Introducing The Trollgaze Index With An Analysis Of The Internet's "Cocaine" Video

theinternet_cocainevideo.jpg
Don't get spun out—eat spun sugar instead!
2011 has been the year of "trollgaze," a media-agnostic genre name for those pieces of pop culture as designed for maximum Internet attention as they are pieces of art that can stand (or at least wobble) on their own. The ways to get inducted into the trollgaze pantheon are as plentiful as self-congratulatory Lil B retweets; in music alone, they can involve dropping songs chock-full of easy ways to laugh at them (extra points if you're being dead serious about doing so), acting like an entitled punkass brat, complaining about people saying that you're acting like an e.p.b., or somewhat ineptly playing on the already-existent prejudices possessed by critical-mass online audiences, among other things. With so many things these days vying for the masses' increasingly divided attention, though, it's becoming tougher and tougher to gauge whether or not a piece of cultural ephemera is actually trying to double as its social-media strategy.

To help all the overwhelmed online music consumers out there figure out if a piece of music is trollgaze or not—it's kind of difficult!—Sound of the City is establishing The Trollgaze Index, a scientific method by which we deduce just how hard musicians are trying to play their listeners for the fool. We'll measure on a 50-point scale; a score of 35 or more means that, yes, if you're paying attention to the video or the song or the "viral" campaign, you—and we—have been trolled. Installment one (from, appropriately enough, an Odd Future-affiliated act that calls itself "The Internet") after the jump.

THE ARTIST (5 points): An Odd Future offshoot. That calls itself "The Internet." I mean... (5/5)

THE SONG (5 points): A shapeless, airy bit of R&B that's catchy enough; it sounds inspired by looping the opening to Lykke Li's "Little Bit" more than anything identifying as "retro" right now. Syd tha Kid has a nice, airy voice, although Left Brain's smack-you-over-the-head-with-a-crack-pipe verse is straight-up terrible. (2/5)

THE VIDEO (5 points): Given the amusement-park setting, I was expecting something more "second base on the rollercoaster scene from Fear" than "Afterschool Special-meets-'Black Hole Sun'" as far as the plotline went. Drugs are bad, kids! Except when name-dropping them gets people to click on your YouTube link. (2/5)

DIVISIVENESS (5 points): As of this writing the clip has 2,469 likes and 268 dislikes on YouTube. (.5/5)

VIRALITY POTENTIAL (10 points): You'd think that the match of the terms "the internet" and "cocaine" would be disastrous on a SEO scale—I thought jokes about blow-hoovering bloggers were a thing?—and as it turns out, Google Blog Search has 2.3 million results for the pairing of the terms. That said, though, my entire first page of results is for this video. Good job, everybody. I think. (8/10)

"FUCK THE HATERS" QUOTIENT (10 points): Cool that this came out right after Left Brain got a shitload of press for getting slappy with photographers at the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans. You'd almost think it was calculated! (9/10)

BACKLASH POTENTIAL (5 points): If anyone feeling the idea of the "social contract" watches to the end of the video, they might not be all that thrilled about the fate of one-half of our adorable couple. But who has time for that these days? (2/5)

THAT EXTRA JE NE SAIS QUOI (5 points): Time to lay down my critical bias: Odd Future sucks up way too much air, largely because they're "good for business" (i.e. getting pageviews) in a way that other less controversial-by-numbers acts aren't. So they make me weary just on principle. That said, this song isn't bad in a "wouldn't skip it on shuffle" way. Surely there'll be an edit minus Left Brain's bit soon enough. (4/5)

TOTAL: 32.5/35. Not trollgaze; just a song. (Don't worry, I'm just as shocked as you.)

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14 comments
Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke

Maura,

This video is amazing. It brilliantly summarizes the brilliance of ODD FUTURE and related artists.

Despite the retro feel, this song signifies a new direction in Hip Hop. Another page just turned. 

Laurajohnston
Laurajohnston

Dear Ms Maura

Is ASAP Rocky trollgaze too? Can you gauge the trollgaze quotient of his music?

