Ever since the search field usurped the role of smug record shop clerk, there have been musicians eager to game the system and get you to listen to them by mistake. In February Abraham Riesman interviewed SEO rapper A1 MoufPiece who was extremely candid about why he’s doing why his songs have familiar sounding names like “Kreayshawn and “"N****s in Paris." “Song titles are named for marketing purposes only," he told Riesman. His manager told Abe that people on the internet are mostly idiots.
And A1 and Jay Cofield, the manager, aren’t the only ones who figured out that they could fool people into hearing something they weren’t looking for. Each of this year’s big shark of a release was followed by smaller suckerfish singles and EPs by unknown artists, who hope that the last two or three record executives in the world sometimes use Spotify drunk. Call it the year in Shadow Pop.
To be clear, my compilation is only of SEO-named (and occasionally thematically related) knock-offs, which excludes any of the many cover versions rippling just below the surface of latest major hit on Spotify. These are just the works that are named almost the same thing.
One ironic aspect of the SEO artist is that he often seems to have mastered just this one aspect of the internet. Some of them, like repeat pretender Brant Ivory, have their music on Spotify, iTunes, Rhapsody, Google Play—just everywhere—but looking for other information about the artist leads only to dead ends.
So as much as you might like his original work “Yeezus” that track, its companions like “Chainz2” and Ivory’s Beats-by-Dre-cribbing logo are about all you have to go by, other than Ivory's vague connection to the Bay Area.
Man, there are tons of people riding on the coat tails of the word Yeezus on there.
Others are savvy enough to know that music isn’t big enough, you’ve gotta have a persona attached to it. After you’re done checking out this track off of "Magna Carta Holy Grain (Custom Beats) [Instrumental]" (very agile SEO), you can learn more about its composer K-Skeem via his Wikipedia [user] page.
Zippy Kid is the Russian “King of Abstract Hip-Hop” with a wide scope of optimized targets. He has an album called “The Return of Ziggy Stardust” as well as his own version of “Wrecking Ball,” which no one in the world could mistake for Miley Cyrus’s.
Zippy Kid also occasionally leaves subtly behind completely and has songs called “I Am Fond of Swindle” and “2Chainz, do you want to buy this beat for 8500$?” He’s really prolific and probably warrants another look, since I can’t really tell whether the song title “I want to be signed with Cash Money Records” is serious or not. Zippy Kid’s abstract guitar work is a little reminiscent of Lil Wayne’s playing.
Occasionally one’s SEO game gets in the way of having a cohesive persona. Take for example, Calvin Spencer. Under his own name he released a single called “ARTPOP” in homage to Lady Gaga’s tepidly received album, but you’d never know that he was involved with “Twerk (Feat. Justin)” by Miley was unless you also found that same track on the NYC Mafia/Calvin Spencer joint under the title “Twerk Miley (Feat. Desirous Cyrus).” That’s a pity, because it’s kind of great.
SEO musicians occupy a legal gray area. Technically the First Amendment covers artists who are using anything—even titles—noncommercially. But an IP lawyer warned Riesman that legal liability could come into play if the title "has no artistic relevance to the work at all, or is explicitly misleading as to as to the source or the content of the work."
Surely unrelated to Drake’s album “Nothing Was The Same,” this track by D.R.A.K. is called “Nothing Was the Same." You aren't being mislead by this track because, unlike Drake, the album artwork starts at the bottom and stayed focused there.
Sometimes an album’s popularity as a cover gums up SEO imitation. Katy Perry’s album “Prism” is already the name of an ‘80s band, and the smash single “Roar” launched a thousand covers, making work that’s original in everything but title impossible to find. Albums that share a title with Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” came out in 2008 and 2011, so thematically it’d be hard to fit them on this list. (Zippy Kid’s most imitative work is his “Random Access Memories” song, though, for whatever that’s worth.) The closest I could find—apart from the actual song “Eye of the Tiger”—was a song that, I guess, you’re supposed to leave on for your cat while you’re gone.
Likewise, it feels unlikely that the Spanish-language artist Lorde was looking to get residual traffic from the New Zealand teenager, something that Spotify helped prevent by giving each of them their own artist page. I wonder if I can write to Spotify to have them separate out the electronic Javelin from the metal Javelin and get that weird relaxation music and (more) metal off of the late 60s band Spirit’s page.
And with some tracks its hard to tell. Is DJ Pimp’s “Chillin – Artpop Prism Deluxe Remix Version” off the album “Club Bangerz Deluxe” a shrewd triple SEO move or is just a really zeitgeisty comment on our time?
I don’t know, but I would like to wrap this up by saying that I don’t think any of these artists are attempting to cynically cash in on anything. On the contrary, I think they’re trying to follow their dream in a business that has pretty much collapsed. Actual Katy Perry rented a truck that drove across the country to promote her album and she has the backing of Capitol fucking Records.
So that was part of pop in 2013—when Kayne's big album looked like a bootleg CDR, Beyoncé eskewed hype, and, sometimes, faking it became indistinguishable from making it.