The launch of MTV coincided with my time as a TV critic for a Seattle-area daily newspaper. I remember it well from The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” to the heavy rotation given such music videos as “Hey Mickey” from Toni Basil and “Hungry Like a Wolf” by Duran Duran. Add to that the lightweight antics of early VJs Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter, and Martha Quinn, and you have the making of a disruption.
When the disruption turned from music videos to programming the likes of “The Real World,” music videos faded. Over time, with the rise of YouTube and companies such as Vevo, Google’s video appendage became the new home for music videos. Its ability to break down the barriers so a music video from yours truly (as the ultimate hyperbole) could play in the same sandbox as one from Imagine Dragons, opened up a world of opportunity for new talent.
Videoink has written extensively about the proliferation of cover songs (not parodies) but it’s worth looking at this phenomenon from the business perspective. As an experiment, I searched on the most-viewed cover songs on YouTube, which resulted in some great music and a few resulting theories.
The cream of the crop consisted of Vasquez Sounds, Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix, Working with Lemons, and Mariangeli from “HitStreak.” Each video has a story and the sum total of those tales results in an interesting online video narrative.
What each has in common is the use of popular song as a means of breaking through the clutter. It just so happens, when you search on “Roar” by Katy Perry or “Radioactive” from Imagine Dragons, a number of covers show up along with the original version. By covering a well-know song, a band or singer assures itself at least the chance of being seen and heard. If music fans like what they see, they click on other clips (including their own original works) and possibly subscribe. Of course, layers of sharing and social media virality aid in turning a cover act into the genuine thing; who doesn’t want to be the social media tipster who finds the next great act on YouTube and shares it with their former kindergarten classmates?
The stories behind the stories are also interesting. For example, the members of Vazquez Sounds are the offspring of a well-known music producer who lives in Baja, California. Their professionalism and talent is clearly outstanding, but the ability to leverage their father’s recording studio and connections also pays off. As for Mariangeli, “HitStreak” is a program from ShowMobile — a mobile entertainment channel that has music shows somewhat akin to Dick Clark’s historic “American Bandstand” and “Where the Action Is” (which launched the careers of Paul Revere and the Raiders and Sonny & Cher). Sorry kids, music programming has been around since your parents were toddlers.
Cover songs not only lead to potential stardom, they serve as great cross-promotional vehicles (for tours of lesser-known acts) and as a way to get discovered land land lucrative record deals. Admittedly, for every Jayesslee and Jeff McNeal there are zillions of bands and singers whose voices should be limited to the shower.
Stop the World, ‘Seinfeld’ is Here!
Some 17 years after the Fab Four 2.0 were sent away to the Latham County Prison (“I don’t come down to where you work and knock the license plates out of your hand.”), Hulu will debut all 180 episodes of “Seinfeld” on June 24. Even for those of us (I mean me) who have seen every episode numerous times, there are a handful (well, more than a handful) that you have to watch whenever they show their funny faces on the tube.
Everyone has their favorites. Here are mine:
“The Chinese Restaurant”
A classic in which Jerry, George and Elaine are forced to cool their heels waiting for a table at a chinese restaurant. A few highlights including a bet in which Elaine has to walk up to a random table and eat an egg roll. Veteran actor James Hong ends the show with a classic line.
“The Pez Dispenser”
An almost semi-serious episode where one of Jerry’s friend is given an intervention for drug abuse. Nonetheless, things get funny when George feels the need to “have hand” to prevent his girlfriend from breaking up. “And you’re going to need it.”
I admit the primary reason I like this episode is it features the lovely and talented Catherine Keener as Jerry’s jealous artist/girlfriend whose father gives Elaine, Kramer and George tickets to a Yankees game. Laughter ensues when Elaine wears and Orioles hat to Yankee Stadium. Side note: Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Keener worked together in the recent film, “Enough Said.” No hats or baseball tickets were involved in that film.
FTW, a Hall of Fame episode. Jerry is bumped to first class and Elaine is forced to ride in crowded coach on a flight from St. Louis. George loses a bet and has to pick the duo up at the airport. “You’re a blurb,” is one of the show’s best lines.
“The Puffy Shirt”
Alas, the low talker. Seems the woman who can speak barely above a whisper also is a master seamstress. When she inaudibly asks Jerry to wear her wonderful creation on “The Today Show,” confusion and humor reigns supreme. Has the buccaneer clothing trend taken hold yet?
Around our house, the word kavorka has a special meaning that came from this rather hilarious episode. For the love of a woman, George tries to convert to Latvian Orthodox and Kramer finds himself irresistible to a young novice. I mean, who doesn’t want a Slinky as a gift?
“The Marine Biologist”
“I might have told her you were a marine biologist,” Jerry tells George. Jerry ran into a former college classmate who found it difficult to believe Costanza was anything other than a goofball. When Jerry convinced her his buddy was an expert in all things sea mammal, the race to a preposterous ending is on.
When George realizes that everything he has been doing in life was wrong, doing the complete opposite lands him a beautiful woman and a job with the Yankees. Elaine, on the other hand, find life to be a complete disaster after stopping for candy on the way to see her boyfriend!! who was in a car accident.
“The Soup Nazi”
“Schmoopie.” “No soup for you.” Those two words/phrases are key to this iconic episode where the gang finds soup so good, it will make your knees buckle. Look for a young Yul Vazquez as one of the street toughs who steals Elaine’s armoire.
“The Merv Griffin Show”
Perhaps one of my favorite episodes. Kramer finds an old “Merv Griffin Show” set in the garbage; George runs over a squirrel and has to have special tools brought in from El Paso to save its life; Jerry dates a woman who won’t let him play with her toys. These three elements coincide to produce great laughs. Also, some great lessons on the dangers of drinking a box of wine while eating a giant turkey.
“The candy lineup.” David Puddy (Patrick Warburton) at his best when he gets promotes from grease money to car salesman. Jerry comes for a deal on a new Saab and George is in search of food which leads him to some memorable interaction with a vending machine.
And there you have it. Hulu has all 180 episodes of the show about nothing. It may seem like nothing, but it sure packs hours of laughter, clever dialog and the perfect ’90s zeitgeist.