Andy Gill + TikTok

Andy Gill, the guitarist and co-founder of Gang of Four, died on February 1. I wrote this about him for The New Yorker. Also, Greil Marcus sent me this video. It is the most important film of our time. Please watch it with your family.

Who are these people? They’re a gamelan ensemble called Sekar Melati playing Gang of Four’s “Not Great Men,” and this is the only information I could find: “The group’s representative Hitomi Ozeki studied gamelan in Jakarta, and founded Sekar Melati in Gifu prefecture in June 2000. This community-based group presents traditional Javanese music as well as original compositions at museums, schools, art galleries and various other locations. Mr. Hiroshi Ietaka (Marga Sari, Osaka) also gives instruction regularly.”

We lost Andy Gill and Andrew Weatherall within weeks of each other. To pay tribute to both at once, here is Weatherall’s majestic mix of My Bloody Valentine’s “Soon,” which samples the guitar from Gang of Four’s “What We All Want.”

My views on social media have settled after ten years of trying and failing to believe that things are other than they are. I’ve always tried to ask myself, in the face of a new digital jim-jam: Is this TV or cigarettes? I wanted to believe that social media was TV. But it is pure and full cigarettes. The house wins, every time. All you can do is create a delusion that minimizes the truth and maximizes your number of dopamine hits. The relationship between your self and the outside world is distorted by transactional anxiety and the path between your self and your soul is blocked with trash. There is no good version of this social media thing! [LIL THUNDER SHEET RUMBLE] The panopticon monsters are selling the bones of your life to data miners and you’re throwing yourself into their thresher a hundred times a day. Sorry! We don’t need any more thinkpieces! It’s bad, the way cigarettes were bad in 1958, even when they were being sold as “refreshing”!

Some find connection through social media platforms, and if I seem like a grouch about that flavor of upside, I’ll add one more thing. When people go outside to smoke, and stand around chatting, they’re socializing. By smoking. So.

That said, I’m now going to tell you why I like TikTok and give you a bunch of examples. (Click on the screenshots for the clips.)

TikTok is like early YouTube blended with Vine, and as entertaining as an app gets (other than Vine at its best). The app pushes you aggressively towards the For You page, which isn’t really a page as much as a slot machine of content. TikTok pays close attention to your likes and how long you watch each video and it customizes the For You page with hopes that you will scroll endlessly. (Oddly, swiping either up or down advances to the next video, and it’s maddeningly hard to retrieve a clip if you happen to swipe at the wrong moment.) You can watch the Following page, which just shows you the users you’ve followed, but it’s repetitive and flat. You’ll see the same user three times in a row. This is not a mistake. TikTok wants you in one place and one place only: the For You page. They’ll figure out what you want to see, based on your behavior and likes. Just sit there and scroll.

The idea isn’t really to talk with other users or create threads—the way you connect with others is by making your own content, often in response to a dance or a sound that others are using. The combination of unchecked copyright violation and wild thirst and chaotic ideation is very good. TikTok users are recycling the 21st century internet and discussing their own use more openly than users on an app like Instagram, which is basically LinkedIn with lying. TikTok users are nostalgic but mostly only for the internet, and very open about trying to blow up, get clout, and not flop.

@cariikingdom brings us a masterpiece on the durability of racism, the reliability of God, and the versatility of voice manipulation apps.

@owlsasylum posted a snippet of James Baldwin schooling Paul Weiss on “The Dick Cavett Show” in 1968. It seems unlikely that content owners will allow this kind of freeform archival sampling to go on much longer. (Just posting Katt Williams clips? Not gonna last.)

Is TikTok just teens doing the “Renegade” dance? No! @user1896910821081 wants us to know that people have not been paying attention to the notation in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto.

What is the “Renegade” dance? A 14-year-old named Jalaiah Harmon came up with it, and she’s created a TikTok tutorial for you. (She is on TikTok as @_.xoxlaii.) This excellent Taylor Lorenz piece in the New York Times explains what happened with Jalaiah’s dance and how TikTok has been silently hoovering up the creativity of black teens on Dubsmash. Because, of course.

TikTok users are more comfortable than most describing exactly how they’re doing what they are doing. Lifting the hood on TikTok itself is particularly popular. I don’t know what to do with the figures cited here by @itstiktoktim—or how he means to present them—but their being cited at all is fascinating. As is the aluminum foil ball.

@morgandrinkscoffee is a good example of the popular creator, someone who gets chocolates from TikTok HQ on Valentine’s Day. She’s charming, inventive, and a strong representative for the Service Workers Who Post at Work.

This clip by @richblackguy breaks down the psychology warfare practiced by the TikTok overlords, and it’s shorter than this post. Quitting TikTok? The hell you are!

I still can’t figure out if @oknra is serious in this clip. It’s either a mindfuck or proof of a generational shift, or both.

@imvaltaylor describes herself as an “old lady who want you to cook your own food.” Though dancing teens have driven the app, users have been challenging the generational bracket.

The most popular user on TikTok (according to people on TikTok) is @charlidamelio, the one who popularized the “Renegade” dance. In keeping with the transparency of the TikTok vibe, Charli brought Jalaiah onto her page a few days ago to make it clear who invented what. TikTok users are simultaneously competitive and cooperative, and that seems newly consistent for the teens of the world. I find Charli vlogging her day more interesting than her dances.

Social media moves at lightspeed, so the particular sound and feel of a clip can be an entire world view. This @mukhtarhuh clip became insanely popular, and there’s no immediate explanation as to why. His delivery seems to be most of the hook, as is the slightly confusing implication. He is or isn’t in the ghetto, according to him? Or it’s just the gunfire sounds? Asking your parent to recite “ra ta ta ta” became another meme, spun off from this.

I’ll end (almost) with my favorite TikTok. Here, @charlescornellstudios takes a clip from Cardi B’s Instagram story and writes a piano accompaniment. Free culture, forever.

Wait, no. This @turboirvo clip is the best one.

The best New York teen on TikTok? That’s @jarielnyc, fuckouttahere.

Dance clips like this one by @autmrainn made it clear that “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa is a dance banger on the level of Robyn or Britney, fuckouttahere.