War of the Candidate Music Videos

Is there an emerging YouTube demographic? Politically-themed music videos may be offering an unacknowledged glimpse at the next generation of voters. But judging from these clips, their real message might be that elections are stupid, and what's really important is who's got the funniest music videos.

This summer famously saw debating candidates facing questions from a cartoon-voiced talking snowman, and Barack Obama's inspiring "Yes I Can" speech eventually morphed into a hip music video. But at the same time, though Barack lost Ohio's primary, he won the support of a whopping 75 percent of voters under the age of 24. If America's future will ultimately be determined by YouTube, it's these young video stars who are running the secret campaign.

So what is the new generation trying to tell us?

1. Hillary Boy

Not only is she mandating universal healthcare for millions — but YouTube user DaveDays also has a crush on her.

He admits candidly in the second verse that "I don't have political views," but states that 60-year-old Hillary has still won his support because of "Those thighs, those eyes. Yeah, yeah, yeah..."

Using doctored footage showing Hillary winning a dance contest, he implies that Barack Obama can't win because his own supporters' videos are insufficiently sexy. "Obama Girl you're a skank," sings Days, warning his sexy video rival that she can't ensure an Obama victory "even if you take off all your clothes." Such is the devotion of this Green Day wannabe (with the Republican mom) that he'd even choose to watch Hillary instead of the Teletubbies. Which kind of puts the whole primary in perspective...

Day's real interest is becoming a video star — as he himself acknowledges in the video's description.

"This is a spoof of obama girls vid.." he scribbles.
dont take it too seriously ;-)

Unfortunately, only 900,000 people have watched his video, putting his efforts slightly behind Taryn Southern's own lesbian-themed video about her own crush on the candidate, "Hott 4 Hill." ("I know you're not gay, but I'm hoping for bi-") But together they've created a visual, musical, sexually-charged dialogue — which is entirely free of any actual political issues.

2. The Obama Girl Revolution

In November "Obama Girl" recorded a public service announcement arguing America's political system suffered from one longstanding dysfunction: public servants who can't dance. The video was viewed just 135,659 times, suggesting that 25-year-old model Amber Lee Ettinger had already fallen from her earlier fame.

As the original video figurehead, Barely Political's "Obama Girl" launched the craze for political musical videos back in June of 2007, though there's no evidence it impacted the campaigns. HCD Research later discovered that the responses reported most-frequently for her famous video were "irritated" (48%) and "embarrassed" (35%). There's even something vaguely fascist about her newest music video, released Tuesday, in which she wails to Hillary to surrender because "it's become an Obama nation."

Ironically, all that crushing didn't actually lead her to vote for Obama. According to a February post on a New York Times blog, Obama Girl skipped the New Jersey primary after a weekend of partying at the Super Bowl.

And she didn't vote for anyone.

3. Viva!

There's a positive side to political music videos. The dialogue has been democratized, with every voice claiming a part of the internet for its own message. Miguel Orozco, a Mexican-American Obama supporter born in East L.A., created Amigos de Obama.com "to fill a void in media outreach to Latinos" according to a message on his site. ("Tu Voto Tiene Swing!" it welcomes visitors...)

The site also displays one of the most sincere music videos, one that actually hopes to persuade voters — in this case, the crucial hispanic demographic — using a mariachi band. "Viva Obama!" the corridos sing...
"Families united and safe and even with a health care plan... His struggle is also our struggle, and today we urgently need a change..."

"Out of many, we are truly one," Barack announced last week in a speech about race — and it seems true even the world of viral music videos. Elsewhere on the web, there's even a video called Barack OBollywood.

4. "Oh my god! No!!!"

In an age of music videos, the worst sin is bad production values. The video Hillary4U&Me became viral simply because it was so bad, and ultimately it even provoked a YouTube counter-meme: the horrified reaction video. ("Oh my god! No! That is horrible! Ah ha ha ha ha ha! Are you serious?!" screams YouTube user CloudIzMe, as his friends gather around laughing in derision.) User "UltimateJosh" attempted to inject some edge by creating a metal "Rock Remix" by replacing the soundtrack with Marilyn Manson's "Better of Two Evils."

