Neil Cicierega is weird. His music is just an amalgamation of hit songs from the 2000s, mostly their hooks. His music isn’t something anyone asked for, but it was arguably inevitable.
Regardless of how his music came to be, he is getting recognition, so it’s worth asking this question: what can be learned from Neil Cicierega’s success?
1. People value nostalgia.
At the time, these songs were a nuisance. They were so much so that people get irate when they heard the small part of the song, such as the line “Somebody once told me,” because it would be stuck in their head for the next hour. After some time passed and the songs started to only play on the radio once a week (rather than once an hour), these earworms became a fond memory of a time passed.
Cicierega clearly values the nostalgia factor as well, probably more than anyone, because he condenses that feeling into three-minute intervals.
2. These songs will get stuck in your head.
Back in the 80s, 90s, and 00s, all it took to be successful in pop was to make a song that was catchy. Unfortunately, this led to a plethora of music that was nothing but, hence producing songs like “You Spin Me Right Round” and “Call Me Maybe,” which are really nothing but hooks.
Cicierega took the hooks and crammed them together, making songs that can’t be forgotten. Perhaps this was not in a good way, but that’s the feeling he’s going for.
3. His work is tempting to share.
Facebook friends are annoying. For many, that seems to be the purpose of Facebook now. People post the most random, odd, annoying stuff to their friends’ walls just to remind them they exist.
Cicierega’s music is perfect for that. It’s like a letter bomb, except instead of explosives, it’s full of terrible music. Just five seconds of the songs are enough to get stuck in the listener’s head.
Neil Cicierega saw a pattern in music, and likely in social media posting, and took full advantage. It’s a pet project, but despite seeming like the last thing anyone would listen to, this novelty found moderate success. It’s worth it to pursue a unique project that aligns itself with trends.
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Gabriel Dufurrena is a mathematician, writer, and educator living in Oakland, CA. When he’s not watching YouTube videos or teaching math, he’s listening to auto-tuned versions of “All-Star.”