I. “Chocolate Rain” Video and Ethos
For this lesson’s homework, you’ll be asked to analyze lyrics. But these lyrics were part of a song, and that song was part of a video that went viral. Why did it go viral? How do these other modes of expression (audio, visual) change the way the message is received? Let’s take a look. I present to you, Tay Zonday’s “Chocolate Rain,” one of the biggest viral video sensations of the late 2000s.
-If you haven’t seen this video before: what was funny or strange or unexpected about it? What caught your attention?
If you ask the internet why this video went viral, the internet will cite the following reasons (remember Shifman’s framework!):
-The repetitiveness of the lyrics.
-The disconnect between Tay Zonday’s boyish appearance and his deep baritone voice. (flawed masculinity, or a subversion of that trope?)
-Tay Zonday “moving away from the mic to breathe”—and the text overlaid on the screen explaining that.
What people didn’t really care about in the video was Zonday’s message and his purpose. They focused on the things that made the video whimsical, and left behind the rest.
-We discussed what you think Zonday’s message was. Why do you think that message wasn’t paid attention to?
-What is Zonday’s purpose here? What aspects of Zonday’s performance work against his purpose here?
In this video, Zonday isn’t successful at communicating his purpose to his audience. Reply at the bottom of this lesson and come up with two ways that Zonday could improve his ethos in this song/video to more effectively achieve his purpose and communicate his message. Explain, in each case, HOW your idea would help Zonday. Make sure you’re writing down your response in the form of a full, cohesive paragraph or two. If your responses are just one or two sentences long, you’re doing it wrong!
Zonday’s video gained popularity, and people remixed and repackaged it—it went memetic.
Therefore, it was no surprise that Zonday was approached to repackage his own viral text to sell a product.
The product was a new version of Dr. Pepper soda, flavored with Cherry and Chocolate. Looking at the difference in the rhetorical situation, we see an interesting shift.
PURPOSE: Sell Dr. Pepper soda.
MESSAGE: You should drink Dr. Pepper’s new “Cherry Chocolate Dr. Pepper” beverage, because Dr. Pepper is a hip company that knows about the memes you like.
AUDIENCE: Youtube viewers, particularly those familiar with Zonday’s original video.
-Was this video funny? Was it uncomfortable? Why?
-What genre tropes (of rap music, music videos, etc) does this video depend on? Does it use (or subvert) them well?
-Does this advertisement seem to honor the original intent of Zonday’s video?
Some things that might have stood out to you:
-The meaninglessness of the lyrics in this advertisement (“Ohio’s agriculture’s based on grains”) compared to the heartfelt lyrics of Zonday’s original, marginalizing his original message.
-The representation of the soda by a woman named “Cherry Chocolate Rain”.
-The intensely problematic scene in which Zonday and this woman are covered in chocolate syrup. Did these advertising executives even listen to the original song?
-Rap video tropes (scantily-clad women, conspicuous consumption) trotted out thoughtlessly.
Now that you’re experts on the content and history of “Chocolate Rain,” let’s do some analysis!
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