The YouTube Hall of Fame: Tay Zonday’s “Chocolate Rain”

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Okay, the YouTube Hall of Fame exists only in concept at the moment. But it will one day be a real place where you can visit and receive little guided tours from people who used to be sort of famous.

But it has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is here. So NMR: Weekend Edition is kicking off the YouTube Hall of Fame induction campaign. Every time we decide someone is a worthy inductee into the Hall of Fame, we build a case for why they deserve to be there. This does not mean they are in any actual HoF yet, we’re just telling you who we think ought to be in there and why they ought to be in there. Right now, we’re just saying, “Hey! This person, place or thing (yes, places and objects can be inducted — we’re like the Smithsonian that way) is/was an important part of making YouTube into the entity it is and is becoming.

This week’s entry: Tay Zonday’s “Chocolate Rain”

Say whatever you want about the oeuvre of Tay Zonday — his entire canon of work since this song dropped on the world seven(!) years ago (and believe me, I have), but “Chocolate Rain” not only deserves to be in YouTube’s Hall of Fame, it deserves to be the initial inductee. That’s straight up prestigious, yo!

Here’s why:

Tay is a frequent reader, occasional guest columnist and occasional disliker of me, so I will choose my words carefully. This song will never be equalled because it simply can’t be — “Chocolate Rain” hit YouTube in its still-infancy and EXPLODED like a hydrogen bomb. Sure, other clips hit a young YouTube hard — the “Numa Numa Guy,” the “Star Wars Kid,” the girl who pooped in a jacuzzi … but none of them was a creative effort in the way that “Chocolate Rain” was. None of those other videos spoke to the higher ideal that YouTube COULD be — that is to say that YouTube was to become a launching platform for musicians, humorists and all forms of talent. We didn’t know that at the time. “Chocolate Rain” wasn’t just amazing because it demonstrated sublime weirdness from a unique individual the world didn’t know existed, it showed us in the way that “The Gong Show” did in the middling years of television that ANYONE had the chance to become a star, talented or not. I’m not saying that Tay isn’t talented — he is — and his voice is amazing (my apologies for the double-negative back there), I would love to see him enter the voiceover arena. But “Chocolate Rain” and its accompanying video came from a place deeper than Tay could have ever dreamed. This oddball with his thicker-than-molasses voice on a wispy frame belting out a soulful ode to something completely esoteric gave people a sort of hope. And it introduced millions of people to YouTube (not all of them the kind of people who made YouTuber a more talented place).

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It’s an additional credit to Tay that he is one of the very few “original meme” creators still actively engaged on YouTube and that he has manufactured a career out of an obscure song that he says is about racism. He might never do anything that merits the attention that “Chocolate Rain” initially garnered him, but his hit song will never die out. Think I’m joking? Mention “Chocolate Rain” to any group of most any age in most any English-speaking country and they will have an opinion on it (we don’t count the young, infirm or elderly). That’s a powerful testament to an amazing ditty.

Some notations on the song (from Wikipedia):

— Has been viewed almost 100,000,000 times.
— “Chocolate Rain” is ranked as the hottest viral video of summer 2007 by CTV.
— It was awarded the 2007 YouTube Award in the category “Music”.
— Zonday got a “Web Redemption” for it on Tosh.0
— Has been parodied on South Park
— Referenced on Spongebob Squarepants.
— Song was used in a commercial campaign for Diet Dr. Pepper (Cherry Chocolate).
— Tay was in the iconic Weezer “Pork & Beans” video

There is a lot of culture in the zeitgeist that is YouTube, some things will take longer than you want to “get in” and some things that you think are totally deserving will NEVER get in. There is no chronology at play here, only items as we come across them and weigh their merit. That being said:

If there is something you absolutely think deserves to be in the YOUTUBE HALL OF FAME, recommend it in the comments below. And do some article sharing, wouldja?