#HashtagMusic: Are We Witnessing its Beginning or its End?
#Hashtags are probably the bane of your Twitter existence. You no doubt follow people who either use them too much or in the strangest possible ways. Chances are, you regularly do the same. #DGAF. Currently, there are two songs that begin with a #hashtag in the Top 20. it's the most 'sign o' the times' moment of #2013 so far. The concept of a song or album including the little symbol is so new that # is still one of the forbidden characters on Wikipedia, and Will.i.am's #willpower is an example of what Wiki does in the case of an article necessitating the character in its title.
When Will.i.am titled and recently released his hashtag labeled album, it seemed a totally Will.i.am thing to do -- it was befitting a living hologram. He's always been a little internet-y, so to utilize an important facet of how people communicate on one of our biggest social media tools is something we all kind of expected from him. But surprisingly, the usually lowkey Robin Thicke took a chance with some hashtag appropriation. He schooled the pop music world with his new single "Blurred Lines" that let the video take care of all his hashtagging needs by displaying trendworthy words and phrases like "#THICKE" and "#BLURREDLINES" across the frame.
Then suddenly Mariah Carey, the American Idol judge who likes to throw glitter on contestants as a sign of approval, released her shimmery single "#Beautiful" with of-the-moment artist Miguel. Unlike Will.i.am's #newtrendthirsty single "#thatPOWER," which features walking hashtag Justin Bieber, Carey uses the character on a pretty simple word that almost every Twitter user has already paired with a # at least once in their career. It forges into a preconceived and heavily mutated path pretty subtly title-wise, but is coupled with an amazing song that would've been able to trend on its own.
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As this #trend inevitably blows up, how will artists decide whether or not their song is #hashtag worthy? Even bigger question: how will they use it if, in fact, they continue to. While song titles with the character seem to be the most popular, many might go the #Thicke route and keep it a subtle marketing tool in their videos. Others might become Will.i.am level ambitious and bestow it upon a single AND an album. Let's be real, it's going to get pretty annoying by August if every single song on the radio begins with '#' and we're all stuck determining "Do we say the actual word hashtag before it?" or "What's the easiest way to explain this to my grandma?" But before we get #hashtaghappy, let's break down what using the character implies.
The most obvious implication is an expectation of the song to trend and be a hit. It's as egotistical as it is interactive. But using a hashtag when most songs get turned into one anyway is pretty redundant. Add a "#" in front of any song in the Top 10 right now in the Twitter search bar, and you'll get a trending topic and a flurry of tweets from listeners giving #ShoutOuts to their favorites.
In a world where every song can become a trend topic, the few that choose to predetermine that distinction should probably stand out above and beyond their competition. Yet there's no sound other than the general genre of pop that can be attached to a hashtag without making everyone sound ridiculous. The lyrics on "#thatPOWER" already do that on their own, so its hashtag seems a bit like overkill.
"#Beautiful"'s use of the symbol seems like an anachronism to a super old school, sunny R&B jam. The weird thing, though, is that it feels like "#Beautiful" without its symbolic mark of distinction (making it just "Beautiful") seems pretty lackluster. In a sea of songs with the same name, the character gives the song, well, character and detaches it from the memories of emotional turmoil a title like "Beautiful" can imply.
So does this mean that we're now going to see an influx of #HITS with hashtags leading their names and imploring us to tweet about them? Probably. We can't say whether or not adding the little sign helped make "#Beautiful" or "#thatPOWER" less or more successful, but we can say it's pretty au courant, so why wouldn't it become a #trend on its own? Use it wisely, dear artists, because there's always the chance that in the next few years we'll see this #trend made fun of by a bunch of comedians on a VH1 I Love 2013 special, and we'll all feel a little silly we were ever forced to write/say/attach it to your music.
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