I mean, I dig his music and all, good production and good raps, but dammit, I don't want to be caught listening to something bloggers dislike because of its internet prominence =(

Maurajohnston
Maurajohnston

Trollgaze? Did you come up with that yourself? What manner of blogger stupidity is this?

Jesus. 

Chris Menning
Chris Menning

This is way too generous. The song isn't even close to the "so bad it's great" area. It's just forgettably bad.

The only saving grace is that they had the audacity to call themselves The Internet. But that's all.

mega montana
mega montana

I just don't understand why you spend so much time covering music that you admittedly don't find all that interesting, outside of the fact that it is crying out for attention. I understand that you are trying to be abreast of what is happening, and you want to be topical, but at what point does it become redundant? I would think that it this space would be much better served for music that you actually DO see fit for coverage, rather than that which you do not. I suppose it may be personal preference, but I enjoy your articles when you discuss and support the music you actually like exponentially more than those in which you are waving a disapproving finger.

6h057
6h057

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I WHIP MY... You get the idea.

maura
maura

I try to spend as little time covering it as possible! There are a couple of phenomena at work here, though.

I would love for this blog to just become a "this is awesome" recommendation engine (and if you haven't already checked out my Spotify playlist of songs from 2011 that I really like, it's here). But the Web has introduced an era where editors have to straddle a line between editing their content and marketing it on a discrete, piece-by-piece basis; every piece has to justify the pageviews it does or doesn't get, and time and time again, posts that just say "hey, this is a good song, check it out" don't get as much traffic as those that dissect cultural ephemera (this is even more true when artists that aren't already known are being recommended). This phenomenon, and the stress it causes me, in large part helped spark my whole #trollgaze theory, actually; it's what I'm referring to when I talk about Odd Future sucking up too much Internet air above.

It would be really easy to go "fuck everything, I'm just going for pageviews" and turn this into an all-Kreayshawn/Odd Future/Lana Del Rey/[insert the next thing that people can focus their Two Minutes Hate on here] site. I really don't want to do that, although Lord knows it'd pay off numbers-wise.

This doesn't even take into account the fact that the number of songs out there that motivate me to recommend them are few and far between, and they certainly wouldn't fill the quota of posts I have to fill—would you trust the critical faculty of an outlet that liked 35-40 pieces of music a week? Figuring out why certain things seem "bad," or distasteful, yet work in the greater world is a worthy goal in itself.

(Sorry this is so long but this is something I think about a lot. I think your points are completely right on, although I would argue I'm more cocking an eyebrow than waving a finger here.)

mega montana
mega montana

Honestly, I do think I was being deliberately obtuse in my reply, as I do understand why these articles are written and I understand that you can't just turn SOTC into a place where you solely report on music that you like, I suppose it is just my frustration is that the biggest winner in music in 2011 is going to be the Life or Death PR team. This whole Odd Future phenomenon is so strange, as they are seemingly ubiquitous on the Internet, while I work at a media outlet with a sole concentration on hip-hop and R&B, Odd Future is so rarely a topic of conversation, the disproportion astounds me. I may be clutching on to ideals that if we just ignore them, they will go away, but I suppose that is not a reality. I don't want to turn into Buzz Bissinger and start shaking my cane and yelling at bloggers, but the cycle of vitriol and praise that is seemingly based mostly on attention and coverage is becoming a major annoyance to me. (Not necessarily counting SOTC in this camp, but my initial reaction is fueled from the agita that these outlets cause me.)

nick murray
nick murray

also worth noting that in spite of the above, maura (both as an editor and a writer) mostly does cover music she actually likes (or that her writers like, and that she trusts her writers' judgement on). scanning the last week of blog posts, for instance, almost everything was positive, save for some welcome snark like the line (regarding Busta's verse on the Bieber xmas song) 'And yes, rhyming "off" with "off" does take some points, er, off.'

maura
maura

holy cow, from zero to godwin's law in three comments! good job, everybody!

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