Criticism of celebrity culture swings like a pendulum from one polar extreme to another and back again. One moment we’re criticizing celebrities’ indifference to the world at-large, but they become easy targets when attempting to use their position and influence for change. This paradigm becomes problematic when the celebrity in question actually has something to say, but even more so when they are as obstreperous as Russell Brand. Brand, the professionally louche British comedian, has a knack for perpetually stirring the pot—who else could turn an apology for lewd remarks made on his BBC radio show into a reproach of The Daily Mail’s sympathetic stance on Nazism?
In the last two years Brand has styled himself as something of a revolutionary, from guest-editing an issue of the British politics and culture magazine New Statesman to sparring with various television interviewers, even publishing a book on the subject. While Brand raises some salient points, the message can often be lost in the noise surrounding its delivery, which is often abrasive, silly, and more than anything, stunningly verbose.
This led one Twitter user, @danbarker, to tweet out the following earlier this month, probably unaware of the impact it would have:
The above tweet refers to the 1994 song ”Parklife” by the band Blur, the hallmark of which is a shambolic, patter-style song structure where every verse ends with the sung exclamation of ”Parklife!” The song’s cameoing singer, actor Phil Daniels, has a voice not unlike Brand’s, and the circuitous wordplay is redolent of Brand’s garrulous style.
Thus, Twitter users bombarded Brand, sending thousands of #parklife tweets in response to everything he said on the website. Since the internet is a rampant, collective Id whose desire for continual stimulation demands escalation, tweets begat Vines, and Vines eventually became full-on videos. The video that went viral is below, splicing segments from Brand’s various political interviews perfectly into the original “Parklife” music video:
Brand fired back, releasing a “Parklife” video of his own earlier this week. In an attempt to benefit from the controversy and get the last laugh he, along with the band Rubberbandits, rewrote the lyrics, highlighting his message while poking holes in his detractors’ arguments.
Hopefully this brings to an end the reckless co-optation of a 20-year-old hit song as a conduit for making a straw man of a celebrity’s political diatribes, at least until 2017 when we can use Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity” to remind people of how great it was.