"I will step on you on my way up, and I will step on you on my way down...")

The music videos have evolved into post-modern deconstructive "meta" videos. But we still don't know which candidate has the best healthcare proposal.

5. McCain-o-mania

How long until John McCain feels compelled to record his own music video? The answer came in 2002, when the 65-year-old former prisoner of war appeared on Saturday Night Live to sing a medley of Barbara Streisand songs.

"I've been in politics for over 20 years," he tells the audience, "and for over 20 years I've had Barbara Streisand trying to do my job..."

As the tables turned, the young writers at Saturday Night Live thought they were writing a satire. But instead they'd stumbled into a harbinger of the strange future to come, when music and politics would collide into a near-meaningless jumble of amateur glory hounds.

Though it still remains to be seen who they'll vote for.

See Also:
Democratic Cartoon Candidates
YouTube 5 Sorriest Questions for the 2008 Presidential Candidates
5 Best Videos: Animals Attacking Reporters
5 More Nasty Campaign Ads
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube

Google Stalker Reveals Secret Project

Can Google Hear Me?

It was an exciting moment. After a year of development, they were finally going to release their secret project online. Aaron Stanton and his team had been up 26 hours, according to a Boise newspaper, "broken only by a 4 a.m. trip to WinCo for more Red Bull energy drink."

Aaron had already made headlines when he flew to Google's headquarters last year without an appointment, vowing he'd wait in their lobby until they heard him out. He wasn't allowed to camp in the lobby, but eventually he got his meeting and began cobbling together a prototype. Now Google, Yahoo, and Amazon have all peered at Aaron's big idea, and last week Boise's 26-year-old entrepreneur finally revealed it to the world.

Unfortunately, a year ago the world had already guessed Aaron's secret. Or at least, some commenters on Digg deduced that it was related to "the Novel Project," Aaron's abandoned venture from 2002.

His newest version also analyzes books. But instead of delivering book-writing suggestions to authors, it delivers book-buying suggestions to readers. (Aaron calls it "a Pandora.com for books.") In a December interview, Aaron told us he felt big companies would be more willing to listen to him now that he had something to show them. He'd already begun filing a patent, and "I still get e-mails on a regular basis wishing me luck."

But has he already received a rejection from Google? When we contacted Aaron twice last week with that question — we received no reply. Aaron's latest video announces instead that "This isn't just about Google any more. It's also about Yahoo, who reached out to us early in this adventure." So how did it go at Yahoo? "It was bad timing," Aaron later told Wired News. "We got down [to Silicon Valley], and two days later they had a bunch of layoffs."

He's also added more big names to his list of potential partners. "It's also about Microsoft and Amazon.com," he hedges in the video, saying they complete the list of "the four companies that we think are in the best position to look at what we're doing and say okay, that's genuinely pretty cool." But of course that depends on what "being about Microsoft" means. "If you happen to work at either one of those two companies and you see this, would you pass this on?" Aaron asks hopefully. "Because we have something we'd like to say to you."

"We do actually own 'Can Amazon Hear Me .com'," he says in the video, "but at this point (he smiles) that seems a little cliche."

Aaron rose to fame with an online video blog chronicling his quest to get that first meeting with Google — called "Can Google Hear Me?" But his enthusiastic updates had always adopted a fierce silence about one topic: his secret entrepreneurial project. Last week that mystery finally ended with the beta release of BookLamp.

Here's how it works. When a user pick a book, Aaron's system quickly "reads" it — every page — and calculates a score based on five criteria. (Its pace, the level of dialog and action, the amount of description and the density of its prose.) A slick interface then generates a graph showing how the book scored, page by page, on each criteria — and identifies other books with a similar profile.

In the next version, his interface will even let users adjust the algorithm themselves, and it may even become a self-learning system. (For example, it might tweak its scoring based on patterns like recurring "theme" words that the user may not even be aware of.) "The idea is that over time the system will be able to recommend books on data that you yourself would never think to look for on a keyword search," Aaron explains in a video.

