A view into viral videos
YouTube and other online video websites can turn musicians, mistake-makers and other personalities famous so fast it’s impossible to keep tabs on them all.
Thirteen-year-old Rebecca Black stands as the latest YouTube phenomenon, with the music video for her absurd auto-tuned song “Friday” having more than 61 million views and inspiring hundreds of headlines.
Past popular videos feature everything from a sweaty, exhausting Winnebago promotional film shoot to an ill-fated visit to the Skatepark of Tampa.
The Oracle tells five notable viral video stories.
“Friday,” Black’s musical ode to the weekend, was released by small label Ark Music Factory and quietly uploaded to YouTube in February. It wasn’t long until the video caught storm for its vapid lyrics and ridiculous visual effects.
The song features Black’s internal conflict over whether to be “kicking in the front seat” or “sitting in the back seat” of her friend’s car, followed by her proclaiming “we so excited” about the weekend.
Black also differs from other YouTube sensations in that the public’s response has been widely negative. The video had about 130,000 “likes” and a million “dislikes” as of Monday night.
The music video has even spawned new viral videos such as an impression of Bob Dylan covering “Friday” that has gained more than one million hits.
Better known as Winnebago Man, Jack Rebney gained notoriety for a video that spliced together his profanity-laden outtakes from a 1988 Winnebago sales video shoot.
Rebney storms around with the grandstanding of Lawrence Olivier on a foul-mouthed streak as he flails his arms angrily at an uncooperative side panel and offers outbursts like, “Accoutrements? What is that s—?”
One of the earliest viral video celebrities – VHS copies of Rebney’s tirades were circulated long before the clip appeared online – “Winnebago Man” currently has nearly 3 million views on YouTube.
The 2009 documentary “Winnebago Man” followed filmmaker Ben Steinbauer’s attempts to track down Rebney nearly two decades after the video shoot.
The intelligent but still irritable Rebney’s target in the film was the Bush administration.
In 2007, aspiring musician Tay Zonday gained notoriety after posting a video of a keyboard-and-baritone-vocal track that was unremarkable beyond its song title and the repeated phrase, “chocolate rain.”
Those two words were enough to inspire dozens of remixes, parodies and mashups, however, and “Chocolate Rain” currently has more than 64 million views.
Unlike the reclusive Rebney, Zonday turned his online fame into opportunity by appearing in music videos for Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr. Pepper and Weezer’s “Pork and Beans.”
Yet, Zonday has largely disappeared from even the digital limelight. A December 2009 rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is his most recent YouTube video.
Though video of him was initially posted as a Columbus Dispatch story, then-panhandler Ted Williams and his surprisingly strong radio voice made newspaper headlines and became a viral video sensation.
Williams had initially aspired to work in radio but alcohol and drug abuse led to homelessness.
Since his story got picked up, Williams has been offered voiceover work jobs with the Cleveland Cavaliers, MSNBC promos and Kraft Foods.
Russia Today’s repost of the Columbus Dispatch has about 12 million hits, and videos of Williams’ subsequent success and jobs also frequently stretch into more than a million views.
Reporters often find their way onto viral video – Indiana sports reporter Brian Collins’ nervous declaration of “boom goes the dynamite” currently has more than 5 million views.
Though it isn’t as much of an Internet sensation, only having about 500,000 views, Fox 13 reporter Charley Belcher’s on-air gaffe stands out because it happened about 15 miles away from campus.
While reporting on a Skatepark of Tampa skate camp, Belcher tried to run across a ramp filled with kids riding skateboards.
Inevitably, he collided with and landed on a child in a moment the video repeats several times.