The Adele Gauntlet: Decoding the Youtube Autoplay Function

odstrie

So you’re with a friend. They’re having a bad day and need cheering up. You pull up your trusty bookmarks and open “Cat In A Shark Costume Chases A Duck While Riding A Roomba” for them. The video is a success! You and your friend start swapping crazy animal and/or Roomba stories, and you get so into the conversation that you forget that Youtube is still open. All of a sudden, something else starts blaring through your speakers. Your entire world crumbles around you. As your friend runs for cover, they shout an unintelligible stream of obscenities at you and are never heard from again.

What? You’ve never had this type of experience before? That must be why nobody’s written about this algorithm before. While it is at most a minor inconvenience among Google’s many attempts to wring video views (and accompanying ad revenue) from the general public, it can very quickly affect what gets views driven to it (even views that only initiate the stream and play a tiny segment of the video count toward the total). And those views affect even bigger things, like the Billboard Hot 100. While unlikely, a particularly strong bent toward or away from certain songs may actually make the difference between a single reaching #1 or not (or perhaps charting at all or not).

So how to actually gain more information about a mechanism like this? The Youtube blurb on the autoplay is incredibly unhelpful:

The autoplay feature on YouTube makes it easier to decide what to watch next. After you watch a YouTube video on your computer, we’ll automatically play another related video based on your viewing history.

So obviously, there’s only one other way to find out. I pulled up a completely random song on Youtube and decided to let things flow from there. Originally, my goal was just to continue watching these videos, without any skips, until I reached something weirdly different, but 522 videos later, I can honestly say that I have learned more about myself, about Drake, about Teen Beach 2: The Movie, and about life than I could have ever imagined.

My liveblog of the 522 videos I watched at the mercy of the autoplay function can be found here.

While my findings are not easy to break down into categories, I’ve tried to sort them into four overlapping trends here.

1. The autoplay function tends to take you down familiar pathways. Over 522 songs, you are bound to get a fair number of repeats if you’re letting an algorithm pick a closely related video each time. However, the regularity with which certain songs would show up in a certain order was uncanny. Take the following four sequences of songs:

76    Hello    Adele
77    Someone Like You    Adele
78    Rolling In The Deep    Adele
79    Set Fire To The Rain (Live at the Royal Albert)    Adele
80    Turning Tables (Live at the Royal Albert)    Adele
81    Make You Feel My Love (Live on Letterman)    Adele
82    Don’t You Remember (Live on Largo)    Adele
83    I Can’t Make You Love Me (Live)    Adele
84    Chasing Pavements    Adele
85    Hometown Glory    Adele
86    Rumor Has It    Adele
87    One and Only    Adele
88    Skyfall    Adele
89    Diamonds    Rihanna
90    Chandelier    Sia
91    Elastic Heart    Sia
92    Love Me Like You Do    Ellie Goulding

126    Hello    Adele
127    Someone Like You    Adele
128    Rolling In The Deep    Adele
129    Set Fire To The Rain (Live at the Royal Albert)    Adele
130    Turning Tables (Live at the Royal Albert)    Adele
131    Make You Feel My Love (Live on Letterman)    Adele
132    Don’t You Remember (Live on Largo)    Adele
133    I Can’t Make You Love Me (Live)    Adele
134    Chasing Pavements    Adele
135    Hometown Glory    Adele
136    Chasing Pavements    Adele
137    Don’t You Remember (Live on Largo)    Adele
138    Make You Feel My Love (Live on Letterman)    Adele
139    I Can’t Make You Love Me (Live)    Adele
140    One and Only    Adele
141    Hello    Adele
142    Someone Like You    Adele
143    Rolling In The Deep    Adele
144    Set Fire To The Rain (Live at the Royal Albert)    Adele
145    Turning Tables (Live at the Royal Albert)    Adele
146    Skyfall    Adele
147    Diamonds    Rihanna
148    Chandelier    Sia
149    Elastic Heart    Sia
150    Love Me Like You Do    Ellie Goulding

171    Hello    Adele
172    Someone Like You    Adele
173    Rolling In The Deep    Adele
174    Set Fire To The Rain (Live at the Royal Albert)    Adele
175    Turning Tables (Live at the Royal Albert)    Adele
176    Make You Feel My Love (Live on Letterman)    Adele
177    Don’t You Remember (Live on Largo)    Adele
178    I Can’t Make You Love Me (Live)    Adele
179    Chasing Pavements    Adele
180    Hometown Glory    Adele
181    Rumour Has It    Adele
182    One and Only    Adele
183    Skyfall    Adele
184    Diamonds    Rihanna
185    Chandelier    Sia
186    Elastic Heart    Sia
187    Love Me Like You Do    Ellie Goulding

462    Hello    Adele
463    Someone Like You    Adele
464    Rolling In The Deep    Adele
465    Set Fire To The Rain (Live At The Royal Albert)    Adele
466    Skyfall    Adele
467    Diamonds    Rihanna
468    Chandelier    Sia
469    Elastic Heart    Sia
470    Love Me Like You Do    Ellie Goulding

I have named this the Adele Gauntlet. The sequence is reminiscent of every attempt I made to learn programming: computers stuck in endless feedback loops. While the autoplay algorithm is sophisticated in many other ways, it still is unable to anticipate, from past watch history, a pattern of listening that most people would probably find aggravating or at least boring. (Certainly, when the loop was made up of Disney Channel videos, it was completely unacceptable.)

