The Songs: Karmin, "Super Bass" and "Look At Me Now" and way too many others; Mac Lethal, "Cook Wit Me Now"; Jackson Foote and friends, "Get Low"; Sophia Grace, "Super Bass"; probably more that are shooting up the Reddit charts right now.
The Crimes: Anti-pop snobbery; humorlessness in the name of "musicality"; pandering to the commenting hordes on tech blogs who consider themselves above pop music, but not above being catered to directly and embarrassingly. And let's not forget the racist viral hit of late November, Texts From Bennett, which came from one of the above auteurs.
Internet attention is precious currency for up-and-coming bands, who have to make their way past a torrent of acts both established and brand-new in order to get themselves heard. Those artists who have figured out that a pretty easy way to skip the line, so to speak, is to pander to the world of social-news sitesplaces like Reddit and Digg that are overwhelmingly male and extremely pop-averse, among other thingshave held a depressing competitive advantage over the past few years, with their modest successes breeding breathless "future of the biz" stories that led to even more success and press and so on. There's one other common thread between all these musicians; the geek-beloved strummer Jonathan Coulton, for example, suggests that people listen to his chiming cover of "Baby Got Back" before almost anything else he's recorded; last year, the Bay Area duo Pomplamoose snagged a deal to annoy TV-watching Americans during the holidays after thrilling Digg and with wall-eyed, "real-music" versions of fun songs like "Single Ladies" and "Telephone."
Yes; even though it's been some 27 years since "Rappin' Duke," the "white people turn urban-radio tropes into something more similar to what they might listen to, with hilarity possibly ensuing" tack is still guaranteed to hit pay dirt among certain subgroups of people who consider themselves both musical aesthetes and "geeks." Whether they're cowed by the technologically forward production (irony alert!), unsure of which Urban Dictionary definition to use when figuring out just what the lyrics might mean, or just trying to fight the man, man (never mind that their computers were made by multinational conglomerates), these sorts of covers still get eaten up by YouTube viewers like they're ice-cream sundaes made by dairy geniuses. And thanks to the increased importance of "virality" in 2011, artists who took this tack were often rewarded by showers of likes, buckets of retweets, and hordes of people delighting in the knowledge that there were a lot of people out there whose noses were all upturned at exactly the same anglewhich meant that they could only multiply. The four most egregious examples below. More »