Can a parody song top the charts?

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A TikTok comedy song parodying ’90s dance bangers has become a global sensation. With a full-length version set to be released next week, Nick Levine examines why it has been such a hit across different generations.

Planet of the Bass is the brainchild of Kyle Gordon, a New York-based comedian who has been portraying DJ Crazy Times since his university days. Discussing the character’s backstory with GQ, Gordon said: “I would say he’s of ambiguous Eastern European origin, and I would say he’s a very hyper-sexualised, late-’90s Eurodance DJ and rapper.”

Ms Biljana Electronica is also a fictional figure. She is voiced by singer Chrissi Poland, but played in the original TikTok video by actress and influencer Audrey Trullinger. This is a witty flourish, Gotto notes, because it “harks back to Eurodance groups like Black Box and Corona who often relied on models [who didn’t sing on the tracks] for their visuals and promo performances”. Gordon has since doubled down on this dissonance by posting a second Planet of the Bass video in which Mara Olney lip-syncs to Poland’s vocals.

In fact, there is now even a third video featuring another lip-syncing star, influencer Sabrina Brier, though this one perhaps runs the risk of overworking the joke. “The OG Biljana Electronica simply set the bar too high,” one fan commented on TikTok.

This possible misstep aside, Gordon’s parody is also pitch-perfect because it is palpably affectionate. When Danish Eurodance act Aqua commented on his TikTok video, “Wait, is this play about us???” – a reference to the much-memed line from HBO teen drama Euphoria – Gordon replied with high praise, calling their 1997 debut Aquarium “one of the greatest dance albums of all time”.

Gordon definitely owes the Danish band a debt: the way Ms Biljana Electronica’s melodious vocals dovetail with DJ Crazy Times’ macho raps echo the dynamics of Aqua members Lene Nystrøm and René Dif. Indeed, Gordon also told GQ he had a “hunch” that Aqua’s signature hit Barbie Girl would enjoy a revival this summer because of Greta Gerwig’s super-hyped Barbie movie, thereby paving the way for his own Eurodance riff. His instincts were spot on: rappers Ice Spice and Nicki Minaj used Barbie Girl as the basis for Barbie World, a hit single from the film’s soundtrack.

The Eurodance revival boom

However, Planet of the Bass is also benefiting from a broader renewed appreciation for Eurodance, which has been spearheaded by contemporary pop and dance artists. Earlier this summer, Minaj and singer Kim Petras cracked the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Top 40 with Alone, a pop-rap track that cleverly interpolates Alice Deejay’s Eurodance anthem Better Off Alone. Last autumn, DJ-producer David Guetta and singer Bebe Rexha topped the UK singles chart and climbed to number four in the US with I’m Good (Blue), which samples and interpolates Eiffel 65’s Eurodance classic Blue (Da Ba Dee).

These new hits have proved the enduring popularity of a genre that was once dismissed as shallow and disposable. “In the 1990s, Eurodance existed in the shadow of grunge and then Britpop, which were seen by many as ‘proper music’,” notes Gotto. “There has always been snobbery around it.”

I’m Good (Blue) became a bona fide chart hit after going viral on TikTok – the same trajectory Gordon will be hoping Planet of the Bass achieves when it is released as a single on 15th August. It is surely no accident that Eurodance is finding a home on TikTok. The video-sharing app is particularly popular with Gen Z, an age group that has grown up with multi-genre streaming playlists and less entrenched ideas about what constitutes musical credibility. Whereas Eurodance was generally viewed as inferior to guitar-based rock music in the 1990s, it is now less likely to be perceived as a “guilty pleasure”.

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