Ery, ery, urp… Remix
There is an epidemic sweeping the country and I'm not talking about everyone posting pictures of their car's digital thermometer on Facebook.
This problem is far more dangerous to our children and likely to cause hysteria at some point in the near future. It clogs the airwaves and is an utter challenge to the fabric that binds us, the ingenuity of common folk who rise up each day in search of the most American of dreams, the people who seek out security through creativity. It is a black eye on Art, the capitalized school subject Art, like the stuff that’s been around forever and sleeps in museums, not like the sketches you made in your mom’s basement, more the Da Vinci-type stuff.
It is the “Call Me Maybe” remix YouTube video.
No, not the original “Call Me Maybe” song, sung by pop sensation Carly Rae Jepsen. The original song will live in the historical record until the end of time. A hook so concise, a melody so catchy, a girl so, well, like all the other girls who sing catchy songs, “Call Me Maybe” is brilliant, a classic that belongs in the pop pantheon next to some of the 90s’ best (a playlist that includes Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” N’Sync’s “Bye, Bye, Bye,” every Britney Spears song, all Dru Hill songs, Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” and my generation’s preeminent pop group, Boyz II Men). The serious affliction we now face is the devil spawn of a few kids on the Harvard baseball team who sung the hit in a van. There are a hundred different versions. They range from an old man singing “Call Me Maybe” to tout the University of Alabama to clips of Barack Obama speeches molded into the song. The remixes are further proof that nothing good has ever come from a herd of men packed in a van. Nothing. Yet they tried anyway. (In college the fraternity packed in a van and ran a football to Charlotte to raise money for cancer research. It’s probably still on everyone’s resume—”Fundraising Facilitator,” or another proud-sounding title. Those days in the van were unprincipled and warped.)
The “Call Me Maybe” remixes are simply another extension of a nation’s propensity to steal other’s creativity, piggyback on a hit. (It’s not lost on the author that the singer is Canadian and, in a sense, we’ve stolen her, too. And Beiber. He’s ours as well. Sorry, Canada. Send the Mounties. Hope our tanks don’t startle the horses.)
This phenomenon, or rash, of remixes is not relegated to the music industry. (I have been guilty of searching out coat-tails sturdy enough to bear my weight. My pitch to a publisher for a memoir titled 25 Shades of Mediocre was abandoned when someone beat me to it with a different number of shades of another adjective.) Marketing professionals receive a handful of publications showing pictures of things other people have done. Websites offer a chance to see what has won awards. And everyone in marketing regularly peruses the shelves of their own archives to find things that worked. In an age of tighter budgets and quick, social connections people need things to work. And not everyone has a “Call Me Maybe” up his or her sleeve. This is why all local car commercials have a cute girl with a Southern drawl and men’s clothing ads depict a man who doesn’t smile or shave and the women in women’s shoe ads look comfortable. Templates exist. Remixes, I suppose, of things that worked once. It is the same in sports, where running backs and 7-foot-tall centers have disappeared in fast-paced, offensive-minded games. Or in politics, where being shady like a weeping willow works even if it leads to the people’s weeping.
So in a copycat world where the “next one,” the follow-up, is expected, maybe the remix or templated ad does not challenge our national fabric or creative individuality. Maybe the fact that we copy each other and remake what works is our national fabric, because we all just want to be the same, even if we’re being Canadian.
No lesson herein lies. Except to say that if your day is sour, listen to “Call Me Maybe” on repeat for an half hour and if you do not end up smiling, your heart is as frozen as the global economy. Or the lesson is people redo things that work, and sometimes it’s okay, unless it involves a bunch of dudes in a van. We as a people all want to be liked so we do things people like. And if it’s as simple as that, the remix phenomenon, things aren’t all that bad. But from any evaluation of the “Call Me Maybe” remix epidemic one sad truth emerges: how brilliant it would’ve been to hear Nate Dogg, another 90s icon, sing that hook.