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YouTube is the Modern Museum

TikTok is Shaping the Culture. YouTube is preserving it.
May 28, 2021

Adam Neely is a musician and a YouTuber best known for lengthy video essays on topics such as music theory and the technical analysis of a musical genre. Recently, Neely has begun to analyze songs in popular culture.

In his video “The most elegant key change in all of music”, he dissects the modulation in Celine Dion’s “All By Myself”. To date, it has received nearly 2 million views in just 2 weeks’ time. (Spoiler alert: the song ruthlessly stole from Sergei Rachmaninoff so much that he’s credited as a co-writer). These types of long-form essays are the norm in Youtube where algorithmic views and monetization hinge on having engaged viewership for extended lengths of time.

His most recent video extols the children’s show The Backyardigans’ song “Castaways” as a “musical masterpiece.” The song has recently gained popularity due to TikToker Merlysha Pierre calling it a “fresh and juicy bop.” The song’s samba beat has a lazy, lilting, melody, which has now been remixed nearly 200 times on the platform and is now trending on Spotify.

TikTok is a cultural accelerator, and Neely is in this respect, then, a historian. This cannot be overstated: internet culture is now the culture. The nerds won: comic books, video games, and memes now dominate cultural popularity. The memetic acceleration on TikTok means that culture is now advancing faster than in any generation prior, and having an impact on the way that we generate and consume media. It also has repercussions in how we relate to each other. Speaking in memes and backreferencing old Vines are as much a part of the millennial experience as having a liberal arts degree.

If anthropology is the study of cultural variation among humans, YouTube is the digital Smithsonian, and Adam Neely is a historian. If there is a modern Charles Darwin alive today, he’s likely a YouTuber. Museums provide context to how we have changed and evolved as a species, and serve the public interest through endowments and philanthropy. Cultural preservation is a public service. What does it mean, then, when modern culture is preserved by a Corporation™?

In some distant future, we will look back at the fossil record and see the rapid advancement of our species preserved in digital amber: 1’s and 0’s. Those old Vines? They’re on Youtube.

— Phillip

Did I Doink That? Jaleel White, best known as the character Steve Urkel, debuted his own cannabis line called itsPurpl. Appropriately, the weed is a variant of the popular strain called Purple Urkle. In addition to eighths, you can purchase pre-rolled joints using gluten-free fusilli pasta and an Urkel waffle maker from the brand.

Yellow is the New Blue. On April Fool’s day, Tiffany & Co. announced on Instagram that they’d be changing their house color from the iconic Tiffany Blue to a vivid yellow. It turns out they weren’t totally joking: the brand will be incorporating pops of yellow in storefronts and ad campaigns through the rest of the year to promote their line of yellow diamonds.

Even More Sights and Sounds: Capitalism is solving vaccination. Indoor farming grows up. Optogenetics restores sight. GameStop launches NFT division

The New DIY meets Linear Commerce: Walmart has launched an exclusive crafting brand, entitled “Smarts & Crafts,” with high-profile designer and decorator, Todd Oldham. (Editor’s note: this is something we covered extensively last fall.)

Digital Fashion: Not as Accessible as you Thought. Digital fashion has been celebrated for being more diverse, accessible, and environmentally friendly than its IRL counterpart. But as Sara Emilia Bernat and Doris Domoszlai-Lantner point out in Fast Company, the jobs related to making these digital products have a long way to go to become more representative of marginalized groups.

I Got Friends in Bowl Places. As in, apparently, Garth Brooks is now best friends with some demented Italian demon bent on adding pasta where it shouldn’t be. What can only be explained as a weird attempt to create an Italian-Southern fusion Chipotle-esque restaurant, the country music star’s wife, Trisha Yearwood, shares one of Garth’s favorite 12-lb breakfast recipes, a bowl stuffed with lotsa trans fats, and… tortellini?? 

Dress Code: Vaxxed Formal. As we start getting back to gathering in each others’ homes again, we’ll likely be cooking for others again. But do we need fancy china and 5 course meals? Maybe we just want to spend more time face to face, which means simpler meals. This new—vaxxed—formal is something we cover quite often on our Insiders’ blog.

Big Collab Energy. Finally, you can live out every pre-teen’s dream of eating a BTS meal at McDonald’s, washing it down with LeBron’s Mountain Dew Rise, and, while you’re bouncing off the walls and talking at 100 mph, finish with Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour Patch Kids. (I wonder if I’ll pass my Drivers License test next month?) 

Coffee but make it fashion. Fendi’s new coffee shop in Miami is the hottest new place to get your caffeine fix. Don’t tell them that TOMS started the retailer-turned-coffee shop-trend in 2017.

Now it can be your birthday every day. Milk Bar Ice Cream is coming to grocery stores near you. As if we needed any more reason to feed our sugar addictions.

RumbleRedfin. We all knew the housing market was pretty weird right now, but this Twitter thread from Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman really shows how weird things have gotten. Though prices have gone up across the board, 78% of home buyers reported having the same or more disposable income after their move. Prompted by the work-from-home revolution of 2020, Americans are dispersing to lower-cost areas to get more house for less money, even with prices at an all-time high.

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