In the age of social media fads develop before we’ve even had the chance to deliberate, as they’re tweeted and retweeted ad infinitum. Culture is reduced to meme format, giving way to some pretty detestable content. The following list rounds up recent music trends that will hopefully be dead by New Year’s Day.
Remember the Harlem Shake? One of the earlier “dance challenges” of the digital age — it went viral in 2013 — was set to Bauuer’s song of the same name. 2016 saw the #MannequinChallenge set to Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane’s “Black Beatles.” It is now 2018 and there are too many viral dance challenges to count, their carefree spirit compromised at the hands of Drake and the online attention economy.
“In My Feelings,” one of the better songs on Drake’s egregiously long Scorpion, sparked #DoTheShiggy, which was rechristened #InMyFeelingsChallenge as Drake fans started dancing and miming along to the track alongside a moving vehicle. Celebrities and commoners took to the bit. Its influence was so powerful that the National Transportation Safety Board had to issue a warning after someone was hit by a car while performing the dance, a true mark of success!
Injuries aside, the videos helped Drake get the #1 song in the country, leading to a new trend: dance challenge bait. Artists across many genres have since released songs and videos with viral potential in mind, geared toward digital shareability with easy-to-follow dance moves and agreeable beats. Paul McCartney’s “Come Onto Me” (#COTMChallenge) came with multiple music videos demonstrating people performing variations of a vague groove. Ciara’s “Level Up” sounded like it was written to fit a pre-choreographed routine. Camila Cabello and Pharrell shared a dance tutorial for the “Sangria Wine” challenge. Swizz Beatz and Lil Wayne tried halfheartedly to spark the #UproarChallenge. The Skibidi Challenge was big in the UK, but not with Bobbie Gillespie. And in Mexico, the #InMyFeelingsChallenge begat the “Chona” challenge: it doesn’t involve Drake, but you can still get hit by a car. Anyway, you know where this is heading…
“The Baby Shark Challenge” is apparently a Facebook thing.
The parent in me can’t stop smiling at this video. pic.twitter.com/myou0ZMtSC
— K. ✨ (@LifeAsKris) August 18, 2018
Quoting “…Baby One More Time”
We millennials sure do love the ’90s! Many of us were born within the decade, but that won’t stop us from waxing nostalgic over choker necklaces and plastic blow-up furniture. You know what else we love? ’90s icon Britney Spears. The collective millennial consciousness was so strong this year that three different artists quoted the same Britney song in their music.
“I just want to go back / Sing hit me baby one more time,'” Charli XCX sings on “1999.” Emerging country pop singer Lauren Alaina shares in that particular breed of nostalgia. Her song, “Ladies In The ’90s,” goes, “Turn the dial and find me some ‘Strawberry Wine’ / So I can sing all night long, acting like I’m Britney / Come on baby, hit me just one more time.” This reference sits among a chorus full of quotes from ’90s pop songs. The chorus for Anne Marie’s “2002” is almost identical, stacking Jay-Z, *NSYNC, Nelly, and Britney: “Oops I got ninety-nine problems singing bye, bye, bye / Hold up, if you wanna go and take a ride with me / Better hit me, baby, one more time.” ’90s nostalgia has officially reached peak corny, and I think we can call it a day at three “hit me baby one more time” songs.
The Terms “Presave” And “Visuals”
I missed when the decision was made to switch from “preorder” to “presave” and refer to music videos as “visuals.” When I hear “visuals,” I imagine, like, a trippy psychedelic screensaver. I don’t know what “presave” means and don’t you dare tell me.
Live-Streamed Album Release Parties
The live-streamed album release is one of the many concepts that fell through for Kanye West this year. Though less ambitious than, say, building a space shuttle or convincing people that slavery was a choice, the parties turned out to be a hassle. First, Kanye invited friends, celebrities, and selected media folk out to Wyoming for a highly-anticipated ye listening party. The event was live-streamed and available to view via the Wav app, which I am positive nobody heard of until that night. As he’s wont to do, Kanye kept everyone waiting. A few hours into the stream, once he showed up and technical difficulties were sorted out, the listening party commenced. He held a listening party for each of the albums he produced this summer. Most of them were live-streamed on Wav. None of them began on time. And I don’t want to watch a bunch of rich people having fun without me. That’s what Instagram is for.
