Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
There's hope for the least cool of us after all. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
This one goes out to everyone who isn’t cool—and especially to those who long ago gave up on the idea of ever being cool—but who might secretly hope that something they once did long ago might come back someday and be all the rage.
And if not, at least you'll understand the story behind one of the songs everyone is grooving out to this summer.
Our story begins around 2000, maybe even 1999. A British journalist named Louis Theroux (son of the novelist Paul Theroux and cousin of the actor Justin Theroux, traveled to Louisiana for a BBC2 show called Weird Weekends, in which he put himself in fish-out-of-water situations.
This time, he wound up writing some lyrics with rappers Reece and Bigelow, and performing them awkwardly on the radio. It looked like this (fast forward to about 14:49):
Forgettable, right? Everyone forgot.
Except that in 2015 or so, Netflix got the rights to Weird Weekends, pretty much like they got the rights to almost everything else they could at the time. The rap episode turned into kind of a cult favorite in the UK.
Then, Louis got a new show. Let’s put this in perspective—I mean, he had a show, so he wasn't totally obscure. But, he’s known as a documentarian and for his sardonic wit. He wasn't what all the kids were talking about.
Not yet. But, when he went out to promote the new show, people asked about the cult favorite episode from the old show. Take this interview that he did on a web talk show called Chicken Shop Date (fast forward to about 2:00, or even 2:20):
OK, much improved. But still, would we be talking about it?
The next step—totally uncoordinated, as far as we know, they just did it—a pair of DJ/producers named Luke Conibear and Isaac McKelvey in Manchester autotuned the performance, along with a few other spots of Louis rapping. It took off: 12 million views..
Here, we'll include some of the lyrics in case you don't have time to click through, or in case you're one of the folks who keep images turned off and never click anything for privacy reasons:
My money don't jiggle, jiggle, it folds
I'd like to see you wiggle, wiggle, for sure
It makes me wanna dribble, dribble, you know
Riding in my Fiat
You really have to see it
Six feet two in a compact
No slack but luckily the seats go back
I've got a knack to relax, in my mind
Sipping some red, red wine
Anyway, that's pretty cool, but I still wouldn't be writing about it and you probably wouldn't have heard about it, except that a pair of 21-year-old London roommates named Jess Qualter and Brooke Blewitt who had gone to art school together decided to choreograph a short dance and put it on TikTok:
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Boom. 65 million views. That's like twice the population of California or Canada, and it doesn't count all the kazillions of people who copied them, remixed them, and basically just kept it going.
From there—well, so many celebrities, influencers, talk show hosts, and actors posted videos of themselves doing interpretations of the the Qualter/Blewitt/Theroux show that Theroux went back and teamed up with Conibear and McKelvey to record a new version of the same song.
The new version means they can get royalties on Spotify and iTunes, and it’s now become the "unlikely TikTok hit that could be the song of the summer," at least according to the New York Times, which interviewed Theroux over the weekend.
Anyway, there, you’ve got it. If you already knew the story you’re probably wondering why I’m so behind the times; if you didn’t, now you’ll know how the song you’ll hear over and over and over this summer got its start.
If nothing else, you can bask in what Louis Theroux says has been his 14-year-old son’s reaction to the whole thing:
“‘Why is my dad, the most cringe guy in the universe, everywhere on TikTok?’” he quoted his son saying. “I’ve left my stank all over his timeline. I think it’s made him very confused and slightly resentful.”
7 other things worth knowing today
Police in Uvalde may have assumed incorrectly that the doors to the classroom in which the shooter was barricaded were locked, according to reports, and never even tried to open them for 70 or more minutes, while students and teachers were being slaughtered inside. (NY Daily News)
If you're into hot sauce, we have some tough news: the latest supply chain crunch is likely to be Sriracha, and just in time for summer. (WSJ, $)
Fishermen in Ireland who successfully disrupted plans by the Russian Navy to carry out military exercises in January say they plan to prevent a French military exercise due to take place later this week. (RTE)
Here's the story of a 76-year-old retired Ottawa police detective who never knew his biological father, but put his skills to work tracking him down to Oklahoma. (Globe & Mail)
A 103-year-old Swedish woman named Rut Linnéa Ingegärd Larsson broke the record for oldest skydiver. She broke the previous record (but nothing else, thankfully), which had been held by a woman about 130 days younger at the time of her jump. (Fox 5 NY)
Why do cats go crazy for catnip? It's not just playful high jinks sparked by the plant's intoxicating qualities. The behavior leads to the release of certain compounds that might protect cats from pesky mosquitoes, according to new research out of Japan. (CNN)
Time to look through your attic: An original, 1986, unopened VHS copy of the movie Back to the Future just sold at auction for $75,000. (Chron.com)