Posts Tagged ‘Pork and Beans’

Weezer Ruins the Internet

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008


Originally published in Anthem Magazine, 05/27/08

 In June, “alternative rock” band Weezer will release a brand new album of their amp simulator crunch and metronomic drums. And for the third time in six records, the album title will be Weezer. I guess Pinkerton and Maladroit were already taken.

Apparently inspired by the new possibilities of Internet promotion, the band came up with a clever strategy on how to make the video for first single “Pork and Beans” into a full-blown Internet sensation: round up all the other full-blown Internet sensations and coerce them into weaving their one-note shtick into the context of Weezer’s song. So we get the Diet Coke and Mentos guys combining Diet Coke and Mentos to a humorous effect. Tay Zonday – hot off his Dr. Pepper spokesmanship – sings the lyrics to “Pork and Beans” in front of his now-iconic home-studio mic stand. (While we are on the subject, why does everyone give Zonday such a free pass for selling out his polemic anthem against American racism “Chocolate Rain” to a soda company?) Somebody that closely resembles Kevin Federline, possibly K-Fed himself, shows up behind a mixing board. Miss South Carolina – the “map shortage” girl – wields a light saber à la Star Wars Kid because “failed answers to pageant questioning” is not a sufficiently visual gag.

Although a probably candidate for “Buzz Bin” status, the sins of this video are manifold. First and foremost, Weezer outright stole the idea of “internet memes on parade” from the Barenaked Ladies video “Sound of Your Voice” – which is notably less cool than stealing ideas from old Can records or The Cremaster Cycle.

But there is something more fundamentally gut-wrenching about this “mash-up” of rock music and Internet time-wasters. All of the videos’ “guest stars” only managed to ascend to blog-hero status due to a single feat or defeat. I am not being unfair to Tay Zonday by saying he is the guy who moves away from the mic to breathe. As far as the universe is concerned, that is his entire act. Putting all these stray individuals together in the same cramped video is collecting the “I Didn’t Do It” Boys of our generation and asking them to painfully mug their one-hit-wonderfulness for the camera.

The Internet has profoundly changed our concept of entertainment, most directly by making every instance of laughably-amateurish performance from all over the globe available for public consumption. Our collective mockery has forged a new class of celebrities straight from the salt of the earth. But the basic YouTube context is crucial: would the “I move away from the mic to breathe” or repetitive melody of “Chocolate Rain” work as scripted jokes or a Saturday Night Live sketch? The humor requires a palpable lack of self-awareness on the part of the actor. Nothing is therefore less funny than having Mr. Zonday come out from behind the computer screen and get in on the joke. With “Pork and Beans,” Weezer strangles all remaining joy of our new century’s sole cultural innovation by giving these unintentional comics a chance at redemption and self-acknowledgment on cable TV.

Weezer may have meant well. They may have wanted to show solidarity with today’s young nerds. And they can go all the way back to the D&D and X-men references in the lyrics of their 1994 song “In the Garage” to prove the necessary cred on this front. But the use of these new media nerds and their memes in a “music video” does not breed the intended result. Instead of redeeming their guests, Weezer unwittingly reinforces the traditional pop cultural hierarchy. The royal “rock band” has charitably invited these slightly-pathetic YouTube refugees to participate in a televised celebration of their own shittiness. Hey, Weezer could do another video at the Playboy Mansion – they’re rock stars, you know – but they thought it would be more fun to take that “Zay Tonday” guy under their wings for a day. I am sure the catering was great, but when the video shoot is over, Weezer goes back to being a rock band with fans and respect and a master key to Hef’s. Tay Zonday goes back to being the “Chocolate Rain guy.”

Imagine someone famous in 1994 pulling this kind of public cruelty. Like if U2 thought the whole “generation X alternative rock” thing was a cute fad and invited that flash-in-the-pan band Weezer to do a video where they sing Zooropa‘s “Lemon” in their “Buddy Holly” style next to contemporaries Beck (“Loser”) and Radiohead (“Creep”). Slackers would have sent blistering missives charging “exploitation” to the letter bag at 120 Minutes for years to come. But in 2008, the interent [sic] is ecstatic about their double-dip of public derision, “Look, we’re on TV!”

If Sum41 or Ashley Simpson or Avril Lavigne Whibley had done a video like “Pork and Beans,” I would give it a pass, because hey, they might possibly believe in their hearts that “This stupid Internet shit is our generation’s Woodstock.” The middle-aged guys in Weezer, on the other hand, have gotten to that “Uncles of Rock Music” stage, and anything they do with Internet memes is just going to automatically come off as patronizing. Rivers Cuomo is inviting “Mr. 22 million views” Tay Zonday and “Mr. 86 million views” Evolution of Dance Guy to be in a video that so far only has 2.6 million views? What a mensch. If you want to see the real “dawn of the Internet,” wait until Weezer is begging to do a cameo in a Tay Zonday clip.