April 29, 2014
Todd lets out an exasperated sigh, turns on an EDM beat on his piano, and plays "#selfie."
THE CHAINSMOKERS - #SELFIE
A pop song review
Finished with the sample, Todd turns off the beat.
Todd: So...the Billboard charts have been doing something amazing lately—nothing.
- Clip of Pharrell - "Happy"
Todd (VO): Up until about this last week, the charts have barely moved for about the past three months. Now usually, things bump up, drop out fairly regularly, [articles from Hitfix and Music Times about "Happy" at #1] but lately the Top 10 have basically remained the same in the exact same order for weeks and weeks. Maybe #8 will move to #10 and vice-versa, but that's it.
Todd: And that's bad news if your job requires a steady stream of bad popular songs on which to provide witty and insightful commentary.
- Clip of John Legend - "All of Me"
Todd (VO): Now I've reviewed half the Top 10 already, and the rest of them, I'm not even sure what there is to say about. [Clips of...] "Happy"—he's happy, don't know what else to add to that. [...and DJ Snake and Lil Jon - "Turn Down for What"] And this barely even has any lyrics. What am I supposed to do with this? Clearly, I'm running out of meaningful options if I want to continue making pop music reviews.
Todd: And so in April 2014, I was forced to settle on not anything I had any thoughts about, but simply the one I got the most requests for—[long pause] "Selfie."
- Video for "#selfie"
- Alexis Killacam: But first, let me take a selfie.
- Single cover
Todd (VO): "#selfie," actually. But it's okay because it's an ironic hashtag.
Todd: More accurately, an "ironic" hashtag.
- Alexis: Let me take a selfie
- When Jason was at the table, I kept on seeing him look at me while he was with that other girl. Do you think he was just doing that to make me jealous? Because...
Todd (VO): God, I don't wanna review this song.
Todd: I'm not sure this even counts as a song.
Todd (VO): Because if you can't tell, and I have no idea why someone would do this, it's a song specifically designed to be obnoxious, filled with the noise of the most vacuous idiots doing the most vacuous things... Well, let me...
Todd: ...let me set the scene for you. Imagine you're at the club getting your drink on, just trying to enjoy yourself, have a night out, but you can't because...
Todd (VO): ...then all of a sudden, your space is invaded by the most annoying, most vapid sound...
Todd: ...in the entire universe—club music!
Todd (VO): Oh, God, it's so irritating! It's stupid! It's like nails on a chalkboard! Make it stop!
Todd: There's a lot of reasons I don't want to review this, but honestly, the biggest isn't that it's barely a song, it's that it's an EDM barely-a-song.
Todd (VO): It's not a secret I don't really get techno, house music, and club music especially. Every time I even try to talk about EDM, I get a bunch of people telling me whatever I was talking about isn't even real EDM.
Todd: I assume because it was too artificial and had too much studio polish?
Todd (VO): Now I have always had my own strategy on...
Todd: ...how I review EDM.
- Todd: [with fingers in ears] La-la-la, I can't hear you, la-la-la, it doesn't exist, la-la-la-la-la!
Todd: And that's always worked for me in the past, but I'm starting to get the feeling that my aversion to the genre is becoming a serious detriment to my work.
Todd (VO): EDM is popping up more and more while rock and rap seem to be receding. House music is gonna become the dominant form of pop music, if it isn't already.
Todd: I mean, let's face it, the future of music probably does not belong to [very brief clip of "Ho Hey" by...] the Lumineers. So I need to actually start getting a taste for this genre and start understanding it.
- Video for "#selfie"
Todd (VO): So this episode will be like my training wheels. I'll get to bash an EDM song, and no one's gonna get mad at me for being ignorant and not getting the genre because...
Todd: ...no one likes this song anyway.
- David Hasselhoff: Let me take a selfie
Todd (VO): Okay, that's an exaggeration, right? It's a Top 20 hit; obviously someone likes this, right?
Todd: Actually, no. Honestly, I'm pretty sure that no one, in fact, actually likes "#selfie" for two reasons.
- Alexis: That girl is such a fake model
- She definitely bought all her Instagram followers
Todd (VO): The first is that even calling this an EDM song, a club song, a house music song is wrong. All wrong.
Todd: The song's real genre is the growing trend of...
- Clips... of PSY - "Gangnam Style"...
Todd (VO): ...viral novelties that become actual chart hits not because people like it in the traditional sense, but because it's [...and Baauer - "Harlem Shake"] either hilariously awful or unaccountably weird. And people...
Todd: ...can still appreciate things on those terms, I guess, but...
Todd (VO): ...the second thing is that "#selfie" doesn't even live up to those standards. Because I hate to break it to y'all...
Todd: ...this is not a real viral hit. This is viral marketing.
