Posted by Carine in September's Magazine
Viral campaigns are two a penny these days, with everyone from denim manufacturers to the Government going down that route. Sometimes they’re interesting and worth a five-minute perusal on your lunch break, but sometimes this 21st century marketing wonder is so well executed it grabs your attention and won’t let go.
If you follow the music press you might already be familiar with the phenomenon known only as iamamiwhoami. This mysterious project, which began posting music and videos on YouTube in December, has caused quite a stir on the web. The people behind it didn’t just YouTube to propagate their virus. They wanted influential music journos to write about them, so to bait them they emailed links to their viral teasers from an iamamniwhoami gmail account. Then in March they sent a series of packages to various renowned blogs and websites including Pop Justice and MTV, where journalist James Montgomery received a brown envelope containing human hair, splinters of balsa wood and a single strip of paper depicting drawings of animals.
Tree licking video
The first, and subsequent twelve videos on YouTube feature a blonde woman wearing the longest false eyelashes you’ve ever seen. The first six videos are titled with numerical code which when indexed against the alphabet spell out words such as ‘educational’, ‘I am’, ‘it’s me’ and ‘welcome home’, and each video ends with a drawing of a different animal (the same series of animals in the drawing sent to James Montgomery). In these short films the mysterious blonde woman interacts with trees in a way that would send shivers down the spine of a dendrophiliac. The latter videos are simply titled with single letters that spell out the word ‘bounty’.
However, it’s not just about the visuals. The music is an addictive dreamy cinematic electro featuring breathy, effected and often unintelligible female vocals which sound something like Roisin Murphy, Liz Fraser and Kate Bush’s love child.
The person or persons behind the project remains something of a mystery. There were initial internet murmurings that it was Christina Aguilera (which seems so utterly inconceivable it’s difficult to imagine how anyone could’ve come up with such a notion) but her record company nipped this in the bud by categorically stating that she is 100% not involved. Then followed suggestions that it was Madonna (yawn); Lady Gaga (double yawn); Bjork (the weirdness factor); that Swedish electro pop duo The Knife were behind it (there’s definitely a Nordic vibe); and there was the idea from some quarters that it was Alison Goldfrapp but when she was quoted as saying “if people want to say we’re behind that girl-licking-tree video, that’s fine”, the idea waned somewhat.
Echoes of David Lynch
It has now become widely accepted that the blonde woman in question is in fact Swedish singer-songwriter Jonna Lee, whose usual style is guitary-folky-sing-songy-nicey-nice. In the latter videos the singer can be seen quite clearly and it certainly appears to be her. It also turns out she registered the domain name of iamamiwhoami’s website, iambounty.com, on 23 June 2009. However, her record company claims no knowledge of her involvement in the project. The producers remain unknown, as are the team behind the stunning videos although MTV Brasil have claimed that Viktor Kumlin directed the video for ‘o’. Whoever’s responsible, they clearly know what they’re doing and have money to play with. These extraordinary films echo a cross between David Lynch and a particularly dark Tim Burton in their levels of surreality.
Sound confusing? Well, it is really. You should look at iamamiwhoami’s YouTube channel, watch the videos in sequence, and see if you can resist being a little bit freaked out and utterly enchanted at the same time. If you’re feeling really geeky and you’ve got time to kill, there’s a 483 page-long thread on the Pop Justice forums that is full of opinion and hearsay and makes for entertaining reading. A quick Google search will throw up various sites with theories about the complex imagery in the videos. There’s the matter of the apparent fixation with the number 6, and all the birth, dualism and bounty theories. A brilliant detailed breakdown of all this can be found at www.forsakenorder.com which studies the semiotics to the nth degree.
(At the time of writing) the latest video, titled ‘y’ was posted at the beginning of August, and there continues to be speculation as to whether there will be more, what it all means, and who exactly is behind it. One thing’s for sure: there are thousands of fans out there waiting with baited breath to find out.