I got a short email today pointing to “a pretty cool video on YouTube”: students from UQAM doing a lip dub to the Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling (a song also responsible for the wiping of all meaning from the term “flash mob”).
My response: sigh.
For those of you unaware of this concept, it all began (or, at least, it grew online fame) with an iconic video by the staff at Connected Ventures (they’re the people behind College Humor, BustedTees and other young, hip online properties). It starts off with a young woman (Amanda Ferri) pressing play on her iPod, and then follows as a bunch of people, one after the other, lip sync to Harvey Danger’s Flagpole Sitta:
The music cuts out at the end to reveal the staff singing the end of the song a capella. The video is well done, well choreographed (you notice it’s done entirely in one take) and creative, but despite all the planning that went into it you get the sense that everyone had lots of fun making it.
Ferri uploaded the video to Vimeo on April 20, 2007, and it has since been seen about 2 million times, not including all the views on the College Humor site and elsewhere. (There’s even a making-of.) That’s far more than is needed to be branded viral (and certainly a lot for a 2007 video on a non-YouTube site).
For some reason, rather than simply admiring the video for its creativity and entertainment value, some people decided they wanted to create their own versions. The first such video I saw was done by Hochschule Furtwangen University last year. It was more professional, and clearly involved a lot more planning than some drunk college kids bored after work. But despite picking a different song, it was still the same concept.
Earlier this year saw the first such video produced in Quebec, by students at HEC (at least according to Dominic Arpin, who tracks these kinds of things). I thought it was cute, but the fact that it basically copied the same routine (albeit with a different song and a different cast) kind of bothered me. HEC followed with another one. There was one by Buzz Image Group (jazzed up with some special effects), and another by Sacré Coeur Hospital. Hipsters around the world have copied the concept.
It’s not even that many copied the original idea, they copied the original script. Many copied it exactly, from the single person with headphones to the crowd singing at the end with no music (all in one take). It’s as if they were prohibited from making any changes to that formula.
The result is something that, while no doubt incredibly fun to produce, lacks any originality. And without that spark of wow-this-is-cool, the videos become little more than a bunch of kids mouthing the words to a pop song one at a time. And lip syncing by itself is not fun to watch.
So please, to those people considering doing something like this: Put some of that energy and talent into coming up with something new.
Don’t expect me to be impressed by a bad copy of something someone else has already done, any more than I should be impressed with Wipeout Québec or the new Melrose Place.
UPDATE (Sept. 22): Global National, which apparently has run out of real news to cover, also sent a reporter to cover this.