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The power of satirical music videos

Written By Lizzie Arnold on 09/12/2014

POWEROFSATIRE

This week saw an unlikely pairing between 22 Jump Street star Channing Tatum and innovative mega-producer Diplo, to create this year’s hottest new music comedy reel Dick Graze. While at first, it may appear to be the rapid decline of music production as we know it, this awkwardly playful music video represents quite the opposite.

‘Dick Graze’ joins a long line of successful satirical videos to be released in the last decade, alongside Psy’s ‘Gangman Style’ to anything and everything by Weird Al Yankovic. But what makes them so successful? Believe it or not, satirical video clips are not always easy to spot. While some are created just for laughs, many have gained their notoriety and viral internet success by addressing important, and often untouched messages about society in a playful and digestible manner. Her are some of the best and worst satirical music videos produced over the last 10-years which have captured the hearts of YouTubers around the world.

Psy – Gangnam Style

If someone had told you two years ago, that a music video about a South-Korean man dancing like a horse to a song called Gangman Style would be one of the biggest viral successes of 2012 – would you believe them? Would you believe that a K-Pop could take centre stage at Australia’s Future Music Festival in 2013 for  6minutes and get away with it?

Park Jaesang, the mastermind behind Psy (short for psycho) and unlikely poster boy for South Korea’s youth-obsessed, vacuous pop music scene created overnight stardom in a K-Pop entertainment industry, where many have failed many times before. American Rapper T-Pain was retweeted 2,400 times when he wrote, “Words cannot describe how amazing this video is,” while The Wall Street Journal voted it as one of its “5 Must-See” response videos. However, beneath the catchy dance beat and hilarious dance moves this relatively ancient 34-year old pop sensation has perpetuated a subversive message about wealth, class and value in contemporary South Korean society. What might appear to be one of the most ridiculous music videos we have ever laid our eyes on, is actually a big deal in South Korean society – a far cry from the usual cookie cutter lollipop K-Pop music they are used to.

Chainsmokers – #Selfie

Given the nod of approval by dance-music king Pete Tong, Selfie has been the surprise success story of 2014 in dance music industry and in clubs around the globe. Treading the fine line between stupid and smart, and satire or reality, the New York-based duo have caught onto a narcissistic truth we all face everyday. Their first big studio single, ‘Selfie’ holds a mirror up to our Generation Y society (literally), with their hyperbolic reference to the current club scene of the ‘me me me’ tech generation. While we don’t want to admit there is a great deal in truth in the monologue of the track, the playful, tongue in cheek demeanour of the song is utterly infectious. It’s got my viral tick of approval!

 The Lonely Island – I’m On A Boat

Trying not to give too much away in their song title, The Lonely Island’s ‘I’m On A Boat’ parodies many of the ridiculous clichés found in rap songs and videos. Exessive wealth, gold-plated grills, drinking, bitchez and swearing, plus some glorious Auto-Tune provided none other than the man T-Pain himself. Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone, the mischievous threesome who have also bought you Dick in a box with Justin Timberlake, and this year’s infamous EDM dance parody When will the bass drop have racked up over 84million hits on YouTube with I’m on a boat.

This video is clearly just for laughs, poking fun at the music industry and all its excessiveness. However, what may surprise you is that this SNL Digital Short proved to be successful far beyond the cyber-world, picking a nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 52nd Grammy Awards as well as a glowing review from Rolling Stone, who said it is “one of the strongest Saturday Night Live hip-hop hits since Eddie Murphy was funny.”

 

Ylvis – The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)

Little words can be used to describe how and why this song has become so successful, but it has – 450million views successful. Running in the same vein of Rebecca Black’s Friday, Norwegian duo, Ylvis’ The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?) is so ridiculous it makes sense. The video, which involves people dressed up as animals dancing around in the woods while Bård and Vegard Ylvisåker croon “dog goes woof/ cat goes meow/ bird goes tweet/ mouse goes squeak”. It is utterly maddening, and in essence does not really give back much to society – except to make us laugh at its absurdity. Hats off to these two jesters for making us weirdly question, “what does a fox really say?”

Weird Al Yankovic – ‘White & Nerdy’

At the ripe age old of 54 and with a career which has spanned over two-thirds of his life, Weird Al Yankovic is showing now signs of slowing down. Perfecting the satirical cover song, this curly haired viral wiz released his 13th studio album in 2014, Mandatory Fun. Yankovic’s biggest hit to date, the 2009 White and Nerdy, an obvious parody of Ridin’ by Chamillionaire and Kravzie Bone, is deliriously funny and quick-witted – truly committing to the cause of nerd culture and the awkwardness of society. To add to his backlog of satirical genius, he has also produced covers of Offspring (Pretty Fly For a Rabbi), Michael Jackson (Eat it) Nirvana (Smells like Nirvana) – deservedly crowing him the king of the satire.

Bound 2 – Kanye West

Kanye West is one artist who does not shy away from excess and controversy and Bound 2 is no exception. This masterpiece, featuring a wingless Pegasus, landscape time-lapses to rival any David Attenborough documentary and of course – a 15-year teenage boy’s dream – a topless Kim Kardashian, has been met with consequent criticism and ridicule in its release in November last year. Namely the parody re-imaging of the video created by James Franco and Seth Rogen.

Is it, or is it not meant to be a joke? Directed by British fashion photographer Nick Knight, the video is an Americana0influenced wet dream fantasy, practically breaking the internet, leaving many fans confused and shocked. Under the guise of a seamlessly outdated tacky video, this brilliant wizardry of satire, is a sarcastic portrait of media consumption and the fizzling idea of the American Dream.

In true Kanye style, he stated:

“I wanted to take white trash t-shirts and make it into a video. I wanted it to look as phony as possible. I wanted the clouds to go in one direction, the mountains to go in another, the horses to go over there. I wanted to show that this is the Hunger Games. This is the type of imagery that’s being presented to all of us, the only difference is there’s a black dude in the middle of it…”

– Kanye West |Breakfast Club 105.1