Not long ago, the story has it, young Troy Gregory of Boise, Idaho, recorded 14 minutes of his own late-night romantic ramblings for his girlfriend of six months, Melissa, who three days later dumped him like a sack of ripe summer garbage. What happened next is even more inspirational. Unleashed on the Internet by persons unknown, "Troy's Mixtape of Love"a truly mind-melting recital of clichéd kootchie-koos ("You mean everything. You are my everything. . . . You really are so perfect in every single way imaginable") repeated to the point of almost clinically unhealthy obsessionbecame a hit. For several weeks, Troy's opus has been topping download lists. Remixes have sprouted like toadstools. Arch indie-rock fans have declared Troy's spoken-word epic, almost seriously, a masterpiece: "[H]eartbreakingly genuine," reads a review on the fanboy group blog Confabulators. "Rarely has such pure, unchecked emotion gone into any form of art, ever."
"Mixtape" 's rise from private folly to public monument is a remarkable thing, but what's even more remarkable is how familiar this sort of trajectory has come to feels. When Marcel Duchamp signed a urinal and called it art in 1917thereby inventing the objet trouvé, or found object of artcould he have guessed his definitively avant-garde move would one day be as lowbrow hip as emoticons? From the Star Wars Kid to the All Your Base craze, found art has been the Internet's most organic cultural productembarrassing home movies, bad video games, reconfigured and, with luck, redeemed. Sure, the common emotion is joy in laughing at dumbasses, but listen to the best Troy remixes"Troy's Luau of Love," say, which wraps our boy's painful rendition of K-Ci & JoJo's "All My Life" in a surprisingly warming ukulele accompanimentand you may hear the gentler message inherent in a culture as collectively created as the Web's: It's OK, we're all dumbasses here.
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