Todd (VO): This was carefully packaged and promoted behind the scenes to look like a viral meme, but isn't. This is AstroTurf, through and through. [New York Times article: "A-Listers, Meet Your Online Megaphone"] See, there's this company started by [pictures of the actual people played by...] Justin Timberlake in The Social Network (Sean Parker) and Jeremy Piven in Entourage (Ari Emanuel) that specifically shepherded "#selfie" into popular consciousness.
Todd: You're sheep! Sheep is what you are!
Todd (VO): Of course, it's kinda obvious that this was prepackaged considering the video has appearances by Snoop Dogg and David Hasselhoff, two men who are basically prostitutes, I don't think that's controversial to say. Add all that to the fact that it's dropping fairly quickly off the charts, and I think it's fair to say that its fanbase is actually pretty small and shallow.
Todd: But enough of the background. What is this song actually about? What is the novelty here?
- Alexis: Let's go dance
- There's no vodka at this table
- Do you know anyone else here?
- Oh my god, Jason just texted me
Todd (VO): Basically, it's a bunch of obnoxious club girl cliches set to a beat. It's just like [brief clip of...] "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen," except it's stupid on purpose. [Clip of...] Frank Zappa made this song in 1981. It was called "Valley Girl."
- Moon Unit Zappa: Like, totally
Todd: So obviously, this isn't meant to be enjoyed in the normal way you'd listen to club music; it's a joke. A satirical document along the lines of [paintings of...] Swift or Voltaire.
Todd (VO): At first, I didn't even understand why people were expecting me to be angry at it. It's obviously not serious. It's like expecting me to hate that [clip of...] "Shoes" video.
- Kelly: Shoes
Todd (VO): Of course, then I remembered I do hate that "Shoes" video. Seriously, this is awful.
But these two men, the Chainsmokers, are different. Not only are they DJs and remixers par excellence, they are also sharp observers of modern culture, who will surely reframe our understanding of society with their incisive wit, [Clip of "I Stand on Couches"] like in this skit from a year ago I found on their YouTube page.
- Martin Hard: Hello, I'm Martin Hard.
- Timothy Deep: And I'm Timothy Deep. Today, we are joined by esteemed author Oliver Cromwell.
- Oliver: Please call me Ollie.
- Martin: Oliver, your book is an expose on New York nightlife. What is the significance of the title I Stand on Couches?
- Oliver: Standing on couches is a rite of passage in New York City nightlife.
Todd: How Funny or Die didn't snatch these guys up immediately, I'll never know.
Todd (VO): In fact, "#selfie" isn't that much more sophisticated. It's basically just them exploiting the most obvious stereotype of an annoying, shallow girl saying inane things.
Todd: 'Cause when you're at a club, you're supposed to be discussing...French literature or something.
- Alexis: How about "Livin' with my bitches #LIVE"
- I only got 10 likes in the last 5 minutes
Todd (VO): Honestly, if I had to pinpoint the main problem with the song,...
Todd: ...it's just how (flashing text: HYPOCRISY ALERT) mean and judgmental it is.
Todd (VO): Like...I've got an idea. Why don't I write a song called "#DUMBSLUT," and the chick in it'd go, "God, I'm a dumb slut," so everyone would [pictures of three people laughing and pointing...] laugh at the dumb slut, [...and of a crying girl walking away] (<-- Look at her, ha ha ha) "ha ha ha, she dumb."
Todd: It's just an unpleasant vibe, you know.
Todd (VO): The worst part is, if you listen to it, she doesn't actually sound all that dumb.
- Alexis: Let me take another selfie
Todd (VO): Oh, my God, she takes pictures of herself. How vapid and vain.
Todd: Why isn't she donating to charity instead? How old are these guys, fifty?
Todd (VO): Yes, young people take a lot of pictures of themselves, and...
Todd: ...so what? Here, I'll take a picture of myself right now. [Pulls phone out of pocket and takes a selfie. The selfie is actually Justin Bieber.] See? Did the world end? Sorry if the kids nowadays don't sit around [picture of...] making candles or whatever you guys did at parties when you were in college.
Todd (VO): And apparently, these guys believe selfies aren't just an idle habit. This woman's life revolves around her selfies.
- Alexis: Can you guys help me pick a filter? I don't know if I should go with XX Pro or Valencia. I wanna look tan.
Todd (VO); She doesn't just take them and post them. She discusses artistic decisions about them with her friends.
- Alexis: I only got 10 likes in the last 5 minutes. Do you think I should take it down?
Todd (VO): You know, like the kids do...
Todd: ...what, with their Twitters and their sexting and their sneakers with wheels in the back of them. If this was made twenty years ago, it would be about how stupid people are for [picture of...] liking pogs.
- Alexis: Oh my god, Jason just texted me. Should I go home with him? I guess I took a good selfie.
Todd (VO): Yeah, these girls nowadays, they...you know, their hookups are dependent on the quality of their selfies.
Todd: You guys sure have your finger on the pulse of youth.
- Alexis: OK, let's go take some shots.
- Oh no, ugh I feel like I'm gonna throw up
Todd (VO): I'm trying to figure out why this song doesn't work on, like, even a basic level.
