Whether busking, mailing out demo tapes, or uploading to MySpace or YouTube, conventional wisdom says you have less than one minute to catch the attention of music industry execs. Shawn Mendes did it in six seconds. The 15-year-old Toronto pop singer made his name on Vine, Google’s quick-hit video service, riding looped snippets of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” John Legend’s “All Of Me,” and other pop hits to massive DIY popularity and then a record deal with Island. His first proper single, the Biebs-goes-Richard-Marx piano ballad “Life Of The Party,” made it to #24 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and his self-titled debut EP went straight to the top of the iTunes chart this week. His irritatingly Jason Mrazzy EP track “Show You” seems poised to be another hit. It all started when he entered a Vine contest with this miniature cover of Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me,” which racked up 10,000 likes and earned him 10,000 followers overnight:
Mendes wasn’t the first to catch on this way. Us The Duo, the SoCal husband-and-wife team of Michael and Carissa Rae Alvarado, signed with Republic in March on the strength of their #6SecondCovers series, which included miniature renditions of everything from Pharrell’s “Happy” to Quad City DJs’ “Space Jam.” Like Mendes, they garnered widespread attention well before inking their deal, including a performance on Good Morning America, an important seal of approval for Shiny Happy People.
Then there’s the case of TerRio, a six-year-old Riverdale, Georgia kid who joined DJ Drama in the studio, fetched $8,000 for nightclub appearances and made it all the way to Super Bowl media day on the strength of his silly dancing and the catchphrase “Ooh, kill ‘em!” in Vines uploaded by his neighbor Maleek. Vulture notes that “TerRio controls no aspect of the business that’s grown around him, not even the camera-phone.” And that business is significant:
NBA player John Wall did the TerRio dance on video; NFL star DeSean Jackson … made it a touchdown celebration (the rest of the NFL followed); and LeBron James said, “Ooh, kill ‘em!” in a Samsung commercial. With representation, TerRio became a logo in rotund silhouette, on T-shirts ($27.99) and iPhone cases ($20), along with an “Oooh Kill Em” rap single featuring two nobodies and TerRio’s brother, released for 99 cents on iTunes. Actual hip-hop star Meek Mill has referenced him multiple times (“Pockets all fat like TerRio,” goes one line), and YouTube is full of amateurs doing the Kill ‘Em dance. Meanwhile, TerRio’s single mother, a hairdresser with four children who’d faced eviction pre-Vine, reportedly upgraded to a five-bedroom house.
Whether TerRio’s fame will be as ephemeral as that of most viral stars remains to be seen. Just the other day he was hanging out at a video shoot with Rick Ross and DJ Khaled, so that’s something. Speaking of the intersection of rap, dancing, and Vine: The service has helped make hits out of songs like Sage The Gemini’s “Gas Pedal” and FiNATTiCZ’s “Don’t Drop That Thun Thun” — songs so simple and meme-like that they might as well be six-second loops anyway — via countless clips that use the songs as a soundtrack for twerking.
Who will be the next Vine stars? Like Mendes, many of of the service’s aspiring celebrities are teenagers, some of whom travel together putting on a Vine-comes-to-life variety show called the Magcon Tour. The photos from Magcon reveal a shrieking teen fan base that suggests Vine might be first and foremost a pipeline for teen idols, a way for the asshole Eddie Haskells of the world to skip past the part of growing up when they learn not to be such precious dicks. Case in point: Multiple sources cite 17-year-old duo Jack & Jack, aspiring Macklemores who match cutesy comedy bits with garbage rap songs like this emotional fuck-the-haters anthem:
Vine success is one of this generation’s purest forms of populism, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to success through more traditional (read: monetized) channels. The 24-year-old comedian and musician Nicholas Megalis, the self-proclaimed “king of Vine,” was the proud owner of 2.9 million Vine followers as of last October when he released his music video for MGMT/Foxygen-like “Forget It In A Day” on YouTube. He’s now up to 4.4 million, but the song only has 248,000 plays, which means only about 1/17 of his followers thought to click on the video. Maybe if he would have sounded more like Ed Sheeran, it would have actually taken off. It simply wasn’t cutesy enough to play with a fan base who’ve become accustomed to shit like this. On the other hand, MTV invited Megalis to Vine the VMAs red carpet last year — where he hobnobbed with Sheeran — so he’s getting somewhere with this, just not into that highly enviable zone where hormally raging starry-eyed teenagers will pay for your music. And that — along with dance videos of the gawk & lolz variety — is what Vine stardom is all about.
“Weird Al” Yankovic’s reign on the Billboard 200 was short (but sweet!). Mandatory Fun falls to #3 this week with 33,000, a 68 percent drop, but even if Yankovic had doubled his sales total from last week he’d still have been unseated by 5 Seconds Of Summer. The Aussie pop-punk boy band moved 259,000 copies of their self-titled debut album, the year’s third-best debut sales week and fourth-best sales week overall per Billboard. It’s also seven times as many records as the #2 album in the land, the relentless Frozen soundtrack, which somehow still sold 37,000 copies last week despite being released way back in November. It’s Frozen’s thirty-first consecutive week in the top 5. Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour is back up to #4 with 31,000, and Kidz Bop 26 is at #5 with 27,000.
