Timeflies Tuesday

YouTube has made it easy for just about anyone with a webcam and microphone to take a shot at impressing the world with the power of music. One group in particular has made a household name for itself on the video sharing platform in what seems like an instant.

Timeflies Tuesday is a music group that can attribute a great deal of its popularity to YouTube. I remember first catching on to Cal and Rez, the hip hop/rap/electro/pop/dubstep duo in fall of 2010, soon after they first began posting videos of covers to popular songs (every Tuesday) online. The first video I viewed was a hip hop remix of “Under the Sea,” a song from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” The originality and authenticity of the beats and accompanying music created by Rez paired with Cal’s dreamy vocal cords and creative freestyle rapping changed the way I’d think of this Disney song forever — in a good way.

And, after four years, over 160 thousand Twitter followers, and a Timeflies Music App for smartphones, I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

Yes, you heard correctly. I said a smartphone app dedicated to the group, the music, the concerts, and even access to exclusive content.

Timeflies isn’t the only group who owes YouTube a lifetime of gratitude. Mashable pointed out that other contemporary musicians first found fame on the site, including Justin Bieber and Cody Simpson.

The “spreadability” of YouTube’s platform facilitates this instant stardom. As Jenkins, Ford and Green put it in their book, Spreadable Media, media content is most likely to spread if it can belong in each of these categories: available when and where audiences want it, portable, easily reusable, relevant to multiple audiences, and part of a steady stream of material.

Well, I’d say that’s YouTube. The authors of the book even touched on the video sharing site, rehashing Susan Boyle’s popularity after her performance on Britain’s Got Talent. (Even as I’m sharing the link to this video in this very post, I’m relieved at how simple it is to do so. Simple click “share” and copy the link, or click the icons to post the video to your Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, Reddit… need I say more?)

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I hate using the word “ratchet,” but…

It seems Miley Cyrus has been dominating the news feeds of every social media site since her infamous VMAs performance two weeks ago. While I agree that that outfit definitely stripped (excuse the pun) her of any lingering Hannah Montana qualities, it seems to me that the majority of the public is missing the real issue surrounding Miley’s recent 180 degree flip to the other side of stardom.

Miley was not the only performer prancing around just shy of naked at the VMA’s.

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Lady Gaga’s outfit (if you can call it that) is actually worse than Miley’s, although I think we can all agree that the mother monster did more squats than Miley to prepare…

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The point is that, after the general shock of seeing your old teen idol’s almost-naked body parts sets in, you should still be left with a bad taste in your mouth. And that’s because Miley’s making moolah off of commodifying a culture that she never belonged to in the first place.

“Ratchet culture” first came into our pop culture vernacular in late-90s hip hop music. Starting in the neighborhoods of  working-class African Americans, it was a word with negative connotations used to describe women with a lack of “home training,” or common sense. Recently, as writer John Ortved states, black women have come to reclaim the term to essentially reduce the harshness of the insult. However, this reclaiming of the word works to further stereotype the women associated with it. As Michaela Angela Davis tells Ortved, “We’re only seen through this narrow sliver, and right now that sliver is ratchet. We don’t get to be quirky and fun and live in Willamsburg. Wolves don’t fall in love with us.”

Other culture critics notice Miley’s commodification of ratchet culture, too. Bené Viera describes her as “accessorizing her videos with blacks.” Responding to allegations that Miley told her producers she wanted something that “feels black,” Viera quips, “Yes, because something that ‘feels black’ can be worn for commodification and taken off when it no longer benefits her.”

Miley’s “makeover” misappropriates ratchet culture, and Smilers (what she calls her fans) are jumping on the bandwagon. Twerking videos are popping up all over Instagram, Vine and elsewhere. As Viera calls them, “culture vultures” are turning this ratchet culture into the “latest trend;” a collective identity in which young white girls get to use their privilege to imitate a culture without any real repercussions, while those who actually live this culture are ridiculed and insulted.

Just to be clear, I actually am not a Miley-hater. I simply disapprove of her “new” persona, because I think it is insulting to a majority of Americans. Her song Wrecking Ball is worth a listen, if you can ignore the awkward naked, swinging-on-a-ball parts.