Serious music is dead. Welcome to the Age of the Novelty Song. Welcome to the era of popular culture that — in the annals of history — will always be annotated with an asterisk and the abbreviation AYT (After YouTube) to indicate that its success was not a product of the radio or sales in record stores, but rather a manifestation of our collective psyche's inability to agree on anything but the most superfluous and novel of video trinkets. This is the Age of the Harlem Shake (more specifically, Not Really "The Harlem Shake" From Harlem but This Totally Different Kind of Mutant Shake Sort of Thing), when the marketplace will be flooded with the silliest of dances and we will all drown in the most pandering of conceptual conceits, all because Billboard has changed their algorithm. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here without a sense of humor.
OK, maybe that's an overreaction, but things have looked pretty dire since Billboard changed the formula for calculating the Hot 100. From the minute YouTube views were factored into the equation, there was frequent gridlock in the top two spots between the biggest viral phenomena of the past few months: Baauer's inescapable "Harlem Shake" and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' YOLO/boho-chic anthem "Thrift Shop," holding off heavy-hitters and radio hit-makers like Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Drake, et al. Y'know, the folks in whom major labels have invested years of manpower and millions — if not billions — of dollars grooming, producing and promoting. The radio stars are losing out to jokes that your mom forwards to you in an email long after the punch line has lost its punch. Billboard is now your crazy aunt who emails you long-since-debunked conspiracy theories.
But what of the Turquoise Jeeps of the world? What of the folks who went viral before going viral meant sudden and immediate access to the top of the charts? Are they just relegated to the dustbin of history, demoted to footnote status because their "Lemme Smang It" video got 10 million views before views counted? Should there not be some sort of program in which previous contenders for Most Unavoidable Internet Thing of the Week are allowed an honorary chart position, even if their week of glory is years passed? Shouldn't Keyboard Cat feel safe in the knowledge that his song was indeed a chart-monster? What of Nyan Cat? Or "Chocolate Rain" guy? Will they be included in an MTV "One Hit Wonders" talking-head show in the year 2033 because they exploded in a per-asterisk world?
What of these Internet phenomena that have as much if not more claim to the hearts and minds of America than your average pop star? Shouldn't it be stated that apartment fire victim turned YouTube celeb Sweet Brown — who don't have time for that — almost certainly has more cultural cachet and has touched more lives than, oh, Swedish House Mafia? And if we are going to hand over the reins to the unhinged hive-mind of the Internet and put a stake through the heart of serious music, should we not make sure that the stake goes all the way through, piercing the ventricles, shattering the ribs, and pinning serious music to the ground so that it never ever gets back up? We must ensure that all future Coltranes, all future Bachs, all future Enos are schooled in the ancient and venerated "Gangnam Style" and must invent a silly dance if they want their music to be successful. (Also: All compositions must include a portmanteau or pun that can be put into image macros and eventually bumper stickers, belt buckles, temporary tattoos, adult diapers and so on.) The future of music has little to nothing to do with music — and that's no joke.