Last night, Lance Bass—former ‘N Sync member, aspiring astronaut, and now apparently boy-band guru—offered a tutorial on how to get your probably-jokey, possibly-somewhat-serious musical project noticed by those folks on the Internet who are looking for things to giggle at as they while away at work.
Meet HEART2HEART, a group of Bass-mentored dudes who have just put out their first video, “Facebook Official.” (In case you were wondering: “Their group name stands for the connection they would like to have with their fans across the world.”) The clip has a six-figure view count as of this writing, and people are willing to take a stand on whether or not the band’s any good: The clip has 1,906 likes and 15,531 dislikes, a ratio that puts HEART2HEART in the pantheon of such divisive pop acts as Rebecca Black and Justin Bieber, although they don’t have quite the momentum of those acts.
Let’s first talk about the song. The lyrics, which are about the crucial step of making a relationship between two people “Facebook official,” are inane—not since Prozzak’s “www.nevergetoveryou” has romance on the Internet been depicted with such wide-eyed goofiness. The music melds the glossy sound of boy-band tracks of yore with a hyperactivity that’s somewhat reminiscent of K-pop, and the simply sung chorus is pretty much brain velcro.
But then there’s all the extramusical stuff that seems designed for reaction not unlike the curious disgust that propelled Black’s “Friday” to being covered by the Glee kids and Katy Perry. There are the haircuts worn by the band members, which seem snatched from Hot Topic’s wig clearance rack. There’s the “dance break” that consists solely of arm gestures. (ARM GESTURES! They dance in other parts of the video.) There’s the aesthetic jacking of the video for ‘N Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye.” And then there are the individual bios for each band member, as spotted on their Facebook page:
Role: Leader, Rap, Vocal
Birth Name: David Lehre
Birthday: 8/8/88 (23)
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan
Birth Name: Cody Saintgnue
Birthday: June 15th, 1993 (18)
Role: Vocal, Sub-Rap
Birth Name: Colby Cote
Birthday: September 24th, 1990 (21)
Role: Lead Vocal, Acrobatics, Youngest
Birth Name: Julian Mracky
Birthday: June 28th, 1994 (17)
Role: Lead Dancer, Choreographer, Sub-Vocal
Birth Name: Kai Mcminn
Birthday: August 8th, 1992 (19)
“Youngest”! Height and weight counts! Surely this is, if not an out-and-out parody, at least a wink and nod to the Tiger Beat tropes of what stats are most important abot singers. (Also, “Chad Future”? Really?)
Whether or not HEART2HEART is serious is, of course, beside the point in a way; the song is catchy enough and the content absurd enough that “Facebook Official” is being passed around by even those sites that aren’t pop-specialist outlets, and in the current moment where record sales mean less and less because there are fewer of them happening the idea of attention as currency is ever more important. Which might be, at least in part, why this year has been defined by musical artists getting attention for being, in some way, annoying. The list runs the gamut, from Rebecca Black’s half-swallowed ode to partying on the weekends “Friday” to the insufferable “You suck, but please don’t say mean things about me” posing of young turks Kreayshawn and Tyler, The Creator to the whole Lana Del Rey mess to even that first taste of the Metallica/Lou Reed collaboration. Negative attention can help get artists out of the music-specialist ghetto and onto places like the “never saw a cheap laugh it couldn’t mine for pageviews” clearinghouse BuzzFeed, which whips the traffic ass of all but the largest music sites.
You can call the genre “trollgaze,” although its appeal transcends any sort of musical style; this is actually why it works as a marketing strategy, because the potential for laughing at/being annoyed by/saying “wtf” at a piece of art trumps its aesthetics. The result, of course, is a somewhat toxic cycle where those people who are willing to wear lampshades on their heads over and over take attention away from artists who are trying to figure out what the hell they’re doing, and who don’t want to play for laughs to the cheap seats in order to establish a foothold. But it’s probably not going to stop—or even decelerate—anytime soon as the hustling for attention on all sides of the Internet spectrum becomes more frenzied, and as editors realize that writing a piece on why a certain highly bloggable artist is terrible—or even overrated—brings in more eyeballs than, say, an enthusiastic post about a good song that just bubbled across a writer’s transom.
At least this song is almost up to the funny-boy-band-song standard established by the deliberately parodic 2Ge+her’s “U + Me = Us (Calculus)”; let’s just hope Bass’s veteran status means that he’s in on the joke enough that he doesn’t direct his charges to put out a weepy riposte to the “haters” as their next single.