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Alison Gold’s Unlikely Chart Success with “Chinese Food”

Are the new Internet streaming chart criteria backfiring?

The latest among the viral video sensations, “Chinese Food” by 12-year-old Alison Gold has certainly sparked some conversation, and more than a little controversy, as much for its comparisons to Rebecca Black’s notoriously bad song “Friday” as the speculations of racism that surround it.

It’s remarkable what songs happen to break the Hot 100 charts since Billboard changed the rules to include Internet streaming. From K-pop’s surprising dominance with PSY’s record breaking “Gangnam Style” to the silliness of Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” from a 96-year-old’s heartwarming tribute to his late wife to a comic duo bringing the phrase “What does the fox say?” into pop culture, at the very least the rule change has added variety to the charts, and occasionally brings unlikely success to deserving people.

But then there’s the other side of the rule change—the side where songs that should never be on the charts can now get there for no other reason than because people are gluttons for the silly and frivolous. Unfortunately, that’s the story behind Alison Gold’s viral hit “Chinese Food.”

Now, I realize going into this discussion that I’m treading on thin ice, because after all, we’re dealing with a 12-year-old girl who may (or may not) be quite serious about her long-term aspirations to be a pop star. Who dares to criticize a little girl? No one wants to quell that dream, least of all me. But on the other hand, I’m not the one drawing the comparisons between this song Rebecca Black’s “Friday;” the public are making that connection all by themselves. Nor am I the one spearheading the claims that “Chinese Food” is racist—that, too, has taken on a life of its own in the social media.

What I am saying is that people aren’t watching this video because it’s a great song, or a great performance. They are watching it to get a laugh; that’s just reality. As for the song and performance themselves, there are plenty of 12-year olds who could do far worse—but that doesn’t mean the song is anywhere near chart-worthy. In other words, the only reason “Chinese Food” debuted at No. 29 on the Hot 100 this week is that the video itself has gone viral because people think it’s funny, interesting or controversial. No other reason. In my view, that’s not reason enough to have “Chinese Food” taking up space on a serious song chart. And this begs the question about the validity of Billboard’s rule change in general.

Now, granted, I understand the rationale behind including Internet video streaming in the chart data, because more and more people are using the Internet as their music channel. But the problem is that people don’t use outlets like YouTube only for music; they use it to receive a variety of entertainment. If a video that goes viral happens to contain a song, because of the new rules, that song can now make it onto the charts for some reason other than its own merit. And therein lies the problem. I don’t think there’s any sane person who would try to argue that the song “Chinese Food” could be considered on the same playing field with Lorde’s “Royals.” Yet, there it is, occupying a slot on the same chart, and causing another serious artist who actually deserves a slot on the Top 100 to fall off the bottom. See what I mean?

So what I’m saying by this is not that we should hate on Alison Gold or her song. What I’m suggesting is that maybe these rules about including video streaming in the chart data need to be revisited, or at the very least refined. I admit I’m an armchair quarterback here, not a statistician (heck, I can hardly even spell statistician), so I don’t even begin to know what that refinement of the data should look like. It just seems to me that it becomes more difficult to view the Top 100 as a serious chart if songs like “Chinese Food” can appear on it.

What about you? What do you think? Should “Chinese Food” be on the charts? Why or why not?


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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

David Tillman is an independent composer/arranger whose primary work involves writing jingles for commercials for radio and television, with several film and television placements to his credit as well. David has a fascination for all things related to the music business and the music industry in general, an obsession which his wife finds to be mildly unhealthy at times. His personal tastes in music are in electronica and industrial rock, and include The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails (he loves that Trent Reznor is writing soundtracks!). When not in his office or in his man-cave, David enjoys skiing, hiking, the occasional game of golf, and sometimes just lounging by the pool. David lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles, CA.

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