The white walls of a studio sound stage are covered in black and pink graffiti as a grown man wearing elaborate eye makeup and a pair of brown workman’s coveralls approaches a black microphone wrapped in neon-pink duct tape and sings: “This sh-tty state is full of losers and I pretended to ever f-cking like you / I swear to God I’m gonna get out of here someday ’cause if I can’t I’ll f-cking end it.”
The person singing the rhetorically incoherent lyrics is Aryia, an independent musician and social media personality with hundreds of thousands of followers and subscribers across multiple platforms. Aryia came to my attention when an anonymous Twitter user’s post lamenting his derivative creative efforts went semi-viral on the platform.
The song in question, “Losers,” relays an increasingly typical sound from musicians and performers who overwhelmingly rely on algorithmic social media curation to bolster their careers. If they can create something superficially similar to what is commercially viable and trending, people click on it.
The song itself is meant to convey organic interpersonal and internal frustrations, but because it lacks any actual artistic substance and relies on aesthetic tropes, it falls incredibly flat. It relies entirely on invoking musical cliches from late-’90s pop-punk (e.g., palm-muted power chords) and laying them over lyrics derived from an irony-poisoned ethos popularized by a generation of twentysomethings who find therapeutic relief in detaching from reality and embracing a self-deprecative worldview.
During the song’s second verse, Aryia professes: “I miss my ex, she’s a b-tch, I need someone to su— I can’t say that / Life sucks, Eso si que es, I’m in Spain without the ‘s.’” He also bemoans his lack of sexual comradery with the fairer sex by claiming to be “homeless without the ‘m.’”
The aesthetic adopted for the accompanying music video — the ironic subversion of masculine tropes by emphasizing male engagement with traditionally feminine concepts, such as makeup and the color pink, while ensuring the performer maintains masculine signifiers like five o’clock shadow to show that he is, in fact, a man — loudly echos trends popularized by Machine Gun Kelly (MGK).
The rapper-turned-corporate-punk-rocker is credited by many for kicking off a renaissance in commercially friendly punk-rock with the success of his well-received 2020 album “Tickets To My Downfall.”
The album debuted atop the Billboard 200, so it makes sense that younger artists would seek to copy his approach. And Aryia certainly isn’t the only individual trying to “make it” who falls into this category of mimetic content creation. Most musicians and bands seeking to enter the mass market try to replicate what is selling well; after all, the intention is to make a profit.
If you use TikTok or another similarly situated algorithmically curated video-sharing platform, you will likely find up-and-coming or hoping-to-be-up-and-coming musicians attempting to replicate MGK-isms — their numbers are many.
And that’s fine. Music doesn’t have to be original to be good, but it does have to be good.
Artistic mimicry, in some sense, ought to be encouraged so long as the end result is of a certain quality. It just so happens that in the era of algorithmic suggestion, you’re going to find a lot more inauthentic e-boys churning out half-baked emo-tunes in the pursuit of manufactured virality than you will actual talents rising to the surface.
For every small-time introspective and adept artist or band that is creating quality content, there are several more who are better able to saturate the field with mediocre mimicry.
And at the end of the day, the issue isn’t necessarily that these people are trying to become professional musicians by mimicking a successful artist or trend. It’s that they often aren’t very good at it. In the process of developing their brands, they co-opted an entire sub-genre of music that was once used as a vehicle for the airing of legitimate grievances and authentic expression.