Millions of people around the world -- from Sesame Street to Kunar Province -- have come together to share versions of the viral video hit of the summer.
Justin Bieber discovered Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" on the radio in his native Canada. Realizing it was the "possibly catchiest song [he'd] ever heard," he signed Jepsen and launched her single with his own lip dub on YouTube, starring Selena Gomez and a handful of his closest celebrity friends. The track became an instant viral hit -- it has over 200,000,000 views on YouTube, and Bieber's version has almost 50,000,000. Everyone, from the U.S. Olympic swim team to Cookie Monster, is spinning off versions left and right, racking up views on YouTube. The track is pure bubble gum pop but it's become an unstoppable meme, bringing literally millions of viewers together online. Each new "Call Me Maybe" video is a lighthearted act of participating in the fun and sharing a window into another world -- a day in the life of Katy Perry, or a day in the life of a bunch of kindergartners.
In the midst of the "Call Me" madness, U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan have shot and uploaded their own versions to YouTube. A YouTube search for "military Call Me Maybe" turns up dozens of videos. The recently uploaded video above, for example, was "directed, filmed, and edited by the troops as a morale boost for our Soldiers here and our families/FRG back home." Whatever your position on U.S. foreign policy, these are worth watching -- they're amazing. Whether the production is a scrappy and lo-fi, like the version above, or more polished and choreographed, like the version below, the military "Call Me Maybe" clips provide a glimpse into life on the ground in Afghanistan unlike any other audiovisual format. Maybe the videos are so evocative because they're so goofy. These extremely hardworking young people, thousands of miles from home, are taking a lunch break to shoot a funny video and laugh at themselves. Eric Raum, who created the video below, describes the project on his blog:
We showed up in the afternoon, and in true Marine fashion, everyone patiently listened, paid close attention, and within 30 minutes, had the dance down. With another 30 minutes to film, we wrapped things up and they got back to work. We headed out to the tarmac with the second group on the C-130 and it was no different. They quickly learned the steps, performed with vigor, said their goodbyes and got back to their jobs.
We roamed around base grabbing people from all lines of service to bust out their own dance moves for the rest of the video. Sometimes people think of the military in a de-humanized way. They hear ‘military’ and they think of it as a whole. What I’ve learned over here is how incredibly diverse each person is. Different hobbies, different skills, even different dance moves. I am always amazed at the amount of talent and creativity I see out here and it is a blessing to have the opportunity to show a glimpse of that to people back home.
Soldiers abroad have been shooting viral lip dub videos for years -- like this take on Lady Gaga's "Telephone" with over 6,000,000 views -- so the phenomenon is nothing new. The Wall Street Journal writes that these videos "may be no better sign that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is winding down." Yet something about them really hits home. Perhaps it's the fact that a lot of these soldiers aren't much older than teen pop star Justin Bieber. Or maybe it's the contrast between the ordinary -- singing a pop song on YouTube -- and the unfamiliar -- the dusty hills in the background. Or maybe it's that after a decade of war and the rise of social media, this is what a letter home from the front looks like. YouTube user TheChuckfive (who uploaded the video from Kunar Province) signs off: "See you in just a few more months, and thanks for all your support!"
Via Viral Viral Videos.