Dee asked me a question about six months ago, and it got lost in my email. Do you have an opinion, pro or con, about the music reaction industry? If so, what do you think? The first link she sent was a Medium members-only article called 10 Hit Music Videos Highlight Race and Stereotypes. And humor, reflection, and insights follow. It begins: “Jaws dropped recently when countless folks discovered Mr. Bobby Caldwell, the late talented, singer, songwriter, and musician was not a person of color.
“Regardless of age, listeners knew his iconic 70s hit ‘What You Won’t Do for Love’ but only thought they knew what he looked like because of the sound of his vocals.”
This is very true: “Countless listeners may sheepishly question their own sets of assumptions. And many may realize stereotyping is so automatic it’s scary.”
Then she shares videos of the music of Caldwell, the Rascals (Groovin’), Michael McDonald, and BeeGees (Stayin’ Alive).
Sidebar: In the Warner Brothers’ Lost series, COOK BOOK (PRO 660) from 1977 was “Focusing on Warners’ black acts.” One track was The Doobie Brothers’ Taking It To The Streets, with McDonald on lead vocals.
The article has a short video of black opera singer Ryan Speedo Green. I’ve long railed against black musicians being put into a musical straitjacket.
Dee’s second Medium link is The Appeal and Value of Music Reaction Videos. 24 time-traveled videos cross color lines, entertain, educate, inspire, and create income. The artists listened to Rick Astley, Johnny Cash, the Danish National Anthem, Chaka Khan, Parliament-Funkadelic, Pavorati, Phil Collins, and the Temptations.
Better in concept
I embrace the IDEA of the videos more than the OH-MY-GOD-THAT’S-INCREDIBLE reactions. After seeing a few in a row, I find them exhausting. To be sure, I’m not the target demographic.
This Reddit post speaks to this. “There’s some psychology behind why some of us enjoy watching people react to hearing music for the first time- music that viewers know to be great. We like having more information than the people we watch, whether that’s in movies, tv, etc…
“My problem is that most reaction videos I’ve seen are positive 100% of the time. It takes away some from the enjoyment and the feeling of authenticity when the youtuber is superlative with every song, maybe because they don’t want to lose viewers who love that song.” Yeah, it’s just too much for me. Too hyper, and often too hyperbolic.
That said, Dee’s third link is to the Cartier Family watching the last few minutes of the movie Stormy Weather, featuring Cab Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers. Yes, they talk over each other. But I’ve seen this segment several times before, and it continues to leave me slack-jawed.