I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. Well, actually, I can get up. I just can’t get out of this rabbit hole.
Damn you, YouTube!
I was so disciplined when YouTube was introduced to the world in 2005. I heard students at the high school at which I worked talk about it. I heard other gym rats rave about it at Gold’s. News people and talk show hosts discussed it on TV. “No!” I said. “I am not going to fall into that trap.”
And I didn’t.
Until I retired. And then I fell, not into their trap, but into their rabbit hole.
It was innocent at first. I was searching for information. How to cook Chateau Briand in a microwave, I think. Then I sought a lesson on how to make elegant Labor Day decorations out of empty toilet paper tubes. The next thing I knew I was bombarded with tutorials on applying eye-liner on a pet goldfish, hemming clothes with poisonous blow darts, and other important ways to improve one’s life.
But then I discovered that people with a variety of talents and various levels of talent utilized YouTube to exhibit their performances. Justin Bieber started that way. So did fire-eater Art Burns. I should say the late Art Burns. He accidently, and ironically, cremated himself during an unfortunate incident. Luckily, Burns had set up a camera to film the performance for YouTube. The video now has over 15 million views and 12 million “likes.”
I have found former students on YouTube. Some were in films or commercials. Others led tutorials or were making Ted Talk presentations. But none impressed me more than the ex-football player now working as a male exotic dancer. He looked good and appeared to gyrate well. It made me happy to see that he had fulfilled his class’s prophesy as “Most Likely to Succeed.”
However, YouTube was becoming an addiction. I tried to say “NO!” to this drug in my best Nancy Reagan voice. But I couldn’t stop. I began watching color-blind individuals seeing color for the first time with their new vision correcting glasses. And I got teary-eyed. I witnessed hearing impaired people hear for the first time after receiving cochlear implants. And I cried. I watched adventurous infants take their first unsure steps, then fall down. And I cried with relief. At least, I sighed, they didn’t fall down the YouTube rabbit hole in which I was mired.
Then I discovered “music reaction” videos posted by young people, raised on rap and hip-hop, hearing for the first time the records of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. And loving it! I’ve watched numerous people born since 1985 discover legendary artists like Elvis, Aretha, Elton, Little Richard, Tina, Jimi, Sinatra, Ella, Janis, the Beatles, Bee Gees, and Queen and hear iconic records like “We Are the World,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hey Jude,” “Nights in White Satin,” “Hotel California,” and “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”
One of my favorite experiences has been viewing young Black people watching a 1964 black-and-white TV performance of the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” The video begins with Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield in shadow. Medley sings the classic’s first two lines and the lights come up. The YouTuber’s eyes bug open. Fingers press the pause button. All are stunned that he is White. When Hatfield joins in, doing his vocal gymnastics, they are speechless. Many awkwardly apologize for assuming those voices came from Black men. “I don’t want this to sound racist,” they often begin. The turnabout is fascinating to watch and eye-opening for all involved.
The most common thread in “music reaction” videos is the acknowledgement that artists from the past could sing, had talent, and didn’t rely on autotune and other technological advances to hide their mediocrity, like many of today’s performers. The also noted the absence of production distractions like pyrotechnics or sexualized choreography to hide the artist’s average vocals. In addition, the abundant use of orchestral instruments impressed the young reactors.
I also am fascinated watching young Blacks discover parts of their musical history. Reactions to Sam Cook, Diana Ross, Al Green, Fats Domino, and Dione Warwick are positive, genuine, and heartwarming. I, however, wonder why they never were exposed to these legends by their elders. Or had they been? Had they just tuned out the attempts due to typical teenage old fogey phobia?
But they are not the only ones who learn through the “music reaction” experience. We, the viewers, can, too. Recently, I watched a thirtyish married couple listen to disco classic “Gloria” by Laura Branigan. I’ve heard that record countless times. But I had never really listened to the lyrics. Perhaps I was too busy dancing. A caught line here and there and the hook led me to my misguided interpretation. This couple instantaneously picked up on the correct lyrics and the song’s important message to young girls. Those kids taught me something.
So, if I ever find the strength to climb out of this rabbit hole, I will be a smarter, happier person. But I have to go now. I just discovered a new tunnel in this hole: High school math teachers yodeling their lessons. Oh, I hope this doesn’t lead me to videos about Swiss cheese or Heidi.