Bitter Musings of a Kinda-Former Musician, Volume 239

Has your annoying co-worker posted this on your Facebook wall yet?

The video above is a very well done cover of Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now” featuring Busta Rhymes and Lil’ Wayne by Boston indie duo Karmin (doing their best Nicki Minaj impersonation). The clip has gone viral with over 3.6 million views to date. I understand why. A) It’s a timely and unique cover of a popular song B) The girl is attractive and C) she absolutely slays they Busta Bus verse, which is completely unexpected from a semi-attractive white girl. [Very curious on how long she practiced and how many takes it took to nail. She’s obviously reading cue cards, but still, execution is flawless.]

I found out about this video from Dave Kusek, a guy I follow on Twitter from Berklee College of Music. He runs a blog called The Future of Music. He wrote, “Quality and talent always wins online” as a preface to his longer blog post. I agree, but as I watched the video I spent more time cringing than vibing. Yes, this is a well made cover and kudos for pulling of the vocals. But aren’t they just ripping off Pomplamoose who started the male/female minimalist duo trend and created the genre of the “videosong” back in 2008? Pomplamoose’s videos are far more creative and they just look like they’re having a blast. Karmin look like they’re just trying to show off.

There’s no question that Karmin are talented, but if you click around their channel, you’ll see that they’ve been at this for a little while. They have covers of basically every iTunes hit in the past 6 months. So it looks like they just got lucky with “Look at Me Now.” The Internet and music recording technology has changed the way artists record and market themselves. I think it’s a great thing that artists are more accessible than ever. What I hate is the new YouTube Fame Model:

  1. Record yourself singing a song (preferably a cover with a different musical arrangement than the original)
  2. Film that recording session or fake it with a lip synced version
  3. Upload your clip to YouTube
  4. Hope you get noticed/famous/a record contract

This is just one of the reasons why the music industry is dying. Bands don’t cut their teeth anymore. Musicians spend more time marketing themselves than writing solid songs and building a real audience in a live setting. The new model just feels too easy. Anyone can perform a cover of someone else’s song and get noticed. I still prefer to judge musicians on original cuts and larger bodies of work.

Rather than paying dues, bands now try to catch lightning in a bottle and ride the wave for as long as possible. Karmin are just the latest to pop. They even got a trip to L.A. and a performance on The Ellen DeGeneres show for their efforts. But I really doubt that they’ll be anything more than the flavor of the week.

The Internet is a fickle beast. It’s the medium with the most reach in the quickest amount of time. But as soon as you make it to the Front Page, there’s always someone hipper, cooler and hungrier waiting to take your place. Maintaining buzz and actually turning it into something beyond 15 minutes is a challenge few have solved. It’s obvious that great content will always attract eyeballs and sell itself. But if this is another example of the future of music, I want nothing to do with it.

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