He also thinks hopeful authors might be able to use the system to identify publishers who'd appreciate their style, using the system's analysis of the publisher's previous books. And he sees other potential advantages for readers. "Ultimately we could tell you don't give up on this book until you reach page 50 at least because then it's going to get a lot more action packed!"

So far they've analyzed 207 books — though its mostly science fiction, listed alphabetically by the author's first name. There's seven by Isaac Asimov, and five more set in Isaac Asimov's fictional world, plus two books by Michael Crichton and two by L. Ron Hubbard. There's even three by James Doohan, who played Scotty the engineer on the original Star Trek. James Doohan's Privateer rates low on description.

"I had a heavy date last night. I overslept," the spaceman replied, yawning loudly...

"We're late for Strong's meeting over at the Academy," Bret snapped. "Get up! We've got to leave right away."

But the algorithm does give it a high rating for "action" (as well as pacing).

Quent Miles looked at the other man, his black eyes gleaming coldly. "I'll get up when I'm ready," he said slowly.

The two men glared at each other for a moment, and finally Brett lowered his eyes. Miles grinned and yawned again.

If you liked The Privateer by James Doohan, BookLamp suggests eight other books — including Independent Command, by James Doohan.

They've plotted 729,000 data points across 30,293 scenes, but there's one big problem: it still doesn't return enough matches. "There's no real way around this," Aaron acknowledges, "short of adding books to our database." He estimates that delivering comprehensive results would require a database of at least a million books. "Luckily for us, we live in a time when there are a number of such large scanning projects currently underway!" And his team is even thinking about building their own scanner.

In the mean time, they've tucked a couple practical jokes into the system. Searching for George Orwell's 1984, the system returns a 98% match for the USA Patriot Act.

The book's description? "A bad idea."

A celebratory video touted the project's journey — a year of twice a week meetings for the five core team-members and 13 more working remotely. ("They worked in coffee shops and living rooms, via Skype and instant chat. They've become friends....") Though they'd originally aimed for an August prototype, it took about seven months longer. And yet it wasn't until last month that the three Boise developers met the other two core members, Matt Davenport from England and the mysterious Evan from Southern California. Dozens more programmers offered to help, the video notes.

It's been a heady ride. Aaron began receiving thousands of emails a day after launching his video blog. When his father was hospitalized in November of 2006, "I realized that if I was going to do anything with my idea I couldn't put it off any more," Aaron says.

But today he's at a crossroads. "So far, this project has been balanced against other things in our lives — we've been working on this in our own time, in our living rooms, normally after hours. And it's time for us to decide what we want to do with BookLamp."

Microsoft still hasn't opened its doors, according to Aaron's blog. But there's still one glimmer of hope. Earlier this month he posted optimistically that "our presentation materials are still being bounced around Amazon.com. We've received word on Friday that our work is being positively received, and we should be cautiously optimistic.

"Being one to celebrate whenever the opportunity arises, I immediately went out and bought myself a $1 fudge sundae from McDonald's.

And Aaron now seems to be considering other less entrepreneurial options. He told a Boise newspaper that "It could be money driven, but when you run out of money it's over. Or it could be fun driven, and you never run out of fun." He's considering simply releasing the algorithm as an open source project, and he's asking for input from the online community that's been so supportive. "It's not quite a 'choose your own adventure' project," Aaron posts in the forum at BookLamp, "but your feedback will absolutely influence our decisions."

And even if you don't like his idea, Aaron has a message for you: "thank you again to the thousands and thousands of people that have sent us good luck e-mails over this last year." He says their good will helped keep the project fun.

At the end of the day, Google, Yahoo, and Amazon at least took a look at his idea. And even if he doesn't make any money — he's still getting a chance to make his dream come true.

See Also:
Closing Pandora's Box: The End of Internet Radio?
Google Heard Me, Now What?
Should YouTube Hear Me?
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes

Can America Handle a Little Truth?

About the author: dnA is a biracial blogger originally from Washington, DC.

