Go Ahead. Sell Out.
Maybe you’ve seen it already. Maybe you haven’t. But poke around on Facebook for a few minutes and you are likely to come across it in some cousin’s feed. It’s the latest video from rock band OK Go and it’s called “The One Moment” and it’s been viewed over 17 million times in the last week, just on Facebook.
And it’s “brought to you by Morton Salt.”
This really annoys me. Granted, I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to create art that can pass as a commercial and be seen by millions of people in seven days. But I also grew up listening to punk and hating guys who played sports, so there is a part of me that always gets a little resentful when things I like get “too popular.” (I know this is stupid. Bear with me…)
I bought my first OK Go CD from a Target in Arkansas in 2002 during my sophomore year of college. Rock radio was playing this catchy song called “Get Over It” and the album was full of fun, if kind of cheesy, power pop songs.
I liked the band. I never loved them. And within the next year, I’d kind of forgotten about them, figuring they were destined to head toward that nostalgic purgatory where most bands of that style and period ended up.
But then OK Go figured something out before most people in their industry. They figured that the music video wasn’t dead – it had just moved to the internet. And they recorded themselves performing their songs in unique ways or places – think running on treadmills or without the help of gravity – and they played with colors and lights and illusions and uploaded it to YouTube.
And it worked.
Actually – that is an understatement. It made OK Go not just a band, but innovators, game-changers, and in a time when the cash was starting to disappear from the music industry – MONEY makers. They took this skill they’d discovered and got big brands involved to help: Chevy, Google and now Morton Salt.
In “The One Moment,” the band created literally just four seconds of action – paint flying, guitars breaking, chaos everywhere (much of it involving salt) – and then slowed the footage down to make it a four-minute video. And if you don’t realize there is salt flying through the scenes, the lead singer walks around with a yellow umbrella and you see the Morton Salt Girl at one point. It’s fully branded.
And yes. This annoys me. OK Go are sellouts.
But after rolling my eyes while viewing “The One Moment” last week, I clicked the comments on the Facebook post.
The first one I saw read like this:
My 4-year-old son is autistic, so sometimes getting his attention is tricky. Your videos always make him clap and sing. He just loves the colors (and when you were on sesame street it was just perfect!) He insisted on watching this one twice in a row. Thank you for giving me a great moment with my son!
I have a son around that age. We listen to music together daily. My heart softened a little and I scrolled.
And there was another comment from someone else: Their videos were the only thing that would calm our son with ASD during a meltdown. Now they're a part of our family
I kept scrolling. There was a whole thread of families coping with autism who had found comfort from this band - people finding community in tough circumstances because of these videos.
And then there were other comments and threads. Some were about depression. Some were about weddings. Teachers from all over the country chimed in to talk about how they have used OK Go in the classroom.
And then I noticed that OK Go was responding personally to a lot of these posts.
“Please tell him we said hello!” they said to a woman with an autistic son.
“Take care of yourself!” they wrote to the girl in Mexico who is fighting depression.
Reading it all became a little overwhelming. There was real, life-changing stuff happening here.
And I was thinking that band would be better if they didn’t take the money a salt company gave them.
Sometimes selling out is bad. Sometimes it can empower art and creativity and change lives.
Has anyone seen my OK Go CD?