VIDEO: Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat" set to some sweet anime footage
YouTube is now so shockingly complete in its catalogue of illegally uploaded music that it's like a cheap jukebox that plays every song, ever. Sometimes I'll be writing this godawful column late at night and pause to hunt down a clip for reference — like, if I'm trying to find the right word to describe Chad Kroeger's surfmullet ("soggy") — and I'll keep clicking "related" until I'm three hours deep in an inescapable YouTube abyss. Just such a thing happened tonight, as I was halfway through writing the column that I would have turned in if I hadn't been too distracted by YouTube (a lil' poststructuralist treatise on Roland Barthes's "Death of the Author" vis-à-vis America's "Horse with No Name," no big deal): I hopped on YouTube for a sec to investigate some America beard details, and hours later I was gagging at the not-uncommon sight of Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat" set to some sweet anime footage by an utterly misguided human being. I suddenly realized that I've been taking for granted just how weird this shit is.
You've probably noticed, if you're the type who'll type the name of a song into YouTube whenever you have the urge to hear it, that a bunch of weird anime fan clips always show up in every search result. Look up any artist or song title on YouTube — anything that's been remotely popular in the last 40 years or so — and you'll find the inexplicable anime version. I'm not kidding about Leonard Cohen: if you're so inclined, you can watch "First We Take Manhattan" beautifully juxtaposed with a buxom lass in a giant robot suit blowing up helicopters. You can watch some kid with a tail dancing with half a dozen Pokemon-esque creatures to the tune of Tom Waits. Any artist. Any song. It's all been set to anime by the friendless teenage autists of America, for reasons inaccessible to neurotypical man.
How did it start? Was it Matthew Sweet's well-loved "Girlfriend" video, in which blistering Robert Quine solos were paired with images from a Japanese television series called, yes, Space Adventure Cobra? Wikipedia, which has an absurdly detailed article about "Anime Music Videos," provides little insight into the history of the form, though it does tell us more than we'd like to know about the editing methods and legal implications. Lucky for you, I'm a terrible journalist, and I feel no obligation to investigate. Let's just enjoy this for what it is: retarded.
In the break betwixt these two paragraphs, I watched five different anime videos of Culture Beat's "Mr. Vain." I found a dozen Dishwalla anime clips, and plenty of anime Toad the Wet Sprocket. Don't even get me started on Third Eye Blind anime, 'cause there's a shitload. I defy you to find a single major artist who has not been set to anime on YouTube.
And it's not limited to anime. There are thousands of fan videos where, for example, a pop song is played against those many heartrending moments on House when Hugh Laurie's veneer of sarcastic indifference relents for a moment and he gazes soulfully into the void with a look of wounded sarcastic indifference — usually a pop song Dr. House would doubtless hate, like Bryan Adams balladeerage or some hip-pastorism from dudeo-Christian jeezbros Switchfoot. These House videos are heavy, man, and their heart-aflutter sincerity attracts thousands of House-struck viewers. Jot a note in the margin of your dictionary: this represents the cutting-edge '08 definition of "white people."
On occasion things get a little more bizarre. While looking for some footage of the Donovan track "Hampstead Incident" (to educate a friend whose entire conception of Donovan was Atlantis-based), I ran across a dude who seems to have spent quite a bit of time setting classic Donovan tunes to clips from Starsky and Hutch. Troubling as it was that he'd cut together more than a dozen Donovan/Starsky crossover clips, I was even more disturbed to find that they often worked very well — it's as if Donovan had constructed his music in anticipation of a groovy cop duo yet to come. Worse yet, I took a peek at the dude's YouTube channel page and found that he'd produced hundreds of videos of Starsky and Hutch set to pop songs: everything from Muse to the Bee Gees has been expertly Starkified by a man whose love of buddy-cop dramas is matched only by his perverse amount of free time. It was almost infuriating how well he'd managed to make the clips work; I'd start watching them in awed horror, only to find myself kinda getting into the way Pet Shop Boys lined up to a car chase. I resent being made complicit in someone else's insanity.
And for you who thought I was just making that up, well, the dude's YouTube username is "troth71." See for yourself.