You can only do something for the first time once.
After you have your first… oh, I don’t know, pancake, you can never have pancakes for the first time again.
Before you think I’m stoned out of my mind…I’m not.
… I’m actually going somewhere with this idea.
Do you remember the first time you heard your favorite song?
And after it became your favorite song, did you get a kick out of playing it for your friends?
Did seeing their reaction make you happy? Well, I mean, if they liked it. I think this used to happen more when we sat around listening to records. It sometimes happened with CDs, too.
But once you could make a mixtape on cassette or burn an CD-R of your favorite new songs, you weren’t necessarily around when your friends listened to it. You might not have seen the smile, or the shrug, or the CD getting thrown in the trash.
These days you can text your friend a link to a Spotify playlist, that they may – or may not click.
Sharing music in person is a little thing of joy that we’ve sort of lost, but the Information Age has brought us a replacement.
Instead of friends, we can see complete strangers listen to our favorite songs for the first time. If we subscribe to their YouTube or Patreon channels, we get to know these strangers. It’s almost like they’re actually friends.
Reaction videos have become a very popular part of YouTube.
The basic idea is someone records a video while listening to a song they’ve never heard before and reacts to it in real time.
Just like your friends did when you played “Gangnam Style” for them.
There are reaction videos for movies, TV shows, memes, and other YouTube videos. But let’s focus on the music ones.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of music reaction channels.
If I’m honest, some aren’t that good. They’re either low quality technically, with bad lighting or audio, or the reactions aren’t insightful or fun.
The good reaction videos are appealing because you simultaneously have the nostalgia of an old song and the reactor’s shock of the new. If the reactor is personable, funny, smart, or otherwise charismatic, reaction videos can be good fun – even with songs you don’t like.
One of the best parts is seeing someone discover new artists and immediately want to hear more of their songs. This won’t happen in the case of one hit wonders, but if someone listens to, say, The Beatles for the first time, subscribe to that channel. They’re about to start a music discovery journey.
That’s exactly what happened on a channel called Call Me Caroline.
She did that with their first album and one of the commenters said she should listen to all the albums in chronological order.
So she did. Here’s that first one:
In Caroline’s case, it was her age that left her unfamiliar with The Beatles.
For Elizabeth Zharoff on a channel called The Charismatic Voice, it was the genre she didn’t know.
But after listening to Rock and Metal, she’s become a fan of that kind of singing, too.She not only reacts to the music, she stops frequently – sometimes too frequently – to describe what the singers are doing with their voices and the music theory behind the songwriting. It’s technical, so it’s good for singers and musicians, but she makes it interesting for non-musicians, too.
Here’s her analysis of “Chop Suey” by System Of A Down. She may have perfect pitch because she turns around and plays the chords on the keyboard without having heard the song before:
Beth Roars is another vocal instructor with a reaction channel.
But her ability to describe how voices work makes it easy to appreciate the thought that goes into each vocal performance.
She doesn’t do a lot of that in her reaction to REM’s “Shiny Happy People,” but she did her research and described the song’s origin. I didn’t know the story, and it puts the song in a new light:
There are also Classical composers reacting to Metal. Rappers reacting to Swing. And Metal guys reacting to Jazz.
But lest you think all reaction channels are run by professional musicians, some of the best are done by people who know very little about music.
One of my favorites is Rob Squad Reactions.
He grew up listening to Rap and she listened to Country, so it was fun to watch them make beginners’ mistakes about Rock and Pop and Jazz as they learned.
Watching a Traveling Wilburys song, they recognized Tom Petty and Roy Orbison from previous videos and wondered if the other three, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison, were famous, too.
They know better now.
Their channel is two years old. Amber has progressed from being shy in front of the camera to jumping in with really astute observations. They tend to put a positive spin on everything and like 98% of the songs they hear, so they could probably be a little more discerning. But finding the joy in everything is a skill a lot of us could use.
Still, they had a little trouble with “Rock Lobster” by The B-52s, and their utter confusion makes it a fun watch:
One of the first reaction channels I stumbled on is by Jamel_AKA_Jamal.
Other channels have the same trouble and will allude to having videos blocked. But, like Beth Roars, Jamal is perpetually positive, and his motto is “Be a good human.” This is how he reacted to “The Weight” by The Band with The Staples.
The channel I’ve discovered most recently is called MerchantOfAlba.
They’ve recently moved to England. She didn’t think she would like Heavy Metal, but she’s into it now. Here’s the first time they reacted to Rammstein.
However, I think that the song you should judge any reaction channel by is the live version of “Hocus Pocus” by Focus.
Almost every channel does it eventually, and whether they take its artistry seriously or dismiss it as weird tells you what you need to know about the reactor.
I recommend this reaction by The Fairy Voice Mother.
She is able to describe how Thijs van Leer sings and plays the flute at the same time.
She also gives a brief yodel instruction – but the real fun is her amazement:
If you haven’t watched reaction videos before, search YouTube for your favorite song and the word “reaction.”
There’s a certain joy in watching someone hear it for the first time, which is something you’ll never be able to do again.
I’ll list some other good channels below. Thanks for reading.
And, in the words of Andrei, “Have a lovely day and all the best.”
- The Vocalyst – another voice instructor – https://www.youtube.com/@TheVocalyst
- The Daily Doug – a Classical composer and music professor who does a lot of Prog Rock – https://www.youtube.com/@Doug.Helvering
- Alex & Andy – two college students who bobble-head through every song – https://www.youtube.com/@andyandalex
- Brad and Lex – another young non-musician couple learning about 20th Century music – https://www.youtube.com/@BradAndLex
- Lost In Vegas – two rap fans who research the songs before listening to them and aren’t shy about saying they don’t like a particular song – https://www.youtube.com/@LostInVegas
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