The week after the Super Bowl, you might expect this column to be filled with some of the best commercials from the big game. But you would be wrong. I wrote about the ads themselves on Monday, and most of us have already watched and re-watched our favorites, so I figured we'd set them aside. As usual, we have an impressive number of great viral success stories this week anyway, so let's get to it:
Sometimes I think YouTube is like the world's largest perpetual talent show. Sure, there are ads, comedy videos, dramatic videos–clips of all kinds. But week after week, there are viral smash hits of groups and individuals showcasing exceptional talent.
Take football, for example. There are an awful lot of people in the world who have enough talent to play quarterback. Not all of them can hit moving targets while blindfolded. But Johnny McEntee can. The QB from UConn can make a lot of impressive throws:
Now, obviously, this video is a collection of his best throws. I'm sure there were many that didn't hit the mark that found their way to the cutting room floor. Newsflash–trick shot videos are all made the same way. But that doesn't make the shots (or throws in this case) any less impressive… I don't even want to think about how many weeks of filming it would take me to recreate this video.
So give McEntee his due–the kid's got talent. And after Yahoo noticed it, and put it on the home page, that talent went viral. One has to wonder if his coach was one of those viewers–McEntee isn't even the team's starting quarterback.
There was one other exceptional-talent video I thought was worth sharing, one involving bluegrass music, Lady Gaga, and two men playing the same guitar. Which is pretty much all I need to say to set it up:
These guys did everything right. They showcased talent (the ability to play the guitar). They showed it off in a unique way (playing one guitar together). And they did it using a piece of pop culture (Lady Gaga music) with a twist (in a different genre). That's practically a viral playbook.
I've never been accused of being very handy, and most of my home improvement projects end in disaster. My one claim to fame is the old clothes dryer I fixed by complete accident. I've certainly never invented anything, or built any kind of contraption or machine.
But this guy, Boris, did. At least… he claims he did. Check it out:
Now, this video went viral pretty quick–it's only a few days old and already over half a million views (being featured on The Huffington Post didn't hurt, I'd imagine). And it did so with one of the oldest tricks in the book: making the audience wonder if what they've just seen is real or fake.
Is it possible? Did he really build it and does it really work? Could those four blades really have shaved that man's head so completely… including his sideburns?
Who the heck cares?! I certainly don't. It went viral, which was the goal whether it was real or staged, and was therefore a complete success. I'm inclined to think it was faked, but done very well. There's a reason the camera pans to the creator during the bulk of the time the helmet is doing its thing.
Create something extraordinary… and you can get noticed easily. You might not even have to create anything at all, actually, so long as you can convince enough people that you did. Causing a split audience is like doubling down–as long as there is debate over a video's authenticity, both sides are going to be sharing the link, which is only going to help the creator no matter what they're intentions are.
For another insane invention, check out the flame-throwing gloves. The video was uploaded way back in 2009, but picked up steam in January when io9 featured it. The scariest thing about this video is that I'm pretty sure it's not fake:
A Tale of Two Public Performances
A couple of videos went viral this week featuring well-known music stars in public performances. One went very well, while the other did not.
We'll start with the bad, and get it out of the way. If you somehow managed to miss the news, you should know that Christina Aguilera sang the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. And she kind of messed up some words. There are at least four different versions of this video on YouTube that have gotten over a million views this week, which means that this was one of the most talked about performances of the year so far (with the Black Eyed Peas halftime show surely coming in a close second).
We have a new rule, ladies and gentlemen, in the world of viral video: screw up the national anthem during the most televised event of the year… and you'll almost certainly find yourself gong viral. Ouch. I actually feel kind of sorry for her.
Another pop star had a public performance go viral this week, with much better results. Rapper B.o.B., who is part of the popular song "Airplanes" by Neyo, decided to serenade his fellow air travel passengers using the in-flight loudspeaker system (because they're on an airplane… get it?). His performance got a much better reception, over all, and the viral world seems to have been charmed by it as well:
I chose these examples to demonstrate how much quality matters. You can set out to make a great musical performance video as a means of going viral, but if your performance is poor… you might not succeed. Unless it's so poor… that people can't stop talking about how much you suck. Videos can go viral for both the intended or the unintended reasons.
I wanted to make sure you saw these fine viral hits as well:
- Keenan Cahill's latest–almost all this kid's videos go viral now, and good for him.
- College Humor teamed up with actress Leighton Meester for a foul-mouthed fake PSA.
- The Old Spice Man is back, and still going viral, with a chocolate fountain.
- A lot of people were talking about this fellow, who took revenge on a shovel-stealer by covering her car with snow.
- Director Brad Bird (Incredibles, Iron Giant, Ratatouille) accepted an award with this funny video staring special guests.
- This amazing Superman cartoon, a personal side project from Disney animator Robb Pratt