teen executive finally calls out ecommerce brendan for being sketchy
Read to the end for a fun new online dating strategy
Tomorrow I have an Extra Garbage Day dropping with one of my favorite YouTube creators right now: Brian David Gilbert. He used to make incredible videos for Polygon and recently decided to strike out on his own. If you want to check out our conversation, hit the subscribe button below. Its $5 a month or $30 a year and you’ll get all kinds of fun extra stuff!
A TikTokcore Update
I wrote about TikTokers — and similarly online young influencers like Corpse — moving into the music industry back in March for Polygon. I called the sound and video aesthetic they were making “TikTokcore”.
The art coming from these influencers is super reminiscent of what Myspace celebrities were doing when I was a teenager. Myspace, like TikTok, led to a specific kind of music and fashion movement, which centered around traditionally attractive young people with access to the newest digital audiovisual technology pretending to be weird and misunderstood and making fairly hollow music for angsty teenagers.
Platforms like Myspace and TikTok both have wearable audio features — instead of having profile songs, each TikTok post has its own audio track — which seems to lead to similar kinds of content becoming popular. When an app lets teenagers pick songs to express themselves, you end up with music like LIL HUDDY’s “21st Century Vampire” or Fall Out Boy’s “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More ‘Touch Me’,” which are shockingly similar songs and videos tbh.
TikToker Bella Poarch released a new song and music video this week. It’s called “Build a B*tch” and the song is a really good example of what this TikTok sound is exactly. It features heavily-processed raspy vocals, with faux-empowerment lyrics perfect to lip sync to and it’s full of low sub bass hits that make the song easy to edit videos to.
The song has an unmistakably poppy sound, but it also has an undeniable “scene-ness” to it. If you were to strip away the radio-ready Pro Tools production, there’s absolutely a version of “Build a B*tch” that would sit comfortably on a Dresden Dolls album. And the vaguely “scene” aesthetic of TikTok music doesn’t appear to be an accident, either. In fact, if you watch to the end, it features single artwork that looks like a grindcore band’s logo:
Also out this week is an album from Bebe Rexha. She’s kicked around the music industry for a while now. In fact, her first big project was as the lead vocalist for Pete Wentz’s side project, The Black Cards.
Rexha has a pretty big following on TikTok — about 6 million followers — and her new album is heavily influenced by the same kind of aesthetic as Poarch’s. If you click over to Rexha’s account and scroll down a bit you can literally see the moment she decides to go full Hot Topic. She posted a video captioned, “New me 🔥 watcha think?” in September, debuting new red hair.
Unfortunately for Rexha, her album was a tremendous flop. To the point where she’s become a punchline on Twitter. But comparing Rexha’s single, which even had a Travis Barker collab on it — the ultimate sign of Gen Z musical clout at the moment — to Poarch’s is also really useful for millennials who are trying to figure out what is and is not cringe in this very strange world of influencer-led digitally grungy glam pop. Not understanding the differences between these two songs is how you end up with a Tramp Stamps situation.
To my ears, Poarch’s and Rexha’s songs are both pretty bad. Even if you’re looking for like a messy girls night anthem, they both, to me, come up short. But I suspect the difference in performance is not so much due to how they sound, but the women behind them. Poarch is a TikTok creator in her early 20s who is not really known for anything other than lip sync videos. Rexha has been a professional music for over a decade. And most importantly, Poarch, as an influencer, fits better inside the machinery of TikTok, which seems to emphasize a placelessness and sameness among its stars. The most popular users on the app are young beautiful nothing people who function better as avatars than personalities.
As I wrote about Poarch back in September:
TikTok’s algorithm tends to value aesthetics over content. Poarch might be the perfect example of this…People are drawn to her, but they don’t know why. She has no history, no age, no context. It’s just videos of a girl in a barely-furnished McMansion pouting and shuffling along for likes and followers. She was no where and then suddenly everywhere. But there’s no substance to it.
And I’m not the only person to notice this. Both Vox’s Rebecca Jennings and Insider’s Kat Tenbarge wrote incredibly sharp pieces this week about the blandness and algorithmic mediocrity of TikTok celebrities. And this may explain why so many of these creators are embracing the music and fashion of Myspace — it’s easy costuming.
You’re big on TikTok, but now you want to get 100 million views with a music video on YouTube? That’s tricky, you’ve got to be interesting. But if you’re too interesting, you might not fit within TikTok’s rigid algorithm anymore. Why not slap on a ripped Cannibal Corpse T-shirt and sing about vampires? You haven’t exposed anything real about yourself and when you want to move on, you can just change costumes.
The Future Of Finance
The above video is from a TikToker who goes by @teen.executive. His real name is Adam. I know this kid is probably very serious about finance and that’s admirable, but I think this is probably one of the funnier things I’ve ever seen. @teen.executive sounds like a 30 Rock character and the fact that @teen.executive’s newest video is a callout post against someone called @ecommercebrendan is really just pushing me over the edge.
But perhaps @teen.executive is just a sign of the grim financial future for the country’s teens, seeing as how Fidelity announced this week that they are opening brokerage accounts for customers ages 13-17. What’s that old adage about the shoeshine boy and stock tips? And is it time to update it to include TikTok influencers?
It’s All Kicking Off In The Hotel Transylvania Fandom
I want to thank readers Carlos and Rory who both sent me stuff about the Hotel Transylvania discourse happening this week. Let’s break it down, shall we?
