Does it cross your mind that the self-portrait picture you took on your phone isn’t colored correctly or that it’s not getting enough attention? You may relate to the issues in “#Selfie”, by New York dance duo The Chainsmokers. The hard-hitting track combined with a nasal vocal by an uncredited female performer is all the rage online and is swiftly crossing to pop radio. Take a selfie of the chart and you’ll see that it just entered the top 50 with some giant gains. It’s been drawing comparisons to a novelty hit that was released in 1982, “Valley Girl” by Frank and Moon Unit Zappa. So, is it worth all the camera time and will it perform similarly? Like, for sure. Totally.
“#Selfie”, as the title suggests, concerns itself with a teenage female perfecting a snapshot while dancing in the club, as well as judging other patrons and dealing with crazy friends. It features a number of funny one liners, like “It’s not even summer; why does the DJ keep on playing “Summertime Sadness”?” and “Can you guys help me pick a filter? I don’t know if I should go with XX-Pro or Valencia. I want to look tan.” Whether it’s meant to be a parody or not, it sure is hilarious, and for three minutes, you can lose it getting your groove on to the solid beat of the record while also strutting a pose for the world to see over Facebook and Twitter. #MovingOnNow
Solid Gold Performance:
While “Valley Girl” introduces a similar concept with that affected SoCal vocal as performed by 14-year-old Moon Unit Zappa, “Valley” is a rock song that splits the monologue with a sung bridge and chorus by her father, Frank Zappa. It, too, brings the quick quips like “Barf me out!” and “Gag me with a spoon!”, as well as the daily adventures of a teenager at the mall, criticizing her English teacher (“Mr. Bufu!”) and feeling embarrassed about her “grody” toe nails. There’s not so much a focus on a particular event or item as there is in “#Selfie”, but “Valley” helped Valspeak to expand to a wider audience. In addition, the film Valley Girl was released the next year.
Unlike “#Selfie”, “Valley” was out during a more conservative era for music; big ballads by acts like Air Supply and Chicago were still ranking high, and more progressive dance and R&B records weren’t crossing over easily. Taking a slow ride up the Hot 100 through the summer, it peaked at #32 for two weeks in September 1982. It was the second highest ranking novelty single of the year behind “Take Off” (#16) by Bob and Doug McKenzie. It would be the father and daughter pairing’s sole top 40 entry. The elder Zappa continued to make albums until his death in 1993, though he never charted on the Hot 100 again. The younger Zappa went into the occasional acting and writing role, and is probably best known as the ex-wife of Matchbox Twenty guitarist Paul Doucette.
I’m not saying the same fate is going to happen for The Chainsmokers; they’re still young and have a production career to fall back should this be their only song to receive the mainstream appeal. They’ve created remixes for acts like Cash Cash, Icona Pop and The Wanted, all of which have landed on digital EPs. CHR radio itself is in a far more diverse place than it was years ago, and thus, injecting a little fun into the mix can only help. The two are also quite active on social media, which certainly wasn’t around when “Valley” was out, nor was the accuracy of airplay, sales and streaming data (or jukebox rotations back in 1982.) It could’ve been much bigger under today’s technology and formula changes. We’ll never know, but we do know that novelty hits sell and take off fast.
Stay tuned to see what kind of digital and airplay reaction “#Selfie” will experience over the next few weeks as more teens find out about it. Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart have a hit on their hands, although it might take another radio department at a major label to increase their results. (The duo is currently on the independent Dim Mak Records.) Even if the “Valley Girl” comparison isn’t as noticeable to you, maybe “Let me take a selfie” will be equivalent to this decade’s version of “Shake it like a Polaroid picture” from OutKast‘s “Hey Ya!” Who knows?
This is only the beginning of what could be a larger phenomenon and a once-in-a-lifetime hit for the two performers. Don’t forget to take a selfie of where you were when you first heard it. (Or not.)