by Jeys Cabral
Screen capture from one of trumpsings’ videos
If you have been around the internet for the past year and a half, then you might have seen videos of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and former U.S. President Barack Obama “singing” pop songs. I’m not even a little bit surprised that Trump knows the lyrics to The Chainsmokers’ Closer. I mean… the song was at the top of the charts in at least 28 different countries for a couple of months, so there’s that.
If you haven’t seen the video, here it is:
Baracksdubs and TrumpSings
The trend started 5 years ago, when the YouTube channel baracksdubs, created by Fadi Saleh, a then-student of the University of Tennessee, uploaded its first video “Barack Obama Drink to That by Rihanna.”
Above: Then-U.S. President Barack Obama singing Drink to That by Rihanna, published in January 2012 by Baracksdubs.
The channel (and other similar videos) uses the speeches of Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and even Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to create cover songs, generally of popular songs.
The channel’s [Baracksdubs] first video currently has 2.8 million views on YouTube and the channel has 1.7 million subscribers to date. Their most viewed video is Obama’s cover of Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen, which currently has 49.1 million views; and since then a lot of individuals have started making their own versions of these covers.
Above: Former U.S. President Barack Obama Singing Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen, published in June 2014 by Baracksdubs.
Above: Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte singing Closer by The Chainsmokers, published in December 2016 by Dutertedubs.
The creation of Baracksdubs also spawned a YouTube channel called TrumpSings which features the newly elected U.S. President singing the latest pop songs and a Filipino-owned YouTube channel called Duterterdubs which features Philippine President Duterte.
A little bit about Fadi Saleh
Screen capture from Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s video feature of Fadi Saleh
Fadi Saleh was a freshman student in the University of Tennessee in 2011, when he decided to create Baracksdubs, and since then he says he’s “been all over the place.” He has done videos from Barack Obama singing Call Me Maybe to Bill Clinton singing Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. In an interview with News Daily, Saleh admits that all of these videos were just an idea that he had while he was in the shower. He posted his very first video on Tumblr and was surprised when his post reached 10,000 notes (I can’t even reach 10 notes!! #PAANUBEH).
Saleh is currently the founder and CEO of Sparetime Entertainment and still puts up covers twice a month.
I think these videos are very appealing to people because:
(1) People are impressed on how much effort was used in creating one cover. I, for one, am constantly amazed whenever I come across a new cover video. I find myself constantly asking where do these people get the time, the energy, and the patience to look for words that would fit the song? How long does it take it cut and edit a 1 minute video? And what if the word they’re looking for is not in any of the speeches? These are the questions I think about….
*update: I have found out that it takes Saleh about two weeks to make a 1-minute cover. Whew. Two weeks. One-minute video. Bruh, effort.
(2) They are accessible. These videos are made available globally. People are able to watch these videos on YouTube and on Facebook without having to worry if the videos are blocked in their current location.
(3) The videos are funny, it can cater to the younger generation because of the use of pop songs, it could also cater to the older generation because of the use of authority figures, and it kinda makes a person inclined to watch presidential speeches more often. It’s very amusing to watch your president sing along to a popular song. But more than that, I think these videos do more than entertain, I think these videos also have the potential of encouraging people to watch and really pay attention to the speeches made by these powerful authority figures.
The media’s role
Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have helped these videos gain an international audience. These videos have been shared at least a hundred thousand times and have been unconsciously promoted by celebrities like Justin Bieber and LMFAO, both of whom have millions and millions of followers.
Screen capture from Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s video feature of Fadi Saleh
Saleh’s videos have become so popular have gotten him into several different interviews in different TV shows. He’s certain that Barack Obama himself knows that these videos exist.
Also, as mentioned earlier, there have been dozens of videos, similar to what Saleh has created, circulating around Facebook and YouTube.
Above: Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin singing Come As You Are by Nirvana, published in June 2016 by Lars Von Retriever.
Above: U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump and U.S. Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton singing Love is an Open Door as heard in the Disney movie Frozen, published in October 2016 by YouTube celebrity NigaHiga (aka Ryan Higa)
Olga Goriunova and Idiocy
Olga Goriunova’s New Media Idiocy helps us understand YouTube successes. In Goriunova’s article, stupidity is linked with chance and humor. Idiocy, Goriunova asserts, is about gathering and crafting “rubbish” that does not give answers or that has direct access to truth, “but that enquires and stages encounters with the real through its force of insignificant, false, and preposterous doings” (225). In a way, videos produced by Baracksdubs and other similar videos, fall under Goriunova’s definition of idiocy. Saleh compiled Presidential speeches and turned it into something comical and entertaining.
Furthermore, Goriunova presents us with a “formula” on what makes a YouTube video so appealing to viewers: a video should be simple, humorous, and it should have a DIY character.
The videos in Baracksdubs are simple because they are straight-to-the-point, but it also presents first-time viewers with a twist. Viewers who are unfamiliar with videos like these might be a little bit surprised that the videos don’t actually show politicians singing, but rather the compiled videos that make it seem that the politicians are singing. A pleasant and amusing surprise to most viewers.
The second characteristic is humor. Gurionova contends that humor has three folds: (1) laughter – the way these politicians are able to “follow” the beat of the songs even if it is a little bit (and by a little bit, I really mean completely) off key is funny. The second fold is vital joy – what makes the video even more funny is that creators used the speeches of well-known politicians who are, most often than not, taken very seriously and are rarely seen singing and dancing to the beat of a pop song. The last layer of humour is parodic – I believe that these videos are made to entertain people and to make fun of politicians in a non-offensive way.
Photo from the meme generator.
P-duts: My ghaaad these covers.
Finally, the third characteristic mentioned in the article is the DIY character. Although the videos are available in high definition, creating such videos requires very little knowledge in post-production. Moreover, technology today enables us to create similar videos (if you have all the time in the world lol). Amateur editing programs such as iMovie and Windows Movie Maker make it possible for ordinary people to create videos.
YouTube and other social media platforms
We can conclude, from the existence of videos like these and all other “idiotic” videos, that YouTube and other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Tumblr have become a place wherein people can create, enjoy, and share comedic videos. However, we must keep in mind that idiocy also “problematizes the mechanization and exposure of subjectification; it is light and funny, but also very dark in what it asks and reveals through its behaviour…” Though YouTube allows its users to publish videos as long as it is in line with their terms and conditions, we must always remember to exercise caution in publishing idiotic/comedic videos because as Mirza Jan argues, parodies and jokes are often culture and nation specific.
- Goriunova, O. (2012). New Media Idiocy. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 223-235.