Donut Age: America's Donut Magazine

Numa numa iei

My recent expedition to AECT was satisfying on several levels, but the most indelible memory would have to be the session on open content that began by showing the Star Wars Kid and Numa Numa memes. (I realize that having heard of neither of these prior to the conference makes me majorly unhip, but that's no surprise, right?)

Gary Brolsma's "Numa Numa Dance" video and its progeny (including the All Your Base-ish "Numa Numa is Everywhere" and the American idol parody, "American Idle") are particularly infectious. Some of this has to do with the Romanian techno song, "Dragostea Din Tei" by O-Zone, which underlies the video (for some reason, techno and funny Flash videos just seem to go together, c.f. the use of The Laziest Men on Mars's "Invasion of the Gabber Robots" in the AYB video). But really most of the credit goes to Brolsma himself, whose enthusiastic dance and letter-perfect lip-synching elevate what is really a pretty dopey song into something of an anthem.

Perhaps it was because I still had Greil Marcus's Ranters and Crowd Pleasers on the brain. Brolsma's Numa Numa dance echoed Marcus's anecdote of a Lake Tahoe karaoke singer's rendition of Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl":

As the tape kept playing... the fact that the singer never flubbed a lyric began to seem interesting. The fact that, hopelessly out of breath, he somehow stood straight and tall for the flat self-affirmation demanded by the blunt last line of each verse... began to seem remarkable. There was no way around it: as a shower singer the man was drowning, but he was also moving. The poor-boy/rich-girl story line of the song, which in Joel's hands came off as the sort of thing you write when you're working up a Four Season tribute, now seemed to count for something. The singer in the booth was depereate, tortured by the arrangement, Sisyphus rolling up the wo-wo-wo-wos, and yet he put all his panic into the story he was trying to tell: he wants an uptown girl, but he's a downtown man. You heard the guy trying to smile through his boundless incompetence; you heard the pride Joel wrote the song about, but never quite gave it....
Billy Joel makes a record, sends it out into the world, and it comes back to him in various forms,: as money, as fame, as approval, scorn, indifference. But should he have found himself in the right place at the right time, his radio tuned to the right station, it would have come back to him in a form he could never have anticipated: in the form of a fan who, returning the gift, took the song away from the man who made it.
( Marcus, "Free Speech #2" (1986) )

I wouldn't describe Brolsma's dancing as Sisyphean, but like Marcus's anonymous tourist, this teenager seized control of a song and made it his own, and in doing so made the song more interesting, more authentic than it had been before. These phenomena probably have deeper implications for the concepts author and reader, and for the notion of "ownership" of artistic works, but I'm already up past my bedtime as it is.