Todd: I mean, obviously, I don't really hang around people like this...or anybody. But I do know who this is about. I mean, I've been around girls having mind-rotting conversations about "parties, parties, parties, boys, boys, boys.
Todd (VO): You see the boy at the party. Yeah, you bet, the boy with the party, blah blah blah." I get the joke.
Todd: Actually, I think that might be the problem—there isn't a joke.
- Alexis: Do you think he was just doing that to make me jealous?
Todd (VO): Like, there's no joke in the sense of there being a punchline or a witty observation. [Clip of...] "Valley Girl" at least has Frank Zappa providing commentary on this dippy hose beast. But "#selfie" isn't commenting, it's just imitating. It's just a boring person saying boring things to boring music.
Todd: Very little of what she says is even really a noteworthy example of how awful she is.
- Alexis: After we go to the bathroom, can we go smoke a cigarette?
- I really need one.
Todd: She smokes! That harlot! [Holds up fist in "outrage"]
- Alexis: It's not even summer, why does the DJ keep on playing "Summertime Sadness"?
Todd (VO): And even without overthinking it, this song, just as an opportunity for some basic ha-ha, feel better than the stupid girl cheap laughs, it just doesn't work,...
Todd: ...because it's in the context of a song.
Todd (VO): More specifically, it's in the context of a song that this mindless club girl probably likes. So if you're even listening to it,...
Todd: ...you're just like her. You're implicated in this.
- Alexis: Is that guy sleeping over there?
- Yeah, the one next to the girl with no shoes on.
- That's so ratchet.
- That girl is such a fake model.
- She definitely bought all her Instagram followers.
Todd: Oh, my God, listen to her. God, what kind of person is so judgmental? What a bitch. And her shoes are so last year.
- Alexis: She definitely bought all her Instagram followers
- Who goes out on Mondays?
Todd (VO): Wait. Isn't she out on Monday?
Todd: Or if it isn't Monday, how would she know if this random stranger goes out on Monday? I don't get it.
- Alexis: How did that girl even get in here?
- Do you see her?
- She's so short and that dress...
Todd: Please tell me that girls don't judge other girls for being short. That's not actually a thing that happens, is it?
- Alexis: ...that dress is so tacky.
Who wears Cheetah?
Todd: Is it wrong that I kind of agree? No, seriously, who wears Cheetah?
Todd (VO): I can't tell if this is trying too hard or not hard enough, but it definitely is. [Brief clip of "Take It Off" by...] You take Ke$ha, the queen of stupid trashiness for its own sake. I've softened on Ke$ha, but much of her stuff is as irritating as the first moment I heard it. But it's artfully irritating. It's irritating with a point.
Todd: Now, let's not degrade being annoying as a musical quality. Many of our biggest and our best pop stars, from Bob Dylan to Lil Wayne, got famous specifically because they pushed against what was considered "pleasant" to listen to.
- Alexis: I kept on seeing him look at me while he was with that other girl.
Todd (VO): But this...whoever this actress is, somehow is not loathsome enough. I don't know, she's just not selling it to me. Both Moon Unit Zappa and Ke$ha compellingly, creatively, need to, for the love of Christ, shut up already.
Todd: Whoever this chick is just doesn't have that star quality.
- Alexis: It's not even summer, why does the DJ keep on playing "Summertime Sadness"?
Todd: What are you complaining about, lady? At least he's not playing "#selfie"!
- Douchebag: Let me take a selfie
Todd (VO): That's the other problem with "#selfie." Not only is this a bad joke, it's a bad club song.
Todd: Are you supposed to dance to this?
- Alexis: Oh no, ugh I feel like I'm gonna throw up
Todd (VO): Is some ditz yammering in your ear? What in God's name are you supposed to do with this? Does this actually play at clubs? Honestly, I have no idea how people listen to this. As far as I can tell, the only way people listen to this is that someone else shared it with them to make a point about how awful modern music is. It's not catchy, it's annoying. It's not funny, it's annoying. It's not even an observant look at stupid people. Anyone would sound like a mindless, chattering moron...
Todd: ...if you take the mundane things everyone says and play them back-to-back out of context!
- Various clips of Todd overlapping
- Todd: Are we out of milk?
- Did you hear that new Jason DeRulo song?
- That John Legend video didn't get as many hits as I wanted it.
- Hey, The Daily Show is on.
- I'm Todd In The Shadows, and I'm out.
- I need a drink.
- Oh, who's a good dog.
- I feel kind of out of it.
- I'm gonna go play some X-Box
- La-la-la, I can't hear you, la-la-la, it doesn't exist, la-la-la-la-la!
Todd: Actually, honestly, maybe I am kind of a boring moron. Well, I'm Todd In The Shadows, and...
Gets up and leaves
- Alexis: Let me take a selfie.
Closing tag song: Spoon - "I Turn My Camera On"
#selfie" is owned by Dim Mak Records
This video is owned by me