Other top-10 debuts include Common’s Nobody’s Smiling at #6 with 24,000 and rockers Crown The Empire very close behind at #7 with 24,000 for The Resistance: Rise Of The Runaways. Now 50 is at #8 with 21,000. Jason Mraz’s YES! is down to #9 with 20,000, a whopping 75 percent decline from last week’s #2 debut. Ed Sheeran’s x remains in the top 10 for what looks like the final week, logging around 20,000 as well for a #10 finish.
MAGIC!’s “Rude” rules the Hot 100 for a third straight week, which is highly impolite. “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX’s presumptive Song Of The Summer, comes in second, followed by Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” which is hardly the best Smith song but has become his biggest hit. Nico & Vinz are at #4 with “Am I Wrong,” then Ariana Grande and Azalea’s “Problem” at #5. Maroon 5’s highly mediocre “Maps” is at #6. Disclosure and Sam Smith’s “Latch” — Smith’s actual best song — is all the way up to #7 on its improbable two-years-later US chart climb. John Legend’s “All Of Me” is at #8, and Sia’s “Chandelier” surges up to #9 — her first top-10 single to go along with her first #1 album earlier this month. Calvin Harris’ “Summer” rounds out the top 10. Billboard points out that country star Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down” debuts at #12 and could easily crack the top 10 next week, quite an achievement for a country artist although one Aldean has pulled off before with 2011’s “Dirt Road Anthem.”
NEW KATY PERRY VIDEO ALERT
We’ve long praised Perry for keeping the Event Video alive, and last week her “This Is How We Do” lyric video even cracked our weekly Straight To Video countdown. Do the song’s official visuals live up to that standard? Mostly! What “This Is How We Do” lacks in concept it more than makes up for in wildly gaudy design savvy. It looks as garish as the activities described therein, with twerking ice cream cones and everything. And if you’re wondering whether her costume choices here would stir up controversy, they already have.
Lenny Kravitz – “Sex”
I was really enjoying Lenny Kravitz’s transition into a first-rate character actor in the Hunger Games series and Lee Daniels’ The Butler, but I guess the musical comeback was inevitable. “Sex” is a fine song, one that sounds like it would have fit in really well on the radio sometime between the release of INXS’ Kick and U2’s Achtung Baby. Not sure how it really fits into the mainstream pop landscape at this point. What else is Kravitz to do, though? Club-kid EDM doesn’t suit him, nor does a Maroon 5-styled pop-rock facsimile thereof. He could have gone the Pharrell-styled retro route, but I’m glad he didn’t. Much better that he release something like this that doesn’t quite fit but stays true to his muse.
Tony Bennett & Lagy Gaga – “Anything Goes”
Gaga’s inevitable late-career Vegas residency might sound very different than I’d previously imagined. Also, I always figured a Gaga project called Cheek To Cheek would be more… explicit. Good for Bennett, though, for finding a way to get back in the spotlight without reaching beyond his signature sound. Personally I can’t connect with sassy big band standards; give me “Bad Romance” over this any day.
DJ Mustard – “Down On Me” (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign & 2 Chainz)
Mustard cannot be stopped. He is a genre unto himself. May he and his cohort ride on indefinitely.
Hilary Duff – “Chasing The Sun”
Hilary Duff’s big comeback single was co-written by Colbie Caillat, and it basically sounds like the chipmunk version of Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up The Sun.” Proceed with caution.
K Camp – “Blessing”
Wait, the guy who just scored a massive hit singing “It ain’t nothin’ to cut that bitch off” now wants to turn around and sing about how the woman in his life is such a blessing? Fuck outta here!
Macy Gray – “Bang Bang”
I don’t have much affinity for Macy Gray nor smoky blues stompers, but this actually works.
Nick Jonas – “Chains”
Young boy band refugee Justin Timberlake found inspiration in D’Angelo and Radiohead. Nick Jonas apparently found his in the Weeknd. And that’s working out OK!
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Who’s ready for a Janet Jackson comeback LP!? [Barefoot Sound]
- Not as exciting as Janet, but I’m down with the Natalie Imbruglia comeback too. [Idolator]
- Taylor Swift is rumored to be giving an “explosive” performance at the VMAs, which quite possibly could be the first single from her next album. [E!]
- Looking forward to hearing the tracks DJ Mustard produced for Rihanna. [Popjustice]
- Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” is the most-watched video of 2014 so far. [Digital Spy]
- Timbaland says Missy Elliott’s upcoming single is “a game-changer.” [Rolling Stone]
- Iggy Azalea will act in Fast & The Furious 7. [MTV]