Attempting to understand viral videos
By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor
People often wonder if they were born to the wrong era. My disturbingly high tolerance for annoying videos, songs, and sound bites makes me think I’m right where I belong. Whether it’s been “Gangnam Style,” “Friday,” “Nyan Cat,” or “The Fox,” I can indulge in these videos for weeks and not get sick of them—at least, not right away. But I think in this generation of searching for the next weirdest anything, as with every prior art form, we’ve started trying to decipher which of these viral pieces are actually “good.”
Now that some time has passed, most of us know Ylvis is not just two guys trying to piss off the Internet; they’re more like Norway’s take on Flight of the Conchords. Brothers Bård and Vegard Ylvisåker (don’t even try) are comedians, not bent on irritating the world with ridiculous fox sounds, but merely promoting the new season of their musical comedy talk show, I Kveld Med Ylvis (roughly “Tonight with Ylvis”). On top of that, if one takes the time to check out some of their other English language music videos, such as “Stonehenge” or “Work It,” one will quickly see these men are actually talented, hilarious performers—something I don’t think most of us are used to finding when catching wind of a new weird video and its creator(s).
At the time of writing this, “The Fox” is sitting at over 27-million views. Odd cases like “Gangnam Style” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby” video (if we want to go down that route) aside, 27 million views in less than two weeks is impressive. But, in the grand scheme of things, the really impressive videos reach anywhere over 100 million views. Some videos that have achieved that goal include, again, “Nyan Cat” (over 101 million), schmoyoho’s “Bed Intruder Song” (over 117 million), “The Sneezing Baby Panda” (over 165 million), and, surprisingly, “Charlie bit my finger – again!” (over 554 million).
For every new video that “goes viral,” there’s likely about a dozen other videos actually trying to reach that popularity. The only way making a potential viral video could work would be if the makers deciphered what they think would catch people’s interest. Looking at some of the videos I’ve already listed, really, anything can catch people’s interest—whether actual work was put into it (“The Fox” fits into this category, Ylvis clearly had a budget), or someone just had their camera out at the right time (such as with “Charlie bit my finger”).
But after seeing videos like Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” Bieber’s “Baby,” or even Black’s “Friday” blow up like they did, people have to keep some things in mind.
With regards to “Baby” (the view count currently sits at over 894 million), many music videos get lots of views and aren’t considered “viral”; what makes “Baby’s” popularity technically “viral” is that most people were watching it out of curiosity or irony. Yes, I do mean irony—with over one million likes and three million dislikes, I have a feeling most viewers weren’t intentionally enjoying the video.
As for “Friday,” this was a rare case where money was put into what can only be considered an accidental success. Accidental because, yes, “Friday” is a god-awful song with a god-awful video, but it makes for an incredible three minutes of entertainment. The original video is gone now, but at the height of its popularity, it was absolutely well over 150 million views.
Then there’s “Gangnam Style,” the perfect combination of non-English language singer, extremely random visual moments, and incredibly catchy music. There’s a reason “Gangnam Style” sits at over one billion, 767 million views—it’s the video that simply does not give a fuck, and people like that.
Because “The Fox,” as it turns out, was intentionally written as a comedic song, I don’t see it reaching even the 50 million-view mark anytime soon (although it has gradually been climbing by one to three million views a day). But Ylvis might be one of the few cases where, like auto-tune pros schmoyoho, the attention “The Fox” has garnered them will make all their future English-language music videos reasonable successes. Since “The Fox” was released, all their English-language videos have climbed in views, and I sincerely hope they continue making more.
Now, incase anyone was wondering, my favourite fox sound is “hatee-hatee-hatee-ho!”