NTV Rerun: Tay Zonday’s Chocolate Rain

Happy birthday, Chocolate Rain, only two days late. You and I are both Tauruses! Which is a big reason to be skeptical of astrology and what it says about one’s personality. After all, Chocolate Rain, you are a heavily synthesized song about racism performed by a former grad student from Minnesota — a viral phenomenon that spread because people thought you looked funny and sounded funnier. As for me…well, let’s just say no one’s ever tried to mash me up.

And while Tay Zonday’s initial rise as a YouTube celebrity might have been built on mockery, it’s those mashups that have kept him active in online video culture. In celebration of Chocolate Rain‘s first anniversary, Zonday is selling a remix album, some proceeds from which will be donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Gannes asked me to write about the album’s announcement video, which plays samples from all 16 of the Chocolate Rain remixes. Spoiler alert: They sound pretty much the same. At some point in the near future, when this one, oh-so-recognizable synthesizer track is finally no longer stuck in my head, I might just forgive her.

Since his initial debut and subsequent viral spread, Zonday has performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live, sold out to Dr. Pepper, won a YouTube Video Award for Music, and been parodied on South Park — a pretty typical timeline for a has-been-to-be. Watching this video, though, it’s almost shocking to see how the Tay Zonday of today is so much more polished and personable than his original, stilted self; life as a celebrity has clearly made an impact.

The irony is that while it was his awkward persona that made his early videos so unforgettable, this new, slicker version is equally compelling. Perhaps it’s because he’s as earnest as ever — it’s his own lack of irony to which people respond. They respond either with respect or ridicule, mind you, but either way, they respond.