Do you remember the first time? The joys of YouTube reaction videos | The music


EEarlier this month, a wonderful thing – do you remember that? – come. Twin brothers Tim and Fred Williams, who post YouTube videos under the name Twinsisthenewtrend, shared a clip that has gone viral. In it, the very excited 21-year-olds sit down to listen to Phil Collins’ sullen 1981 reverb anthem In the Air Tonight. And, well, that’s it. The clip is just them doing that. But their reactions made it one of the most talked about videos of the year, garnering more than six million views in three weeks. Because there is a twist: the twins had never heard this song before. Their minds are suitably and adorably blown away.

“I’ve never seen anyone drop three minutes in a song!” they hoot, delighted, after Phil slams with that drumbeat – the one we’ve known for so long he’s been in the old cliché’s graveyard. But hearing it through new ears – their ears – and watching the twins as they are struck down for the first time has reminded people of what an incredible musical moment this is. As a direct result of the clip, the song was ranked # 2 on the US iTunes charts.

First reaction videos have been a thriving and rather cheerful subsection of social media for years. In 2018, YouTuber Bman shared a video of him feeling the cold from Bohemian Rhapsody. Watching the full gamut of human emotions – gentle contemplation, melancholy sadness, largely engulfed amazement – sparkle on her face, as the song moves from one opera movement to another, is simply wonderful. “WHERE HAVE I BEEN ?!” he asks at the end, on the verge of tears. Bohemian Rhapsody is such a mainstay of music that it’s taken for granted, in the same way gravity is taken for granted. Bman reminds you of what a monumental achievement Freddie Mercury managed to pull off, for you are there with him, hearing him again.

If you sometimes think, “If I hear Lynyrd Skynrd’s Free Bird one more time, I’m going to catch this stupid bird and strangle him,” then allow YouTuber No Life Shaq to remind you how brilliant he is. If Heart’s cheesetastic has never started to sting, then Sincerely, KSO will Febreze the guff away with her sheer unbridled glee. Enter Sandman who puts you to sleep? Tom Fearon’s amazement might make you reconsider. Their enthusiasm is contagious. As viewers, this goes beyond just nostalgic appreciation of those songs – it’s a way to relive your own first experiences by proxy.

More importantly, despite the predictable joyless accusations that many videos are staged, they represent a level of wholesomeness that music is sorely lacking in appreciation at this time. No snark, no anything, absolutely no pretense. Just people who love great music, maybe reminding you that you – yes, you – still love it too.


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