The term "YouTube Star" probably conjures images of trendy-looking teenagers cracking wise about celebrities and relationships, that terrible guy crying about Britney Spears, or the guy who plays songs by farting with his hands somehow. That's because up until this point, YouTube stars were nothing more than people who happened to make videos that got watched for whatever stupid reason. Few and far between are people with actual talent, and most of those rare folks are just entertaining on YouTube long enough to "go viral" and get a guest appearance on a talk show, as if being watered-down and consumable by the lowest common denominator were some type of desirable goal. It's actually kind of pathetic.
There is an antithesis to this depressing self-manufactured stardom. His name is Tonetta, an unassuming guy from Toronto who writes his own songs and records them on some scratchy lo-fi equipment in his home. He has a crude but oddly sexy style, and an uncountable number of songs under his belt. He is more deserving of being called a star than any other personality on YouTube.
If that's not convincing enough for you: He dances and performs, usually in front of a homemade backdrop, usually half-naked, in music video recordings that look like they were done on an old VHS camcorder with charmingly dated video effects.
And if that's still not enough for you: He's been at it for over 26 years. Twenty. Six. Years. No shit.
Since well before YouTube or the Internet, this guy has been putting pen to paper, writing these songs and filming videos strictly for love of the game. Year in, year out, over and over. I'd like to share with you a few of my favorites in hopes that you'll get something out of it and let me know that I'm not wrong for thinking this man is something special.
|DRUGS DRUGS DRUGS |
Though he doesn't usually touch on drug themes, this song is legitimately very good and accessible. Relatively low recording quality aside, you could totally get away with playing this at a party.
|Big Rig |
A good song and probably my favorite video production. It has exactly the right mix of "Professional avant-garde music video" and "Possible clue recovered from crime scene" to remain interesting after repeated viewings.
|$ VIRAL $|
Commentary on our media-saturated, 15-minutes-of-fame world? Or is it all an elaborate setup to make use of the verse "He said he forgot to pee / She said she forgot to shit / Open to the public, piss and shit / No one gives a fuck anymore"? It's the first one of course, but it's such a good song that I wouldn't mind either way.
|Sweet & Sexy |
After having one of his accounts suspended, a simple electronic beat delivers a totally valid criticism of YouTube's arbitrary censorship policies, and somehow is still a jam. Bikini and freaky mask included.
|G & B SHOWERS |
Definitely Tonetta's catchiest song, with catchy subject matter to boot. With no nicer way to put it, Toni reveals that he wants to be your drain tonight. Spoiler warning: Near the end of the video, it is revealed that Tonetta is trapped in one of those crystal space prisons ala Superman II.
|81 Inch Prime Ass |
The song that originally started it all for me. I still find myself humming this one every week without provocation. The colorful balloons / gyrations combo is probably what burned this ballad directly into my gray matter.
The kind of attitude he puts forth in his songs and videos suggest to me that he's mainly writing and performing for himself. He comes across as not trying to prove anything to anybody else. Most of his songs have surprisingly few views given the kind of quality he's put into them, which just goes to show that there's absolutely no accounting for taste on the Internet. He's had the chance to perform for a live audience, even begged by people to make an appearance, but has declined every time. Perhaps he doesn't want to be a star. Maybe he's just a weird-ass dude doing it for himself as an outlet, and maybe that's what art actually is.
After years of being misunderstood, I had hoped we finally had "our" story. I was wrong.
He had a yellow inflatable tube around his waist, the kind with a comical duck head. There was a tiny fish in one of his hands, and a trident in the other. In the background a squirrel wearing shades was water skiing.
For fans of meaningless awards, these awards are extra meaningless.
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