LOS ANGELES (AP) — The year is 2023, but it might as well be 1997.
One of the great viral hits of the moment is DJ Crazy Times and Ms. Biljana Electronica’s “Planet of the Bass,” a parody song pulled straight from the absurdity of late ‘90s, early ’00s Eurodance music. Think Eiffel 65’s “Blue (Da Ba Dee),” or Crazy Frog’s “Axel F.” At the time of writing, the various versions of his song have surpassed over 250 million combined views across social platforms.
Confused? You’re not alone.
A clip of the viral tune — which features hilarious lyrics like “Life, it never die / Women are my favorite guy” — began to circulate in late July after comedian Kyle Gordon posted it on social media. The 50-second video, titled “Every European Dance Song in the 1990’s” and set inside the World Trade Center’s Oculus, featured a flame-haired emcee, DJ Crazy Times, alongside a woman with crimped blonde hair: Ms. Biljana Electronica, herself.
In reality, “DJ Crazy Times” — dressed in his signature black vest and baggy pants — was Gordon, who first developed the character in his college a cappella group as a David Guetta-esque DJ. He’s since evolved into “this weird, horny Latvian guy rapping,” as Gordon describes it. And while “Ms. Biljana Electronica” was played onscreen by content creator Audrey Trullinger, she was voiced by singer-songwriter Chrissi Poland.
“It’s the only session I’ve ever done in my whole career where I had to keep stopping as I was laughing so hard at the lyrics,” Poland says.
Poland doesn’t appear in any of the four videos for the song, an intentional decision satirizing Eurodance music videos where “they would just have these female vocalists sing tracks in the studio and then put models in,” she says.
“It was always meant to be a parody of this trope,” Gordon says. “Black Box’s ‘Ride on Time’ is another example — the song would be a hit, and then they would shamelessly put in models or actresses in the video.”
To some fans’ dismay, Trullinger was replaced in a second clip — featuring the same audio — by influencer Mara Olney, and then in a third clip by comedian Sabrina Brier. But she assumed her role as the original “Ms. Biljana Electronica” in the official music video for the song, released earlier this month.
Gordon says it has been “awesome to see this whole saga play out,” as “people argue over what the bit is” and root for their favorite version of Ms. Biljana Electronica. “To sort of see if slowly unfold and dawn on people, I think, was pretty funny.”
Gordon chalks up the success of “Planet of the Bass” to a few different causes: there’s nostalgia for this music, of course, but the timing was fortuitous.
The first clip hit TikTok around the tail end of the promotion cycle for the “Barbie” movie, which brought newfound attention to the 1997 hit “Barbie Girl,” by Danish-Norwegian Europop band Aqua.
“Eurodance generally might be in the zeitgeist,” Gordon says.
He adds that because his DJ Crazy Times character had evolved over the last decade, he didn’t feel like he was quick to jump on a trend, rather, that it was “just luck, that it timed out with where this song came out in the life of the ‘Barbie’ movie.”
Nate Sloan, a musicologist and assistant professor at the USC Thornton School of Music, said that upon first listen, “Planet of the Bass” straddled the line between parody and sincerity. Until DJ Crazy Times’ verse.
“Once he said, ‘Women are my favorite guy,’ I knew it was a joke,” says Sloan, who also co-hosts the “Switched On Pop” podcast.
The reason for any confusion is because, well, the song does demonstrate a deep understanding of the music it pulls from — source material that was already playful and less self-serious than other pop music forms.
“Aqua is perhaps the most obvious antecedent for the song,” Sloan says. “Musically, it doesn’t sound a lot like a song of theirs — say, ‘Barbie Girl.’ But it seems to be paying homage.”
“One thing I love is the interplay between the male and female singer,” he adds. “In a song like ‘Barbie Girl,’ they are constantly going back and forth. In ‘Planet of the Bass,’ DJ Crazy Times is giving little interjections at the end of each of Ms. Biljana Electronica’s lyrics.”
He cites a theory first posited by music journalist John Seabrook, which suggests that European — and in particular, Swedish — songwriters were so effective in the late 1990s and early 2000s because they focused on the sounds of words as opposed to their explicit meaning.
“Maybe counterintuitively, it made those songs more successful,” Sloan says. “The assonance of it, the rhyme of it feels really good. So maybe having an emphasis more on the sound of the words than the meaning is actually part of what makes this genre compelling.” (For his part, Gordon acknowledges he pulled from that music, but also cites “the butchering of the English language” inherent in ’80s Italo-disco as a formative lyrical influence.)
There’s also the music itself of “Planet of the Bass,” which Sloan defines as fast and syncopated, with elongated melodies bordering on operatic — which, considering the humor of the song, makes for an amusing tension.
There’s an argument to be made that mimicked music come and go in waves. In 2023, “Planet of the Bass” might not feel too dissimilar from, say, the parodic Lily-Rose Depp’s “World Class Sinner / I’m A Freak,” from “The Idol” — which uses the same chord progression and is recorded in the same key as The Weeknd ‘s “Can’t Feel My Face.”
Parody songs, Sloan theorizes, inspire moments of virality not only for their musical qualities, but because they are tied to a strong visual.
“There’s a continuum from ‘Planet of the Bass,’ to ‘World Class Sinner’ to ‘What Does the Fox Say’ to ‘Gangnam Style,'” he says — and with the exception of “Gangnam Style,” few linger as hooks in the cultural imagination.
“I’m skeptical these songs have longevity as musical material than comedic, audio-visual sketches,” Sloan says.
But perhaps longevity is antonymic to virality — these songs are a lot of fun even if for a short amount of time.
Associated Press journalist Haleluya Hadero contributed reporting.