Nothing has made me feel more ancient than the news this morning that some kids on the internet are mad at Azealia Banks and Rihanna. What did they do? Well, they both performed in front of green screen-projections of sea imagery (in the video for "Atlantis" and on SNL, respectively). Apparently, there's a whole world of people who are into that sort of thing. Naturally, they live in their underwater cave fantasy worlds, but mostly on Tumblr, where 90% of terrible things exist under the guise that it is "art" (or porn, I guess).
First, here's Banks's new video, which premiered online over the weekend:
And here is Rihanna's performance of "Diamonds" on SNL:
And, via Buzzfeed, here's some video that a guy named Jerome LOL (née Johnson, probs) made two years ago, when this kinda shit was "cutting edge" or something:
The similarities have pissed some people off, particularly this person named ∞SHANTASY☹ISLAND❤✌➫, whose insane tweeting was brought to my attention this morning:
IT TAKES DIY ARTISTS A LITTLE BIT LONGER TO GET PROJECTS FINISHED WHEN U R RELYIN ON THE ASSISTANCE OF OTHER DIY ARTISTS WITHOUT A BUDGET— ∞SHANTASY☹ISLAND❤✌➫ (@ZOMBELLE_) November 12, 2012
HOW MUCH DID AZAELIA BANKS GET ON BUDGET TO MAKE THE VIDEO FOR ATLANTIS? HOW MUCH DID SNL PAY RIHANNA TO ACT LIKE GRIMES ON A GREEN SCREEN?— ∞SHANTASY☹ISLAND❤✌➫ (@ZOMBELLE_) November 12, 2012
THE LONGER WE'RE ONLINE THE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE ARTISTS ARE TO THE RICH POACHING OUR CULTURE AND IDEAS AS WELL IDEALS USED AS MARKETING PLOYS— ∞SHANTASY☹ISLAND❤✌➫ (@ZOMBELLE_) November 12, 2012
First of all: everyone is terrible. Second of all, these kids might be kinda annoyed that these two famous women jacked their style, but is that annoyance valid? After all, their "style" appears to be a cocktail of stuff they jacked from other places. "But we put it together first!" I bet they are tweeting (in all caps, likely misspelled). (I'd also like to do an informal poll to see if any of them have ever illegally downloaded songs by either Azealia Banks or Rihanna, but that's a post for another day.)
Basically, this should be a lesson to any "underground" artist, whether they put their art on a wall or on the internet: your work is up for grabs. That's how we do things now. Everything is inspired by something else! Sometimes it's an homage, and sometimes it's deliberate theft. I have a feeling that there are other factors in how Rihanna and Banks discovered this certain aesthetic. I'm willing to believe Banks found it herself, whereas Rihanna probably had the benefit of label creatives who were like, "You know what the kids are digging these days? Mermaids and the year 2000."
And, come on, this sort of thing isn't new. Take one of the greatest examples of how culture trickled up: voguing. First seen in the Latino and African-American queer communities, Madonna jacked that shit hard (and poorly) for what is arguably her biggest hit. And now there are millions of people across the world who think some white gal from suburban Detroit invented it. Them's the breaks, you guys.
Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.