Hey guys. Brian here. The dust has begun to settle on my 100 Film Favorites Countdown, and the time has come for me to look ahead at my future with EarnThis. Eventually, I plan on creating a similar Countdown focused on television. But it will be less gargantuan in scale, and contain around 25 “Top TV Triumphs”…or 30…but absolutely no more than 50.
In the meanwhile, to channel the spirit of Dan’s Top 100 Everything and further satisfy your “list of 100 things” jones, I’ll be creating my first-ever content exclusive to EarnThis: “10 Things Brian Likes” will be a series of short, “Top 10”-style list posts, in which I’ll be discussing various things that I love which might not fit into a given media category, or about which I may not have enough to say to fill an entire article. These “things” will include various media, certainly, but also some honest-to-goodness physical objects which have enriched my life in one way or another. Any thing is free game!
When people ask me what my favorite band is, I’m typically at a loss for an answer. While I do listen to music frequently, my intake breaks down roughly as follows:
-60% Soundtracks (Film scores, showtunes, “video game music,” etc.)
-20% Other assorted genres I like (Folk, ska, doo-wop, novelty, parody, etc.) – roughly 1/3rd of which are specific “favorite performers” (more on them as 10 Things Brian Likes continues in the coming weeks).
-15% YouTube remixes of other media
-5% Miscellaneous (“Musical” detritus accumulated over the years – Foreign language theme park announcements, Stephen Hawking audiobooks, theremin orchestras, talk-radio overlaid with techno tracks, etc.)
For now, let’s take a look at that 15%. YouTube offers everyone with a computer the chance to share their lives and their cinematic and/or musical talents (or lack thereof). And with the abundance of video and audio material now available online, it offers artists a venue to showcase all manner of mish-mashed remixes, drawing on media sources from every era. Here, briefly, are ten YouTube-based “remixers” whose work I enjoy:
First up in our mashup-maestro menagerie, we’ve got Swede Mason. A British musician and video editor, Mason will typically take a single scene from a movie (or often, a U.K. television series) and build it into a techno track through looping, multi-tracking, pitch-shifting, and a liberal dose of crazy. Below you’ll find one of his most popular videos, starring Top Gear‘s Jeremy Clarkson.
Mason’s most-viewed video is “Masterchef Synesthesia,” which he promoted heavily online and over the radio, and which actually peaked in the 30s on the British Top 100 singles chart. However, I wouldn’t rank “Synesthesia” among his best work by any means. Be sure to check out some of his lesser-viewed masterpieces, including remixes of Obama killing a fly, Mel Gibson yelling into a telephone, and a British musician explaining his metal detector hobby.
Unfortunately, my all-time favorite video of his has been taken off YouTube due to a copyright claim. Luckily, you can still see “Jungle All the Way,” an Arnold Schwarzenegger remix perhaps better known by its refrain, “Put That Cookie Down,” right here.
MelodySheep is the handle of YouTuber John Boswell, best known for his “Symphony of Science” series. Videos in the series consist of dialogue snippets from various scientists auto-tuned and set to music. Featured “singers” have included figures from Neil deGrasse Tyson to Bill Nye to Jane Goodall, and each video emphasizes a topic or theme in contemporary science: the big bang, human evolution, scientific reasoning, paleontology, the exploration of Mars, and more. Though the series contains roughly 20 entries at the moment, it all began with Boswell’s first viral hit, “A Glorious Dawn,” in November of 2009. The “single” (which was actually pressed to a record in the wake of going viral) stars astrophysicist and science-popularizer Carl Sagan. In clips taken from the 1980 series Cosmos, Sagan expounds upon the great possibilities which await us as the human race continues its exploration of space, “wading out into the cosmic ocean.” Stephen Hawking makes a “cameo.”
The massive popularity of the Symphony of Science series inspired PBS to commission MelodySheep to create a similar series focused specifically on prominent figures in Public Broadcasting. This new series, released under the “PBS Digital Studios” label, has included remixes of PBS classics such as Reading Rainbow and The Joy of Painting. It debuted with “Garden of Your Mind,” starring our wise old television neighbor, Mr. Rogers.
If you’ve been around the internet for any significant period of time, chances are you’ve born witness to some of Schmoyoho’s handiwork. Best known for their “Autotune the News” series, the group takes current events and/or internet memes, “songifies” this video material, and releases it to widespread cyber-acclaim. I know the team and their videos are very well known (they were even invited to make a clip for the 2011 Oscars ceremony). But I still wanted to give them props, specifically for their “Songify This” series. The tunes are consistently catchy, and demonstrate some enviable songwriting talent on the part of the Schmoyoho crew. These people can spin rants about cats and rainbows into unforgettable melodies, taking viral videos to the next level of virulence.
