This Tinchy Stryder and Chuckle Brothers Collaboration is the Result of a Generation Infected With Ennui
The fact it's barely even a song, reflects what they clearly think the consumer wants.
Two weird things happened yesterday. The pop-group S Club 7 - famous for soundtracking knee-slides across sticky school floors and sleeping with each other - announced their comeback and Tinchy Stryder released a collaboration with the Chuckle Brothers. If you’ve never been a child in a no-cable household in early 90s Britain, the Chuckle Brothers are a duo known for creating a semi-bearable CBBC show in which they crept around stranger’s houses - released twenty years ago and forgotten in everyone’s memory until now.
The return of the S Club Party (have a go on Urban Dictionary, kids) isn’t surprising. Buzzfeed readers and the sort of people that go to Cheese Nights by choice have been lobbying for the group’s return ever since they forgot that Jo O’Meara was a racist.
The track, despite only being released late last night while most people were tucking into their microwave dinners, or clipping their toenails, or whatever the fuck people do in the evening, has been teased for a while. Photos of the pair hanging out were posted a month ago - making it on to several music news sites, tabloids, and almost everyone’s Twitter feed. Then came the “leaked videos” of them fooling around in the studio, plastered across your Facebook feed by every friend, foe and nobody you're somehow linked with.
Friends of friends you don’t really like is actually the target Tinchy track wants to appeal to. The guy that comments on an article before reading the whole thing; the person that mouths WTF, grimaces, and shares a video on their Timeline before making it even halfway.
This is Rebecca Black’s legacy, moving from piss-taking satire into the medium of mainstream chart music via Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda”, Miley’s “We Can’t Stop”, and Pharrell’s “Happy”. “To Me, To You” wants to appeal to that demographic, because it is a lucrative one. Even if you’re a world-renowned star it’s increasingly difficult not only to sell records (Hi Robin Thicke and the 500 or so copies of your album), but earning the attention in the first place. As a result, a song’s currency is its power to become something more; whether that’s a meme, a set of Tumblr-ready gifs, or a trending hashtag. It needs to be positioned in a way that can reach as many people as possible.
This is evident not just in the pre-rollout campaign, but in every aspect of the track and the way it’s framed. For example, why does the song even feature the Chuckle Brothers? Because people like nostalgia, they like seeing old people engaging in youth trends and, judging from Buzzfeed, they also like sharing one-off bits of content featuring has-been television stars. Tinchy’s management know this and that’s why the pair are on board. This small fact alone is evident in that the song, on a base level, isn’t even a song; it’s a piece of content with tick-boxes.
The main element here, though, is the video. Lots of big releases have GIFs in mind – watch any One Direction or Taylor Swift video and you can see the meaningful but quick cuts, ready to be scooped up by the Tumblr army. “To Me To You” features plenty of this.
You’ve got the Chuckle Brothers themselves.
Jamal Edwards inexplicably fronting at the end of the video.
And literally a thousand other things, including Paul foot-shuffling.
The track is riding solely on the Chuckle Brothers and the shareable, visual and aural confusion that comes from them appearing in a video with Tinchy. The fact they try to make the old ladder gag but couldn't even manage a ladder that requires two people makes it seem like all the budget was spent on hiring the twins out for the day, with (A) no money left to complete the job properly or (B) no reason to, because they know most people won’t be looking hard enough.
We get that “To Me To You” has been created with one sole intent: going viral. But it’s the fact that music is so obviously created in this way that’s more irksome.
A few months ago Tinchy Stryder released the excellent “East Side Geezer” – a track that firmly solidified him back into the grime resurgence and placed him at the top of the pack. However, it only received 12,000 plays since being uploaded back in June. By contrast, and disappointingly, “To Me To You” has been out for less than 24 hours and clocked in over 150,000.
Britain has always been obsessed with novelty tracks and “To Me To You” is a natural succession from acts like the Cheeky Girls, songs by Bob the Builder and the Teletubbies, tracks about fast food establishments and the existence of Peter Kay. But this marks the dawn of a much more direct approach, that is having an effect on the way music is marketed, produced, and packaged. From the S Club reunion, to PC Music, to the vacuous assumption from Apple that we all want to start wearing watches again, we live in a world where even as technology advances and we delve deeper into our virtual lives, we're still eager to look backwards for the warm embrace of nostalgia and recognisable faces. This is why “Anaconda” samples “Baby Got Back” and this is why Tinchy Stryder put the Chuckle Brothers on “To Me To You”. However, this nostalgia is created with the necessary fast hit of the present in mind; with the instant reaction being favoured over the end product. The novelty of The Chuckle Brothers involvement outweighs their need to provide any sort of genuine entertainment value across four full minutes.
The track also ties into that old, heinous even, idea that black British youth need to be seen as friendly and welcoming to receive success. If Tinchy’s "East Side Geezer" was a bit too threatening for the mainstream audience, then he’s now a cute little boy playing with your favourite TV characters. The same happened with Dizzee collaborating with Robbie Williams, Roll Deep being introduced as cartoon characters and Chipmunk being dumbed down and turned into a cheeky schoolboy. I’m not saying Tinchy felt forced into making a song with Chuckle Brothers, but he is releasing music in a climate where if you’re a black British boy releasing music, you better be cheery as fuck if you want to appeal en masse.
I suppose good artists are always going to create forward-thinking, good music and consumer led artists will always create consumer led music. Now, it seems like Tinchy Stryder has decided to dive headfirst into the latter. And after listening “To Me To You” it does make me wonder - what the fuck will happen in ten years time? It’s a good thing that Britain doesn’t take itself too seriously. Novelty tracks are fun, but I don’t really want to live in a future that may contain a version of the “The Ketchup Song” featuring Lethal Bizzle, a couple of dickheads who once appeared on the Apprentice, and Mr Blobby. But fuck it - when it does happen, I’ll probably share it on my timeline.
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanBassil