YouTube's Music Awards Reveal The Secret, Obvious Shame of Social Media
YouTube, more than any of the other social networks, takes the regular-guy-makes-good trope as its founding myth. When it interacts with Real Celebrity it's to remake a hit song in a surprising way (or in an unsurprising way, with a ukelele), or to autotune it into some other famous thing. It's the home of "Chocolate Rain," for god's sake.
Weezer's "Pork and Beans" video--which, yes, was made by Real Celebrities--is an unwittingly accurate depiction of how people saw YouTube in 2008, if not of what YouTube actually was.
But clumsy, bite-sized amateur hits won't get you all the way into the mainstream. Even the serendipitous pop culture mashups--PSY becoming a global superstar, or whatever--won't do it. Eventually even YouTube had to call in the Real Celebrities.
The Top 10 YouTube Videos of All Time, at this moment, are instructive. By my count, it's one prototypical viral video--"Charlie bit my finger - again!"--two weird PSY hybrids, and seven music videos ranging from internet-driven-cult-of-personality (Justin Bieber) to couldn't-possibly-be-more-1999 (Jennifer Lopez? Really?)
I'm certainly not suggesting that the YouTube people dump Jason Schwartzman for the Numa Numa Guy. I'm not even sure there's a way of avoiding creeping professionalism--look at college sports, or the progressively more accomplished casts of American Idol. But it's strange that in the trailer for YouTube's coming-out party as a cultural force, the only genuinely viral success story is the YouTube play button.
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