Can YouTube stars find fame offline?

My favorite YouTube star/enigma of the moment, Tay Zonday, was on Jimmy Kimmel Live Wednesday night, showering the late-night show host and his audience with a deluge of “Chocolate Rain.” Jimmy Kimmel isn’t the only non-YouTube personality who has caught on. Even singer/guitarist John Mayer caught Zonday’s video, which led him to present a slightly NSFW spoof on VH1’s Best Week Ever.

Still, if you don’t know who Tay Zonday is don’t feel bad; I only heard about him a few weeks ago when my cube neighbor, Chris Schonberger, sent me a link to the video below, of a man singing in a very deep voice. Days later, I was still astounded, sending Chris IM inquiries like: “Who is this guy?” and “Is this a joke?” Usually, Chris seemed as clueless as I did. Hence:

Me: What is”Chocolate Rain” about?
Chris: Everything.

OK, so maybe it isn’t about everything. This L.A. Times article (believably) points to racism as the song’s subject. But it takes a while to get past Zonday’s low voice, and the awkward way he leans away from the mic about 40 every seconds (to breathe in, he tells us). Did you notice the reactions from Kimmel’s audience? They range from utterly confused to hysterical.

But with more than 4.5 million views recorded, perhaps people have listened to “Chocolate Rain” enough times to realize it’s more than just an Internet joke.

This got me thinking about YouTube celebrities like Esmée Denters, the Dutch teenager, who got Justin Timberlake’s attention from videos of her singing songs like Beyoncé’s”Irreplaceable,” Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic,” and Mario’s “Let me Love You.” JT has signed her on his new label and will be bringing the Internet phenomenon on tour with him this summer. (Really, who needs American Idol when you have YouTube?)

Even the foul-mouthed shoe-fetishist Kelly (a.k.a. Liam Sullivan) has a viable YouTube following, not to mention, follow-up. Watch Sullivan’s brand-new (and still NSFW) clip, in which Hollywood execs try to make Kelly a household name.

Well, can they? Do those “Hollywood execs” stand a chance with Kelly? Can Tay Zonday make a lasting statement about racism (or anything else) from his low-budget recordings? Will Esmée Denters have a career after Justin’s tour ends?

Sound off below. Answers in the form “Chocolate Rain” renditions are welcome.


Comments (13 total) Add your comment
  • Stephanie T.

    My boyfriend David and I were watching Jimmy Kimmel yesterday morning. At first I did not get the punchline of Tay’s video until I heard him talking to Jimmy. I was like Whaaa? The voice does not match his body. It’s funny.

  • GingerCat

    The whole Tay Zonday segment on “Best Week Ever” was hilarious. But I don’t like the guy’s long-term chances of success. One of the drawbacks of sites like YouTube is that the “fame” that’s derived from them is ephemeral. Usually it only takes a few weeks before everyone forgets about one act and moves on to the next.

  • Hi

    I don’t know exactly why, but when something like that is on the internet it seems unique, interesting and charming. But once it gets the tv treatment it feels wrong. I kind of felt sorry for Tay Zonday having to sit up there for everyone’s amusement. Something just didn’t feel right about it.

  • Gretchen Weiners

    I’m still cracking up over last week’s BWE and the Chocolate Rain segment. Sadly, I think Tay is a one hit wonder though. Maybe he can follow up with Purple Tornado or something. Let’s get some shoes, betch.

  • furry_tom

    Why are they trying to get Kelly to hock cereal? She should be selling Cunnigham Muffins. Everyone knows that muffins make the best breakfasts.

  • Shawn

    I’m apparently the only one in the world that doesn’t get the shoes video. I think it’s horrid like a bad MadTV sketch a.k.a. any MadTV sketch.

  • Honeybee

    I always felt bad for William Hung, like he didn’t understand that people weren’t laughing with him but rather at him. I don’t know if Tay quite understands the reason for his fame. But maybe he does. Maybe he’s trying to laugh all the way to the bank.

  • Vivi

    I am dying over here. I mean “Chocolate Rain” is some kinda of weird. Just weird. But yet I can’t stop laughing. I mean, that video has everything. A singer w/ a bass voice that can’t sing. A song that makes absolutely no sense and doesn’t rhyme. A piano…can’t go wrong with a piano. And some type of 80s feel production going on. I can see why it’s popular right now.

  • donner

    Chocolate Rain…
    Our Local radio jocks play the song every day…
    Chocolate Rain…
    I don’t know the words, but I laugh just the same…
    Chocolate Rain…
    How does a little guy have such a big voice?..
    Chocolate Rain…
    Now, can you get this song out of your brain?

  • Zan.Bee

    Chocolate Rain is about racism. Listen to the lyrics again…

  • Zan.Bee

    Sample Lyric:
    “Chocolate Rain / Build a tent and say the world is dry / Chocolate Rain / Zoom the camera out and see the lie”
    Hmm, could that be a Katrina reference???

  • bskvl rlfne

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  • tayfan2

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE. Tay Zonday is still going strong. Regular tv watchers could get to know him too if only some show would make him a guest. House M.D. comes to mind. The “writer’s strike” has been a godsend to sites ike YouTube. I’ve watched an occassional news show and thats it on regular tv. They’re losing us. Pass it on.

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