I must confess that I find little of Reverend Wright's sermons to be offensive.

His idiocy regarding AIDS is inexcusable, but when Wright says that Hillary Clinton does not know what it feels like to be called a nigger, he is simply stating a fact. What is missing from that argument is the fact that Barack Obama is equally unaware of how it feels to be called a bitch, or a cunt, or to be referred to as "hysterical" in the sense that it has applied to women. And ultimately such things are not qualifications to be president. (Clarence Thomas knows what it is like to be called a nigger, but I don't want him in the Oval Office.)

I do believe that knowing what it is like to be dehumanized would be an asset to a president, who must make decisions that affect billions of people. That kind of experience is invaluable to a leader, but John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama all know what that is like in some form, so the conversation leads us nowhere, unless we want to talk about the lessons they have learned from those experiences.

I don't think there is anything offensive about arguing that God is displeased with the amount of black men in prison; I just don't know how any human being purports to know what God thinks, period. But Wright would not be the first or last preacher to claim such knowledge as contained in his following words:
America is still the No. 1 killer in the world... We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns, and the training of professional killers... We bombed Cambodia, Iraq and Nicaragua, killing women and children while trying to get public opinion turned against Castro and Ghadhafi... We put [Nelson] Mandela in prison and supported apartheid the whole 27 years he was there. We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.

The historical fact is that we did indeed bomb these countries, and that these countries are NOT full of white people. We did support apartheid — indeed, Dick Cheney voted against sanctions for South Africa. I have no sympathy or respect for Castro and Ghadhafi, but it is manifestly true that the apartheid system continued with our tacit approval in the form of unrestricted trade. We cannot trade with Iran (except in secret) because they seek a nuclear weapon, but we felt little remorse about trading with a nakedly white supremacist regime, which ended only 14 years ago.

Whether or not America believes in white supremacy and black inferiority more than we believe in God is a question that is impossible to answer qualitatively. But Wright's point — that as a military power, America stays its hand based on what the potential targets of a sanction, bombing or invasion look like — is true.

Put simply, the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq could not have occurred without the racial association that was made between the Arabs of Iraq and the Arabs of Al Qaeda. There were no links between them, no weapons of mass destruction, no grand Muslim conspiracy to topple the West with weapons built by Saddam's regime. There was only an angry, heartbroken country that wanted revenge, and if we couldn't have it against those responsible, we would have it against those who looked like them.

Oddly enough, conservatives would seem to agree with Wright about the role of whiteness in America, so I have no idea why they are all reaching for the fainting couch right now. Presumably, these are the same conservatives who saw O'Reilly sound the alarm over the possible collapse of the "white male power structure," John Gibson's demand that white people "make more babies" and give financial support to the conservative groups working towards that very goal.

There are several ironies at work in conservative criticism of Wright. The first is that I have never heard so many conservatives express concern for black children in my entire life. Unmoved by decrepit, segregated schools, their parents working two or three jobs without guarantee of health care, and dismissive of their abuse at the hand of law enforcement officials, they are suddenly terrified that the Obama children will grow up hating white people.

They shouldn't be concerned about them. They should be concerned about the children living through what I have described above. Those kids don't need a Reverend Wright to tell them what they already know.

A blogger named "Confederate Yankee" (that's right, a man named after the Confederacy has the gall to lecture others on racism) describes Wright as displaying "naked anger, resentment, defeatism, and conspiratorial paranoia." Well that's funny, because last time I checked it was conservatives who were claiming gay people were a greater threat to America than Al Qaeda, that Mexicans were "invading" the country, that greedy Jews were coarsening our culture, that several billion Muslims want nothing more than to destroy us, that unqualified blacks are stealing spots from white students, and that granting women equal rights has made us weak.

It would be more correct for CY to say that that kind of "naked anger, resentment, defeatism, and conspiratorial paranoia" is only appropriate for white people. When white conservatives make blanket statements about race, sexuality, or gender, they are treated as deeply serious. When black people make them, we call it bigotry.