Swedemason, Melodysheep, and Schmoyoho all channel the innate rhythm of snippets of sampled dialogue to create their tracks, giving a melody to the “music” already present in the words. Our next musician instead chops dialogue and other sampled audio into unrecognizable (yet practically unaltered) sound bits, then combines and interweaves these bits to build eerie, enchanting soundscapes. Pogo (whose real name is Nick Bertke) burst on to the scene in 2007, with a track simply called “Alice,” comprised of sounds taken from Disney’s 1951 version of Alice in Wonderland. In rapid succession, he released a series of such remixes, sampling audio from family films, and particularly those made by Disney. Rather than cracking down on perceived copyright infringement, however, Disney was impressed and actually HIRED Pogo to create promotional videos for Up and Toy Story 3.
I like a lot of his work, and have shared two of his remixes previously, in my “Film Favorites” posts on The Wizard of Oz and Hook. Picking just one example to feature here is hard; As with all the artists on this list, I highly recommend poking around a bit on his YouTube channel. Here’s one of his earlier tracks, “Expialidocious,” incorporating sounds from Mary Poppins.
I also enjoyed this tribute video, which provides an accurate illustration of how it feels to hear Pogo for the first time:
#5: YouTube Poop
If you followed along with my “100 Film Favorites” posts, you’ve likely been privy to one of my many attempts to foist upon you the “artform” known as YouTube Poop. As I so eloquently put it in my Wizard of Oz entry, “YouTube Poops are heavily-edited compilations of footage from various pop culture sources mashed together into a Frankenstein’s monster of idiosyncratic humor, loud noises, and repetition.” They almost always utilize clips from the old Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon series and/or the notoriously sloppy animated cutscenes from the Mario and Zelda games released for the Phillips CD-i.
Beyond that, there are no rules. The genre is supremely silly, often crass, and quite possibly annoying. But once you get a taste, you just might be hooked. I present the first “YTP” I ever saw, which remains a strong example of the form:
#6: YTPMV: Style 1
When YouTube Poops prominently or exclusively feature music, a new subgenre is created: the YouTube Poop Music Video, or YTPMV. I find these videos can be divided into two broad types. First, there are tracks in which sample audio is chopped, Pogo-style, into tiny bits and beats, which are then layered and pitch-shifted to recreate an already extant tune (often melodies from techno tracks or video game soundtracks).
#7: YTPMV: Style 2
Then, there are the videos which incorporate longer snippets of sample dialogue. Like Schmoyoho, Melodysheep, or Swede Mason, these artists draw on the inherent rhythm in the dialogue and create original music inspired by and built around it. The end result is bizarre, but still catchy, “music” which you can’t help but sing along with…even if the lyrics are nonsensical, as in prime example “This is Not a What.”
# 8: DJ Steve Porter
Like Schmoyoho, DJ Steve Porter hardly needs my recommendation to boost his fame. He has released numerous high-profile remixes of TV shows including Community and Scrubs, each with millions of views. But Porter nonetheless has a place in my heart, primarily because of “RapChop,” a remix he created of infomercial pitchman Vince Offer’s eccentric “SlapChop” ad. This was one of the first YouTube remixes I heard, and I’ve been grooving to it ever since. It really does put me in a great mood all day, as per Vince’s promise. Let’s listen to it together now…as the dancing spreads, maybe we really will “make America skinny again.”
Apparently I wasn’t the only one inspired by this tune. Here’s a phenomenal cover on acoustic guitar:
#9: Bad Lip Reading
There are many ways to “remix” something. The folks at Bad Lip Reading, another YouTube channel that hardly needs my hype, take footage of various celebrities and musicians and dub it over with what the celebrities appear to be saying. This results in hilarious, Mad-Libs style absurdity. The “BLR” channel first rose to popularity with a series of dubbed ads featuring the Republican candidates for the 2012 Presidential campaign. I don’t know about you, but I would vote for anyone who promised to dance, make love, and fix snacks for the Highlander marathon.
“BLR” is perhaps best known for a massively successful recent video in which they dubbed over players and coaches in the NFL. Heck, that video got so popular DJ Steve Porter made a remix of it. That’s right. Remixes of remixes. The meta is piling up:
I have one more artist to share, ere we’re crushed beneath the mounting layers of re-re-remixing.
Think back to 2006. “Web 2.0” was in its infancy. People were starting to get Facebook accounts and post videos to a site called YouTube. And somewhere or other (I first saw it on AlbinoBlackSheep.com), the enigmatic editor known as RX posted a video of George Bush “singing” U2’s “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” RX cobbled together words from Bush’s speeches, one by one, to provide the “lyrics.” Another example from around the same time features Prime Minister Tony Blair querying his constituents, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
If you couldn’t tell, RX (or “RX2008,” the name of the associated YouTube channel) tends to create remixes with a satirical edge to them. In 2006 when the aforementioned videos were released, President Bush was waging an unpopular, costly war, and Prime Minister Blair was facing the end of his term. This dark, bitter tinge sets RX apart from the other editors on this list, and he (or she) has a definite message and political agenda in mind. Just watch this one last video, which, fittingly, is a cover of “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” by R.E.M.. It’s one of my all-time favorite music videos (mostly due to the creative use of stock / public domain footage, not necessarily the political message):