100DB • July 8 2019

100DB was a music discovery project I started. This is part of a series of posts I wrote to explore the thinking behind it.

It’s no secret (to people who know my ludicrous musical tastes) that I love pop, and especially pop that knows exactly what kind of thing it is – a distillation of catchy hooks and almost certainly nonsensical lyrics into a three and a half minute hit of pure auditory sugar. Can’t get enough.

This update has nothing to do with 100DB the product and everything to do with 100DB the mission – finding more music that you love. In this case: pop music – but as viral vector. To set the stage: I found out about this song a couple of weeks ago. This is exactly the kind of discovery that I want to enable through 100DB – a serendipitous connection made, a previously unfollowed path leading to musical treasure.

The track in question was released November of last year (November 2018, future readers). What makes it unique is that it was entirely created as a promotion for the 2018 League of Legends World Championship – correct, they made this song for the opening ceremonies of an e-sports competition. Needless to say, I think there’s a lot of interesting things happening here. Have a listen.

This song SLAPS. It goes way harder than it needs to, and I love that. There’s a version of this from the actual event in question, just all-out pyrotechnics and holograms – and I can’t stress this enough –  for a track produced entirely for and by Riot Games, the creators of League of Legends.

I previously mentioned Marshmello performing in Fortnite in a Competitive Research post. This has the same crossmedia flavour, but that was leaning on the (significant) popularity of two things that already existed: Marshmello and Fortnite – not just spinning a pop banger out of thin air.

Perhaps a more useful analogue to consider is Gorillaz: a virtual band created to explore musical ideas more than to exist unto itself. Gorillaz will (probably) have no lifespan beyond the desires of its contributors. Maybe an even more apt metaphor is William Gibson’s ‘Idoru’ – from the Wikipedia article on Rei Toei, the virtual idol in question: “Her singing voice and performance styles are composites as well, giving her the ability to encompass the viewer’s preference … implicit in her design is that she is not one idoru, but many.”

What I find fascinating about what this song does is that it leverages a ton of stuff I already like about pop music (and a ton of stuff that’s gaining global popularity and reach: k-pop, for instance) – but entirely in the service of ‘brand’. This leans very heavily on the use of hot riffs as a vehicle for marketing.

I think this is, potentially, one future unwinding from the weird metastatic state that music, as an industry, is in these days. That is to say: songs as explicit artifacts to express affinity with a ‘thing’. Music created with spring-loaded earworms so we’ll love League of Legends instead of any individual artist.

I love great pop songs and I love that this exists. What it means for the future of music: TBD.