For me, YouTube is an antidote to what we call “news.” It’s actually one of my go-to places for good news. A place where the world feels human and positively connected.
Here, I can ponder what happened before the Big Bang till my brain hurts.
I can again savor the brilliance of Alan Watts or David Bowie or the guilty, idiotic pleasure of watching MatchBox cars race.
I can laugh. Not just at Curb Your Enthusiasm or Dave Chappelle clips but in the wit of so many comments.
Yes, there are vile trolls here too, but nothing to rival the scope of Twitter’s rank ugliness. On YouTube, by and large, the faceless masses use their keyboards to praise and affirm, to empathize and encourage.
Just writing these words gets alarm bells ringing in my head.
What is this? An ad for YouTube?
What can I say? It’s how I feel.
Do you want to know what I hate about YouTube? How about I get that on the record.
That’s easy. I hate the way they’re trying to push me into their subscription model by throwing a ton of ads into the clips. It’s becoming more and more like TV.
It used to be that ads only came at the start. Now they hit you throughout the video. They gatecrash your viewing whenever you refresh or rewind. They are insidious now.
And this is clearly not about YouTube, or should I say Google, making money. It’s about them wanting shitloads more money.
Okay, so that’s what I hate about YouTube. Hate it with a passion.
Now back to where I started: my YouTube happy place.
A lot of my YouTube time is spent checking out guitar lessons, or the clip of a particular song I’m learning to play.
And that’s how I came across the video I want to talk about.
It’s a Red Hot Chili Peppers song called “Tell Me Baby”, and I’ve watched it over and over again. Not because I’m trying to learn the song. It’s because I’m captivated by the video.
I love the story it tells.
At first it’s uncomfortable. A string of people reveal their “dream” to the camera. Boiling it down, it’s all the same dream. They came to LA from all over the US to seek fame and fortune.
They all wanted to be stars.
And it’s clear that their reality came up short.
Rather than becoming stars themselves, they have come to fill the vast spaces in between. They are the offcuts of industries that discard ten thousand wannabes for every one star they hold aloft.
The lyrics of the song obviously framed the way the video is put together.
They come from every state to find
Some dreams were meant to be declined
Tell the man what did you have in mind
What have you come to do?
When each person confides in the camera, I feel for them. I admire that they had, or are still having, a shot at the big time. At the same time, I wonder if such ambition was always misplaced.
But I enjoy watching them, even though it gets a little uncomfortable in a Boogie Nights kind of way. I get the feeling that some are lost, and lonely, and I’m glad I’m not in their shoes.
Then the video takes off on a fast arc that leaves all pity behind. This disparate cast of nobodies is directed to sing or play along to the Chili Peppers song. Who knows what they were told was happening but they all play out their rock star fantasies.
Then suddenly that fantasy becomes gloriously real.
And as they throw themselves into their own performances, members of band appear from behind to join them. The fun and energy looks so authentic it becomes hard to tell the rock stars from the layman, hard to tell who’s having the most fun.
It looks like the band members are getting as much, if not more, out of the experience than the strangers they are cavorting with.
They are all having a blast.
This is a band that you could forgive for being jaded. A band that has had a long, and in some respects long-suffering, relationship with fame and fortune.
The finale of the clip strikes me as something genuine. In this moment, everyone is in the band. They are all rocking out, dancing, cutting loose, living their dream.
In this moment, they are all stars. And since their video, which is a few years old now, has been viewed more than 70-million times and counting, they will always be stars in a sense.
No doubt, they will never forget that day.
I think it’s beautiful.
Every time I watch the clip again, and again, it never fails to bring a smile to my face.
The Chili Peppers’ bass player Flea said it was the best video the band had ever made.
I think I understand why.
Sometimes, no matter what kind of shit is going down in the world around us, it can feel superbly good to be human, together.