to have longevity.  There are tons of remakes of various ilk of Yatta on YouTube, my favorite is a machinima (using a per-rendered video game engine to do animation) version using Star Wars Galaxies.

But some internet trends aren’t born of a singular video or trend, but rather cultural happenings, such as the advent and proliferation of auto-tune.  “Know Your Meme” did a great episode on this, so I’ll let them explain it first. (Bonus, it stars “Weird” Al Yankovic)

But I think this trend reached its apex with the work of the Gregory Brothers and their series “Auto-Tune the News.”  My favorite is their second episode with Katie Couric’s line “very thin ice,” which is so good that it has appeared in many subsequent episodes.

Now, on a very basic level, what the Gregory Brothers are doing is a mash-up, but instead of taking two songs, they are taking regular speeches with new beats and building a new song out of it.  While at the same time they are also doing the same thing to the video, mashing the existing video with themselves and also cutting together certain pieces and doing split screen effects.  It is a very creative and clever commentary on the news.  I just wish they could produce episodes faster.

And speaking of mash-ups, that is the next category.  While obviously not strictly an internet phenomenon, YouTube has certainly allowed for greater distribution and promotion of mash-up songs and videos.  And in a great post-modern meme moment is the mash-up “Never Gonna Give Up Your Teen Spirit.”

But another favorite of mine is “Toxic Love Shack” which is exactly what is sounds like.

Wow, there are a lot of videos in this post, but I have only a few more, I promise.  The next meme trend is that of the “literal video.”  In these videos, a music video is taken and new lyrics are recorded that are a literal interpretation of the video scenes.  Many classic videos have been subjected to this treatment, but none has been as popular as the video of Bonnie Tyler’s classic “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

Related to the literal video are “phonetic translation” videos in which songs – usually in a foreign language – are subtitled with what the words sound like in English.  Many of these, including the classic “Fart in the Duck” contain some lyrics that are not quite work safe, so I’ll leave that to you on your own time.  In their steed, though , I’ve selected a video with a song that is in English, but you can’t understand the singer so an internet genius has provided subtitles for the hard of understanding.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Mr. Joe Cocker performing “With a Little Help From My Friends.”  Enjoy, and I’ll see you around the webs.

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