Hotel Transylvania is a movie franchise from Sony that has somehow produced four movies. (I actually watched Hotel Transylvania 2 on a plane once. It was fine.) The movies are about a family of vampires and Adam Sandler plays Count Dracula.
Throughout the franchise, David Spade has played The Invisible Man, who up until now, has only been seen as a pair of floating sunglasses. Fans on Twitter and Tumblr have imagined him as, well, the same kind of thin white guy wearing a suit they always fantasize about. Basically, Matthew Gray Gubler. Except, in the most recent trailer for Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, it’s finally revealed what he actually looks like:
And MAN are people pissed. Users are racing to redesign him and even trying to organize Sonic The Hedgehog-style fan campaigns to get the studio to redo the way he looks.
The newest Hotel Transylvania film is about a ray that turns the monsters in humans and I should also point out that in doing some research for this I came across a bunch of thirst posts for other monsters in the franchise and fans are similarly pissed about how they look as humans in the new movie. So I guess it’s pretty dark time for the whole fandom right now.
Joe Rogan Appears To Be Trying To Cook Himself
I find writing about Joe Rogan really tedious. And I think the whole “painstakingly document and rage over everything he says” media cycle is, honestly, as much of a traffic grift as his own schtick is. So I try my best to never really engage with him unless it’s something completely and totally nuts.
For instance: Joe Rogan keeps trying to boil himself alive in his sauna for some reason.
He’s done this about twice now this month. He sits in his sauna for almost 30 minutes at 200 degrees Fahrenheit and then documents on Instagram how he starts hallucinating and stuff. In a sauna post from earlier this month, Rogan wrote, “The ultimate goal is to always be a better me, but my progress always seems to resemble a Bitcoin chart; 2 steps up, 1 step down, 3 steps up... I learn, but for whatever reason I seem to learn best and grow most when there’s some struggle.”
Very cool and very normal thank you.
The Future Of Discord
Eric Newcomer, Casey Newton, and I interviewed Discord CEO Jason Citron and Spark Capital general partner Nabeel Hyatt on the Sidechannel Discord last night. It was a cool conversation. Extremely meta — talking about Discord on Discord with the head of Discord.
We talked a lot about Discord’s moderation and how messaging apps feel more and more like the future of social, but the big news of the night was actually not what we were expecting. When asked about what is next for the company Citron had a pretty simple answer: vacation.
“We just we just decided today to give everyone a summer break a week off because this has been one crazy year and people have been working really hard,” he said. “Taking care of our team is really important to us. Because all the amazing stuff that we get to do is just the direct result of the amazing work from the people in the building and honoring that and making sure people have the space to pace themselves and take care of themselves is really important.”
It was a cool moment and Citron then jumped in the chat and talked with Sidechannel users for a bit. You can listen to a recording of the interview here. It’s full of lots of good stuff. And you can click here to subscribe to Garbage Day and get an invite to Sidechannel.
Resident Evil 8 But Lady Dimitrescu’s Hat Keeps Getting Bigger
Great content. Thank you.
Brazilian Twitter Picks A Candidate For St. Petersburg, Florida’s City Council
Richie Floyd is a DSA organizer and candidate for St Petersburg’s City Council. He’s raised close to $10,000 so far and has twice as many donors as any other campaign according to Florida Politics. So things seem to be going pretty well for Floyd. Also, making things even better, he just got a huge bump from Brazilian Twitter. You see, Floyd happens to look a shocking amount like a Big Brother Brazil contestant named Gil do Vigor. Here’s a side-by-side comparison:
Floyd is the one on the right. Once Brazilian Twitter users noticed the similarity, Floyd’s mentions went nuts. Things got even crazier when Floyd decided to endorse beloved former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is expected to run against the country’s far-right current president, Jair Bolsonaro, in the next election cycle. Now, both Lula and do Vigor are following Floyd. Here’s my favorite reaction to the whole thing:
Shrek At 20
The movie Shrek turned 20 years old this week. I did two interviews about the movie’s lasting legacy as a meme if you’re interested in checking them out. I spoke to Thrillist about how Shrek is part of a very long and weird tradition of memes being green. lol this sounds kind of crazy, but, seriously, why are they all green? My hunch is we feel sort of Shrek-like as we sit in our poorly-lit rooms browsing the internet. And I also spoke to The Ringer about how Shrek memes, and how they’ve evolved over the last 20 years, really encapsulate our own feelings about capitalism and commercialization.
My favorite Shrek tribute was from Polygon, which basically turned their entire site into a Shrekfest yesterday. The Guardian, however, decided to go the opposite direction and decided to just, uh, publish a weird scathing review of the movie for some reason???
As of writing this, their tweet of the review has 14,000 quote-tweets, which is a truly incredibly ratio. Here’s my favorite quote tweet:
The Guardian @guardianShrek at 20: an unfunny and overrated low for blockbuster animation https://t.co/VgqMqEXbu8
As for the review, it was written by Scott Tobias, who writes:
What’s left is an all-ages film that’s somehow more crude and juvenile in its appeals to adults than children. The grownups in the room can snicker knowingly at Farquaad’s name and the repeated references to his penis size while the kids are left with fart jokes and the wanton diminishment of timeless characters and stories.
Yeah. And??? Here’s another good take on the whole thing:
Anyways, the years start coming and they don't stop coming. Shrek is love, Shrek is life.
Martha Stewart Tackles Fake News
Thank you, Martha.
P.S. here’s a fun new online dating strategy.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***