This year, the age-old immersive installation — recently popularized by artists like Yayoi Kusama — was co-opted and repurposed for Instagram likes and product peddling. These Insta traps, billed as “experiences,” typically play to the lowest common denominator. You like pizza? Come to the Museum Of Pizza! For only $35, you can snap pictures in front of pepperoni-dotted wallpaper. Be sure to visit the gift shop on your way out for a “Pizza Is Bae” T-shirt. How about ice cream? Head on over to the Museum Of Ice Cream, where you can sit in a germ-laden pool of sprinkles and pose for selfies. Rosé Mansion has tons of Insta-worthy props and a complimentary glass of wine with your $45 ticket! Surrounded by themed junk and decor, the only immersion that transpires within these spaces is between the attendees and their phones. It’s a potent blend of guerrilla and social media marketing that practically advertises itself, evidently too good for the pop star PR world to pass up.
Album promotion took form in these simultaneously sneaky and glaringly obvious “experiences.” This year saw Ariana Grande’s “Sweetener: The Experience,” “the Mariah Experience,” Imagine Dragons’ ORIGINS Experience, Quavo’s “HUNCHO REALITY” Experience, and Justin Timberlake’s Man Of The Woods experiences in Seattle (which was augmented reality) and NYC (where they served bugs) to name a few. The “experience” at each event is the same: People rotate through photoshoot-ready rooms and stations, seizing photo-op after photo-op. Other areas are marked by fun facts and videos — the lines are notably shorter for these attractions. But the “experience” doesn’t end at the doors, it continues on Instagram. Instagram’s location tag for “Ariana Grande Sweetener Experience” offers an endless stream of pictures taken in an upside-down living room, in front of a galaxy pattern backdrop, and sinking into the pillowy “cloud squish zone,” which apparently emits Grande’s new fragrance, Cloud. Like her iconic ponytail, the carefully curated made-for-Insta aesthetics foster her already well-established brand. These “experiences,” built to generate uniform viral content, are gimmickry at its finest and most irritating.
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Pop-up shops are like “immersive experiences,” but with fewer flashy frills to distract from its commercial purpose. That doesn’t make them any less dumb. Parquet Courts and Arctic Monkeys both followed their new albums with merch pop-up shops. Donald Glover gave away free ice cream and sold special edition Childish Gambino vinyl during his “Summertime Starts Here” event series. Most recently, Bruce Springsteen announced a pop-up for the soundtrack to the Netflix show based on his one-man show, Springsteen On Broadway. Worst of all was Target’s CBGB-themed pop-up, an ignorant emblem of gentrification. Before the opening of the department store’s new East Village location, they attempted to pay homage to the neighborhood’s history and its extinct iconic rock venue CBGB. The recreated club displayed “TRGT”-emblazoned merch and foam hands that read “The Resistance.” Target apologized for the oversight after the pop-up was met with backlash. I wonder how much a vintage TRGT tee goes for on eBay these days.
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Carpool Karaoke was never good. We let it go on for too long and tricked the world into thinking that this is a worthy concept and that James Corden is funny. The segment is simple: Corden invites a buzzy artist to drive around and sing with him. He does his silly British guy shtick and asks some questions. Sometimes there are costumes. He’s not a great singer, which seems to get a laugh out of people. Nobody in the car keeps their eyes on the road, which is concerning. Maybe it’ll take an #InMyFeelingsChallenge-style accident for the Late Late Show to cancel it. Otherwise, we may never recover from the Corden years.
Have you ever watched a music video and wished it was smaller and lower budget? No? Too bad! Music videos are small and grainy now and if you don’t like it you’re old and out of touch! “Vertical videos” are made to fit perfectly on an iPhone screen because nothing is sacred. This year saw some of the biggest names in pop adopt this new format. Watching one of these vertical videos on its intended platform is strange and almost perverse. The handheld illusion is meant to make you feel like you’re FaceTiming Selena Gomez while she dances around her mansion or watching Carly Rae Jepsen model different outfits. Music videos are dead and we killed them. Wake me up when they roll out the Virtual Reality helmets.
Hamfisted Political Statements
It’s 2018. Democracy is in shambles and celebrities are encouraged to “use their platform” and “speak out.” My opinion is: That’s probably not their forte! It’s nice to remind your fans to vote or share your support for a political candidate (unless you’re Kanye). That’s not the part I take issue with. It’s the cringe-worthy, faux-woke anthems and politically-charged videos that do too much, taking advantage of national strife to score a hit song. Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson’s latest music video for “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” shows a jewelry-covered Cyrus driving past things that are supposed to make you reflect on the state of the world, like football players taking a knee and a little girl learning to shoot a gun. The video for the 1975’s “Love It If We Made It” flashes violent scenes from the news while Matty Healy runs through a list of fucked up current events. I’m not going to tell you not to wear your “Nasty Woman” T-shirt. I’m just going to tell you it looks dumb!