A little update on what songs have been well received when I'm blasting them out the car windows, now that we're in the restless warm-up phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, and people are eager to come out of their vulnerable-phase shells.
Ever since I learned of the insanely popular Tik Tok trend of surprise kissing your friend, I've been digging the main song they use as background music -- "Electric Love" by Borns. The album it's on came out in 2015 and was not a mega-hit at the time, but by a stroke of good luck I found the CD this weekend -- and in the clearance section for only $2, no less! Thanks to its popularity on Tik Tok, it has re-entered the charts in multiple countries five years after its initial release.
I've only brought it with me on two car trips so far, but I can verify that everyone under 25 knows this song and what it's associated with. And unlike all other forms of online memes, they don't respond as though you're breaking a necessary barrier between online and IRL culture. They're intrigued and pleased to experience this intrusion of online into IRL, so much so that it stops them dead in their tracks.
Two high schoolers walking a lap around the park paused, turned toward my car, and began smiling and talking to each other. A group of track-and-field joggers near the college campus had their concentration broken for a moment, suppressed a laugh, and had to strain to stare straight ahead to get back into the flow of their run. And when I was stuck at a busy intersection, three high school girls sitting outdoors at the Starbucks across the street went dead silent, looked at each other, then started smiling and talking about the random hot guy in the car playing that song (you know the one). At first they might've voyeuristically thought there were people in the car about to participate in the Tik Tok trend, but when they saw it was just me, they continued looking and smiling, like "are u just gonna play that song all the way over there or...?"
That's actually a common theme if you search Twitter for the song name -- usually a girl, lamenting that she still has yet to be kissed by someone to "Electric Love". Kind of like missing out on the mistletoe ritual, only the opportunity is year-round. And unlike other forms of pop culture, Tik Tok trends are not the product of the media and entertainment cartel. They aren't fairytale endings that are too unrealistic for the average person to expect to happen to them. It's happened to all those other ordinary people -- not parasocial personas with a large following -- who are uploading their experiences to Tik Tok, so why can't it happen to me?
Contrast this welcome intermingling of online and IRL culture to when these young people's Resistard teachers and parents were lecturing them a few years ago about how Pepe the frog was a dangerous white supremacist symbol. The kids took to social media to say it made them want to jump out a window -- not just because it was abjectly retarded, but because you aren't supposed to have IRL conversations about a meme that exists entirely online. The two worlds were colliding, and it made them deeply uncomfortable.
The same is true even if the intended connotation is positive. You don't see anyone who's a groyper online wearing a groyper t-shirt IRL, in the way fans of a band do. That's because a band and their music are part of real-life culture, whereas avatars and memes exist solely online. Only the most hardcore nerds would actually show up in public wearing the "merch" of some online persona they're a fan of (and even then, more likely in a convention or meet-up with other fans, rather than in a setting among the general public).
These kinds of Tik Tok trends do not require any form of media to catch on, they could explode in popularity just as any number of fads have done through face-to-face transmission. Those that are sight gags of course require the technology to make and distribute them. But having friends and kissing people does not. Nor does dancing, another major category of Tik Tok trends. Dance crazes have caught on entirely through in-person transmission.
They are akin to the planking fad of the early 2010s -- a physical activity performed IRL, and transmitted mainly IRL, with cameras and social media platforms only serving to document the phenomenon and speed up the transmission. It did not belong to the realm of online memes.
Nor do the most popular Tik Tok trends. They are made by zillions of nobody accounts, not a concentrated elite of personas who have enough followers and clicks to monetize their "content". In fact, nobody in the audience will ever "follow" them -- anymore than a viewer of the planking fad decided to "follow" the rest of any given planker's online "content". They're made all over the country, not just in major cities in coastal blue states -- and by normies rather than by insular sub-cultures.
Tik Tok trends are an example of uploading IRL phenomena to the cyber-realm (via a camera phone and an app), where others may view it (and maybe, but probably not, "interact" with it). That directional arrow between worlds is the opposite of the parasocial case, where people try to download online personas into their IRL social circle, or "make memes real" in any other way. The split between comfort and discomfort stems from our moral intuitions about how the natural and the artificial ought to relate to each other: the artificial may preserve shadowy copies of the natural, but we should not corrupt the purity of what is natural by bringing the artificial into it.
Toward that end, I highly recommend playing "Electric Love" in public places, especially where young people congregate, to encourage them to let their emotional guard down, take social risks, and form meaningful bonds with their friends -- and potential future spouses. Probably best to do it in a car or on a bike, since they might assume you're inviting someone to kiss you if you're a pedestrian. You want to make it clear you're playing the role of mood-setting DJ, not one of the kissy-kissy parties themselves. If you don't have a vehicle, you live in a densely populated area, where you could always open the windows of your house or apartment and play it for anyone within earshot.
And if house parties ever come back during / after the pandemic, include this on the playlist. Where else will there be such a high concentration of friends who have crushes on each other? Especially after imbibing a little liquid courage. The pandemic is the only reason this trend hasn't exploded to the next level, where a large group of people take part at the same time, like a group of people finding partners when the slow-dance song plays at a party from pre-Millennial times. So far it's confined to a single pair hanging out together, maybe with a friend or two watching nearby.
But with normalization through repetition of the song, maybe we can get them to just go for it in public outdoor spaces as well. Like during Christmastime, driving leisurely along a sidewalk with a mistletoe hanging out over the curb side of the car. Who are they to refuse to conform to the trend when the call is made? They'll come out of their shells in no time.