Commentary

Grand Rapids Epic Dub Flips the Bird to NY Media

MusicVideo

If one of your colleagues hasn't forwarded the Grand Rapids LipDub video yet this morning, give it a few minutes. Check your inbox. We'll wait.

There, got it?

In direct response to being named in an article picked up (but not penned) by Newsweek as one of the nations "dying cities," the makers say "We disagreed strongly, and wanted to create a video that encompasses the passion and energy we all feel is growing exponentially, in this great city." The ten-minute production gathered 5,000 people into the city's downtown to do an impressive one-take super-dub of a live version of Don McLean's American Pie. Directed deftly by Rob Bliss of Rob Bliss Events, the video cost $40,000 and was sponsored by nearly thirty local and national companies (metroPCS, Krispy Kreme and Amway Grand Plaza Hotel among them).

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The video tracks through downtown, with various everyday folk, local politicians and celebs captured with guitars, getting married, jogging, waving, and goofing. The synchronization comes and goes, and the usual combination of stiff everyday Joes and Janes with the local show-offs and enthusiasts are in evidence - all part of the video's charm. Even those who are not familiar with the landscape of Grand Rapids will want to watch it through to the end or fast forward to the final pull away helicopter shot of the full downtown area and a plug to visit.

As the video nears a million views this morning, it is now as much about the back and forth between Newsweek and the city as it is about the "did you see that?" video. For its part, Newsweek clarified that the 'dying cities" crack actually came from a story the site picked up from Mainstreet.com. Truth be told, that story actually had been posted in January, and Grand Rapids simply had just cracked a list of ten that has seen population declines (per the U.S. census). But it was only when a content sharing agreement with Newsweek thrust the story onto the magazine site recently that Grand Rapids folk caught the sniff of media elitism and a clear shot at populist revenge.

Maybe the most interesting part of the fun back and forth is how video itself is a part of broader cultural conversations. Video posting online is being used as a punch and counter-punch. In the process, however, we also get conversational pieces like this that are not flat-footed and literal. Would a one-shot stand-up from the Mayor of Grand Rapids refuting the 'dying city' claim have gotten anyone's attention, let alone sponsor support? Video is now a part of the online idiom. But the good part is that it brings to the conversation a broader range of expression. In this case, the video dramatizes effectively what it argues - the vitality of the city as expressed by its people's enthusiasm and civic pride, if not their Karaoke skills. 
3 comments about "Grand Rapids Epic Dub Flips the Bird to NY Media".
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  1. Andrew Budkofsky from Rolling Stone, May 31, 2011 at 2:12 p.m.

    Sight, sound and motion. The best way to get a message across. Great article Steve, thanks for bringing this one to my attention!

  2. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, May 31, 2011 at 3:13 p.m.

    With apologies to Roger Ebert (with whom I rarely disagree), this ISN'T the greatest music video of all time. I'd give that award to an earlier "lip-dub" from Grand Valley State University, located (coincidentally) just outside Grand Rapids, and which likely inspired local event Wunderkind Rob Bliss to stage this event.

    For my money, it's a better ride. But watch both and decide for yourself.
    http://www.gvsu.edu/lipdub/

  3. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, May 31, 2011 at 3:14 p.m.

    Trying to make the link work better:
    <a href="http://www.gvsu.edu/lipdub/">Click here for another eye-opening lipdub, this from Grand Valley State University</a>

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