Wright has said that America's cultural chauvinism (the belief that we are greater than others and therefore justified in violating the rights of other nations and people in pursuit of our own goals), informed as it is by white supremacy, happens to be wrong.

But even if you disagree, or you were offended by Wright's statements, the only way to hold Obama responsible is to ignore everything he has ever done and said. You have to ignore Obama going into MLK's Church on Martin Luther King Day to confront black anti-Semitism, his willingness to tell a black audience that homophobia is un-Christian, and you have to ignore his declaration that "the division, the stereotypes, the scapegoating, the ease with which we blame our plight on others — all of this distracts us from the common challenges we face," his recognition that he has "little pieces of America" inside him.

Whatever you think of Wright's words — and I agree with some of them — they are not Obama's. It seems to me those who are intent on putting Wright's words in his mouth are more than anything else interested in maintaining racial divisions as they currently exist and are understood.

Ultimately, I think that we need to be honest about how directly white entitlement has affected America, from slavery to westward expansion to Jim Crow, and how it affects us now, especially in foreign policy: where, when and how we choose to intervene in the affairs of other countries.

If it's not the belief that America is more equal than everyone else, what is it?

See also:
The Future of American Has Been Stolen
Is It Fascism Yet?
Dispatch From a Surrealist Autocracy
Five Nastiest Campaign Ads (of the 2006 mid-term elections)
Racist Porn Stars

Lawrence Welk vs. The Hippies

Lawrence Welk was approaching his seventies when radical changes suddenly hit America's music scene. The clash in the late 1960s shook the band leader, America's most famous square, and he confronted the raging turmoil in a series of shocking performances — at least, according to these five videos.

Thirty years before American Idol, parts of America were still uncomfortable with the very idea of rock songs even appearing on television, especially during Welk's squeaky-clean song and dance show. And since The Lawrence Welk Show ran for three decades, these videos suggest the ultimate long, strange trip. They're a window in time, capturing a bizarre never-world where the hour-long show actually surrendered happily to the coming onslaught of rock.

1. Sweet Jesus

Yes, "Dale and Gail" are actually singing about the excessive use of marijuana: the devil's weed, the great satanic corrupter of our youth — and the counterculture's intellectual lubricant. Welk really did trot out a 23-year-old rejected Miss Oklahoma contestant to croon a shockingly wholesome rendition of "One Toke Over the Line." Maybe he was trying to tell us something.

Nearly 40 years later, the clip ignited a new controversy. Tom Shipley, one of the drug-friendly song's original singers, uploaded Welk's version onto YouTube — and nearly immediately, it drew over 160 comments.
"Do these two know what a 'toke' even is?"
"This fails so hard it approaches win from the other side."
"I think I'm about to stab pencils into my eyes and ears."

Welk was famous again, but for all the wrong reasons, as this forgotten moment in time "sparked" a very 21st-century enthusiasm.
"I want to make physical love to this clip."
"Way to go, Light-em-up Larry!"
"a priceless moment in television history"
"Champagne...the gateway drug!"

Though perhaps inevitably, some commenters also searched for a hidden message in the couple's giddy vocal delivery.
"look at their eyes!!, their baked!!"
"oh. my. god. becky, look at her blunt."
"She has to be baked to wear that outfit."

There's no evidence that Dale and Gail actually toked up before singing the song. But when accordionist Myron Floren introduces them — there's obviously something that's making him cough.

2. Sucking on a Ding-dong

Welk's heroin habit eventually caught up with him, and he was swallowed whole by a voracious counterculture. In a shocking turnaround, he brought in Lou Reed to jam with the show's banjo player, organist, drummer, and orchestra, citing a song which was "high" in popularity.

A remarkable video shows the squares in Welk's audience bobbing in a slow waltz as The Velvet Underground rips through "Sister Ray." ("I'm searching for my mainer, I said I couldn't hit it sideways...")

"Wonderful!" Welk declares at the end.

"Mr. Welk... This isn't like you at all," you can imagine his singers saying. Though of course, by now you folks know we were only kidding about that heroin habit...

3. Stop the Music

In a historic telecast, five men in yellow blazers and five women in matching blouses were confronted by "Hippie Welk."

