On Tuesday, a Twitter user called @KingBeyonceStan began systematically critiquing a series of famous pop singers and arriving at the same, blithe conclusion each time: “She doesn’t have the range.” Among those deemed not to have sufficient range have been Selena Gomez, Sia, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Lana Del Rey, and Rihanna. Male singers like Drake and Justin Bieber were called out as well, again with the exact same punchline. A typical example of @KingBeyonceStan’s work follows:
And another, in case the formula wasn’t clear before:
To be fair, as this thread developed, some singers were said to possess the necessary range, including Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Though he used it creatively, @KingBeyonceStan did not create this joke from whole cloth, it should be noted. The catty catchphrase is, in fact, borrowed from a Rock Profile sketch. In the scene, a lounging, loose-tongued Shirley Bassey (as played by Matt Lucas) uses the all-purpose “She doesn’t have the range” to dismiss a number of famous singers, including Tina Turner, Paul McCartney, and even herself. “I don’t have the range,” Bassey insists.
Okay, so a repetitive but amusing joke appeared on television, and then someone on Twitter took it and ran with it. In internet culture, there’s nothing odd or even newsworthy about that. So what makes “She doesn’t have the range” special? In a hand-wringing editorial at Gawker called “You Don’t Have The Range,” writer Tom Scocca argues that this is one case in which the internet should just leave well enough alone. One individual user has created something funny and incisive, but there’s no reason for this thing to become a meme. Unfortunately, the copycats are already ruining a perfectly funny joke with their lame imitations. Scocca says enough is enough. As he explains:
The glory of this comic register is that you can’t get in on it. It is the opposite of meme culture, the whole point of which is “Me too!” It is both the fullest realization and the negation of Twitter’s eternal democratic open-mic promise: Anyone can say anything, but now no one else may say this. There is no use trying to expound on what “the range” might mean, and it is pure, embarrassing folly to try to make the gag your own.
It seems unlikely that the internet will follow Scocca’s advice.