What Is "Seapunk," and What Did Rihanna and Azealia Banks Do To It?
Azealia Banks in the offending "Atlantis" video.
I can't believe there's actually a Twitter war going on (when isn't there a war on Twitter?) over the legitimacy of #Seapunk.
What's that "hashtag seapunk," you ask? Imagine if you took Lisa Frank's fetish for porpoises, ran it through crappy late-'90s Geocities GIFs, and added some terrible, too-clever ocean-themed puns. Now, Zombelle and others that spawned this Tumblr miscarriage are calling out Rihanna and Azealia Banks for "stealing" their "style."
First, the Internet lashed out against Rihanna for her atrocious green screen fail on SNL, now folks are saying they had the gaudy idea first. And it's obvious that Banks' new video for "Atlantis" salutes an undersea Tim and Eric with none of the subtly, but in an interview with SPIN, Banks said "Seapunk isn't real, you know?"
Unfortunately, it is real. Sort of.
The Noisey article "Seapunk Washes Up" is an excellent look into the "history" of Seapunk, as told by the creators themselves. It all began when Brooklyn DJ and Twitter disciple @lilinternet dreamt of punk leather jackets with barnacles instead of studs and it soon became an inside joke between his friends. Katy Perry and Lady Gaga dyed their hair briny colors, Nicki Minaj did a Vogue shoot in blue paint and once The New York Times picked up the trend, seapunk was in the spotlight.
It isn't surprising that Banks tried to capitalize off a weird, little Internet trend, and we all know that Rihanna isn't original, but perhaps the dissenters should be thanking these Little Mermaid wannabes for giving them some unnecessary attention. They didn't invent GIFs or blue hair dye or ancient video editing software or any of this. Sure they named it, but who gives a fuck? I named my cat Vonnegut, it doesn't mean I wrote Slaughterhouse 5.Yet, the shrill 140-character cries continue to bemoan their uncredited "art" trend.
19-year old microblogger/model @BebeZeva claimed via Twitter, "the CONTENT doesn't matter, what HAPPENED to the content does. y'all are such one-dimensional pawns of capitalism and i am so sorry 4 that." [sic, like crazy]. She expatiated (as much as one can on a medium for illiterate ADHD dweebs) "this isn't a discussion about art, this is a discussion about capitalism."
So why does it come across like you're all miffed you're not getting a piece of the pie? If you were singing lameass songs about diamonds in front of Ecco The Dolphin screensavers on NBC primetime, this would be a different story, wouldn't it? But the more you complain, the more you can share some of that #seapunk spotlight. And it's not exactly like Diplo is poor; The Mad Decent chief commissioned a seapunk vid from Lil Internet last year.
Of course, not everyone acts like their dreams are being plagiarized. Jerome LOL, who generated the nifty video for his band LOL Boys' song "123" said, "No one owns the 90s" and "Internet is Culture's Playground it's the Best. Stay Posi." [sic sic sic] Even Lil Internet is chill with the idea pilfering. But is it really that great of an idea to begin with?
I actually think #seapunk is pretty neato. It's trippy, it's crappy, it's fun. Then again, I'm a big fan of found footage nonsense like Everything Is Terrible and I still drunkenly watch VHS from time to time. I'm what's known as a "hipster fuck" or a "sentimental dork" or just a "moron." But I wouldn't give this oceanic obsession a stupid name or call it a movement, nor would I lament it's so-called "theft" by mainstream artists because that's pretty much all they do anyway and it only counts when it's original to begin with.
LOL Boys' "123."
The William Gibson quote used by @lilgovernment in the aforementioned Noisey article does sum up the "movement" quite nicely: "Fads swept the youth of the Sprawl at the speed of light; entire subcultures could rise overnight, thrive for a dozen weeks, and then vanish utterly." This is exactly what Seapunk is. Please, let's not ask for more. This begets the level of idiocy from the Annoying Facebook Girl types who post "only a '90s kid would understand this..."
Besides, seapunk ain't really a subgenre of electronic music, despite what Wikipedia claims, because seapunk doesn't add anything to EDM's musical aesthetic. It doesn't sound any different from any other EDM stuff. It's not like there are actually dolphin squeaks used as backing beats or something. Unlike other internet meme genres that accidentally became serious like witch house and trap muzik, seapunk is merely just a turquoise fashion statement.
It ain't really punk, either. Sure, it's got that DIY flair, but photoshopping a pixilated sea cow and posting it to Tumblr isn't quite on par with The Sex Pistols, spiking a Mohawk or ironing anarchist symbols to your leather jacket. If anything, seapunk is more aquakitsch.
I know exactly what some people will say: What cultural movements have you started?
Admittedly, none, if you're really convinced this hashtag nonsense counts as relevancy. In the approximately two weeks it takes for this cultural stain to "vanish utterly," something even more lame will inevitably take its place. But if all it takes to change pop culture is to rip off animated Angelfire graphics, wear a SpongeBob t-shirt and then tweet/twat about my own genius, I can do that. I call dibs on #CivilWarReenactmentThrashMetal. Or how about, #EgyptianAcidJazz? Wait, I got it: #ButterflyDubstep, or #Butterstep for short. I can't wait till Lady Gaga rips that one off.
Troy Farah has more mindless self-indulgence at his website, troyfarah.com
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