The smiley man who played polkas on his accordion suddenly appeared with long hair and Beatle spectacles, flashing a peace sign and barking "Don't you cats know this polka jazz is strictly from Squares-ville? I can't stand that kind of music."

The audience actually gasps...

Backed by a Day-Glo drum, Welk then launches his singers into Wilson Pickett's "She's Looking Good." (Joking about bands with animal names, Welk says "I just opened the cages, and look what I released... The Babbling Baboons.") It rocks. Even if Welk's cast isn't quite sure how to dance to it.

While the Velvet Underground video was a mashup, this clip really is from an actual broadcast. It's a seismic shift in America's cultural landscape, as the song's driving beat fries the minds of America for exactly forty seconds. But then Welk's two white "soul sisters" are interrupted by some very unconvincing acting, as two female cast-members complain "Mr. Welk... This isn't like you at all."

Returning to their pre-liberated state of near-infantalism, they ask Welk about his trademark champagne music. "Whatever happened to the music that went doodly doodly doodly doodly doot?" They give him a raspberry, the audience applauds loudly, and Welk smilingly says "Of course, by now you folks know we were only kidding."

"We wouldn't do that to you nice people."

4. Meet the Beatles.

Drugs influenced the Beatles too, but when they broke up, it was Lawrence Welk who picked up their countercultural cred, turning "Hey Jude" into one of "ten big songs" on his ground-breaking concept album, Galveston. But where the Beatles released "Hey Jude" together with "Revolution," Welk paired it up with a softer song — Glen Campbell's "Gentle on My Mind."

Its graceful trumpet solo inspired audiences to waltz and vote for Nixon, shortly before a startling full-orchestra crescendo into the chorus, and one brief flourish of funk from an unappreciated bass player.

In a surreal moment, the string section saws away underneath a giant golden sign which says: "Geritol."

It was nobody's Woodstock.

5. Smoke on the Water?

It was almost heroic the way Welk clung to his kitschy schtick in the face of a changing world — his own personal freak flag, flown gloriously high.

Welk was nearly 90 when he died in 1989, but he lived long enough to see another accordion player make the big time, possibly channeling his spirit. In the early '80s, Weird Al Yankovic offered up the ultimate tribute, mixing Welk's "Bubbles in the Wine" into an accordion medley of 14 ridiculously inappropriate songs, from Devo to Jimi Hendrix, the Clash and the Who.

Later footage of Welk's show was even spliced into a video for the hyperactive medley (which also included "Hey Jude"), creating a montage that's oddly reminiscent of the surreal bandleader himself. It ultimately proves that given enough accordions, any song can become soul-crushingly square.

Even "Smoke on the Water."

100 Years After

It's been 105 years since Lawrence Welk was born. (Tuesday would've been his birthday.) But this November saw an interesting coda.

A video was uploaded to YouTube showing an audience of high school students baffled by a vinyl record of Welk's polka band performing "Minnie the Mermaid." Their heads bob as Welk's deep-voiced singer croons about the time he'd spent down in her seaweed bungalow...

But it turns out it was a time capsule within a time capsule, since the video came from a public access TV show they'd recorded for their local cable outlet in the 1980s. (An earlier episode featured a video by GWAR.) The two teenaged mid-80s hipsters are playing a song from 1957, just a pit stop on the song's journey to YouTube 50 years later.

The video has been watched just 87 times, but it drew one comment that puts the whole thing in perspective. "Now your show seems as ancient here as the Lawrence Welk record did..." In the future, maybe everyone will be Lawrence Welk for 15 minutes.

He'd learned to play the accordion before he'd learned to speak English at the age of 21, and rose from a poor immigrant family to become one of the richest men in Hollywood. But it was his earnest commitment to hokey friendliness that made him a kind of legend. Even if Welk never grokked the emergence of rock music, one YouTube comment suggested Welk had earned some respect simply for the role he'd played for the generations that came before.

"He made my grandparents — whom I loved dearly — happy during the final years of their lives. For that, I respect him."