Like many of the internet’s worst trends, it began with the Paul brothers. For the uninitiated, the Pauls, older brother Logan and younger brother Jake, are two YouTube creators who last year ranked in YouTube’s highest paid channels. After originally skyrocketing to stardom on the defunct video-sharing app Vine, Jake is now most famous for starring on the Disney Channel show Bizaardvark while Logan is best known for filming a dead body in Japan in January of this year. The Pauls are some of YouTube’s biggest stars and the content they make often has an extraordinary ripple effect, shaping content across the platform for months to come.
Over the last year, the Paul brothers have brought a new, unrelenting plague to YouTube. That is, the proliferation of vlogger-made, social-media driven, terrible, godawful music videos.
The trend began in the summer of 2017, around the time that Jake Paul released his first ever song “It’s Everyday Bro”. Prefacing in the video description “WE WROTE, SHOT, and EDITED THIS IN 1 DAY” (something that, bizarrely, has since made it into many other of Paul’s videos), the video comprises of Paul and his friends, aka “Team Ten” running around Paul’s Los Angeles mansion and driving across the city.
The song is, first and foremost, exclusively rapped (entirely by white people, it’s worth noting) and includes brags about YouTube subscriber counts, mentions of Twitter, and a seeming fear of the f-word with Paul repeatedly using “flipping.”
It features some inspired lyrics from Paul, such as “Los Angeles, Cali boy / But I’m from Ohio though, white boy” and “I just dropped some new merch and it’s selling like a god, church”. The guest verses are of equal calibre, including one from British Instagram star and social media business mogul Nick Crompton, who raps “Yes I can rap and no, I am not from Compton / England is my city / And if it weren’t for Team Ten the US would be shitty”.
Although this video rapidly made the rounds on YouTube reaction channels, where it was brutally rinsed, the song’s success was undeniable. Within 48 hours, the video had received tens of millions of views. In the same time, it managed to make its way onto the Billboard Top 100. And in just a matter of days, the song reached the #2 spot on the iTunes chart, surpassing globally famous musicians including Ed Sheeran and Kendrick Lamar (who Paul then called out on Twitter after taking his spot.) Despite being blatantly vapid and admittedly given little thought, “It’s Everyday Bro” likely earned him millions – and all it took was an ounce of the effort required by most musicians to produce a music video.
Of course, plenty of people go on YouTube to share musical talent. It has often been the catalyst that kick starts now-mainstream artists’ careers. But that isn’t what we’re talking about. We’re talking about lifestyle, pranking, gaming, and beauty YouTubers, and more, who not once indicated musical interest, talent, or ability. We’re talking about vloggers, not musicians, churning out music videos like it was what they were always on YouTube to do. And crucial to the trend is that, even if the video has high production value, it visibly shows minimal effort, with the creators consistently bragging about just how little effort they put in.
Since the release of “It’s Everyday Bro”, YouTube has been inundated with dreadful, non-musician-made music videos. Spitting on the grave of Michael Jackson and in the face of Beyonce’s “Lemonade”, YouTube vloggers like Tessa Brooks (3.4M subscribers), Wassabi (10M subscribers), and even family channel The ACE Family (9.8M subscribers) are just a few of the mainstream YouTubers who have released videos over the last year. Like dance challenges or Q&As, YouTube music videos from non-music-makers are now a content trend, one that has become near ubiquitous on the video-hosting platform.
But what’s weird about this trend is how many views music videos manage to rake in. YouTubers tend to go along with trends to keep their accounts ticking over; bringing out something fresh and new to keep subscribers from getting bored and to help maintain roughly the same number of video hits. The music video trend, more often than not, does something far beyond that – getting the channel far more views than its average video.
Dani Cohn (617K subscribers) is a prime example of this phenomenon. Cohn is a 14-year-old vlogger who started her career on Instagram, Musical.ly, and Live.ly, but released her first music video on YouTube, “Marilyn Monroe”, around the same time “It’s Everyday Bro” came out. Preceding the song’s release and since it dropped, Cohn’s videos have predominantly been vlogs and make-up videos, with the occasional music video or song cover thrown in. However, despite being only a fraction of her content, Cohn’s music content typically gains quadruple the number of views of her average video; in the case with many of her videos, her music content has received ten times more.
Mainstream accounts with millions of subscribers will now keep their music videos pinned at the top of their account, as is the case with Dani Cohn. This means that, even if you’re a gamer, a hairstylist, or a prankster, the first thing channel visitors see is your music video, even if it’s the only music video you’ve ever made. And YouTubers are serially doing this because, for whatever reason, they are major, real money makers.
Recently, though, the trend has devolved into becoming, somehow, worse. As was inevitable, YouTubers are increasingly stripping out the one respectable part of vlogger music videos: the high production value. Just last week, the Dobre brothers (aka Lucas and Marcus, boasting a whopping 10M subscribers) released their music video “Stop That” which catapulted this new, low budget iteration of music videos into the mainstream.
Shot on what only could have been a flip video camera, with effects that look to have come straight out of iMovie 2007, “Stop That” is unashamedly badly made. Though their subscriber count indicates that they could afford the time and production team to put out something at least somewhat polished, the video looks like it’s about 15 years old.
Content-wise, it almost exclusively features the Dobre brothers in a school, lecturing children who are at best half their age about what to stop and not stop; pointing their fingers violently at the children in conjunction with the refrain “stop that.” The lyrics range little, with roughly 75 per cent of the song being the chorus:
“Think you ain’t good enough, stop that
Think you ain’t beautiful, stop that
Think you ain’t worth it, stop that
Think you ain’t loved for, stop that
Bully who you are, better stop that
Making people sad, you can stop that
Giving people love, don’t stop that
Taking people’s lives, you can stop that”
“Stop That”, objectively, has little to no merit. But despite it being profoundly terrible, the video has already accrued seven million hits. When YouTubers begin to run out of new content ideas (how many different pranks can one person really do?), music videos provide a perfect, fresh outlet for cursory efforts to be made. The millions of subscribers to these channels see it as something new and exciting, something entirely different from the usual output from a YouTuber they already follow and enjoy. The success of bad music videos doesn’t detract from how bad they truly are. But they do detract, however, from the hope that they might soon disappear.
“I’m really tired of hearing crappy music that’s made one hundred per cent for the sake of money,” YouTube commentator Drew Gooden explained of the music video trend, “But I understand that’s how the world works. If you can get some money out of making a song and you don’t even have to have the talent to do it, then you’re gonna do it.”
Speaking in relation to traditional, properly made music videos, he argued, “[If] I can do ten percent of the work and get 80 percent of the money, fuck yeah, I’m gonna do that.”
As long as YouTube’s monetisation stays the same, it’s likely that Gooden’s theory behind the music video trend will continue to prove to be true. And for as long as that is the case, expect to see many more, increasingly worse-produced videos on YouTube’s homepage.