2. However, the autoplay function and its pathways are also incredibly sensitive to your watch history. There are two ways I can know this:

  • a. My pathway is unique. If you pull up “Hello” while not signed into Youtube, the first autoplay video (both when I started this experiment and at the time of posting) is “Focus” by Ariana Grande. The fact that my account did not go there is likely attributable, at least in part, to some very late nights a few years ago trying to fine-tune my kick-ass lower harmony to Someone Like You, right around the time when I first registered my current Youtube account. (Seriously, it’s a bomb-ass lower harmony. For real.) It may also be influenced by the fact that before I started this experiment, I had never listened to an Ariana Grande song on Youtube. (Problem?)
  • b. My pathway changed, twice. Notice that “Adele I” and “Adele III” above are exactly identical. However, “Adele II” and “Adele IV” are not. What happened? Well, in the middle of Song 134 (Chasing Pavements), I left the computer on which I was running this experiment, and I didn’t come back to it for two days. On a separate computer, I watched a ton of videos in the intervening time that had generally nothing to do with Adele or any of the artists listed above. As a result, when I came back and queued up Song 135 (Hometown Glory), the autoplay recognized that I hadn’t played Chasing Pavements recently and immediately marked it as my next autoplay video.
    • Oddly enough, after this switch flipped for the algorithm, I still got each song in the Gauntlet once (songs 135-150). Of course, since I was starting in a very different place in the order, my order was quite different…until Hello appeared again, at which point the autoplay went straight through the normal Gauntlet, skipping the songs I had just seen, until Skyfall appeared and I moved on to other artists.
    • Recognizing this, I tried to use this knowledge to my advantage to try to escape Disney Channel UK videos, although I can’t say for sure that it was why I did ultimately escape. However, this makes the next conclusion a logical step:

3. Your watch history can dictate not only pathways but also songs to both preference and avoid. Two examples:

  • a. Disney Channel creep. In this 522-video saga was a 219-video chunk from my new least favorite channel, DisneyChannelUK. I legitimately don’t even know why I took the time to link to them and give them any extra clicks. Please just don’t click on that link. While I did ultimately make my way out of Disney Channel territory, the algorithm had been clearly affected by the fact that I had just watched 200+ videos for whom the median viewer age was likely under 14. Here are the five songs, outside the Adele Gauntlet, that I saw twice before the Disney Channel saga and did not see a single time afterward:
    • Loyal—Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne, Tyga:
      Oh these hoes ain’t loyal (Oh no)
      Whoa these hoes ain’t loyal
    • Post To Be—Omarion ft. Jhene Aiko, Chris Brown:
      I might let your boy chauffeur me
      But he gotta eat the booty like groceries
    • All Eyes On You—Meek Mill ft. Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown:
      (What’s your name?) My name Nick
      (Where you from?) New York in this bitch
      (Choose and pick) You got the right one
      All them hoes, ain’t nothin’ like them
      N**** you know you’d never wife them
    • Only—Nicki Minaj ft. Drake, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown:
      Yo, I never fucked Wayne, I never fucked Drake
      On my life, man, fuck’s sake
      If I did I’d Minaj wid’ him and let ’em eat my ass like a cupcake
      My man full, he just ate, I don’t duck nobody but tape
      […]
      I never fucked Nicki cause she got a man
      But when that’s over then I’m first in line
      And the other day in her Maybach
      I thought God damn, this is the perfect time
      […]
      I never fucked Nic and that’s fucked up
      If I did fuck she’d be fucked up
      Whoever is hittin’ ain’t hittin’ it right
      Cause she act like she need dick in her life
    • 7/11—Beyoncé:
      Hold that cup like alcohol, oh let go like alcohol
      Hold that cup like alcohol, don’t you drop that alcohol
      Never drop that alcohol, never drop that alcohol
      I know you thinkin’ about alcohol, I know I’m thinkin’ bout that alcohol
  • Contrast these five songs with the four songs that did show up again:
    • Lean On—Major Lazer, DJ Snake ft. Mø:
      Blow a kiss, fire a gun
      We need someone to lean on
      Blow a kiss, fire a gun
      All we need is somebody to lean on
    • Uptown Funk—Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars:
      ‘Cause uptown funk gon’ give it to you
      ‘Cause uptown funk gon’ give it to you
      ‘Cause uptown funk gon’ give it to you
      Saturday night and we in the spot
      Don’t believe me just watch (come on)
    • See You Again—Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth:
      How could we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?
      Everything I went through you were standing there by my side
      And now you gonna be with me for the last ride
    • Sugar—Maroon 5: 
      When I’m without ya
      I’m so insecure
      You are the one thing, one thing
      I’m living for
  • All I’m saying is that if my account behaved like a twelve-year-old girl took it over suddenly, skipping Chris Brown tracks would be a thing I completely understand happening. (Although if I were entrusted with the Youtube supervision of a twelve-year-old, I’d probably still want them to watch this video. Which is why it’s probably good that I don’t have a twelve-year-old kid.)
  • b. Taylor Swift/Katy Perry/Meghan Trainor. I exited the Adele Gauntlet three times before ending up in the Disney Channel feedback loop. The first time, I was flung to the realm of electronic dance music before making my way back through some other very white types of music. The second time, a steady diet of David Guetta and Pitbull was a slight change. The third time, however, I was sent to Blank Space by Taylor Swift. This left turn then took me through All About That Bass and an odd mishmash of Katy Perry before descending into Disney madness.
    • Of course, on the back end, Adele IV cut out early in order to meander its way through nonoffensive pop music and once again return to Taylor Swift…and wouldn’t you know? The second ten-song sequence of Katy Perry was identical to the first.
    • Regardless of whether the Disney Channel specifically strengthened the propensity toward Taylor Swift and other nonoffensive pop or merely weakened the propensity toward club music, the end result was that that was (and in several later tests, still is) the direction Youtube pushed me in after I must have cried a thousand times, hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited, plan to swing from the chandelier, etc.

4. Perhaps most significant for real-life consequences, the autoplay tends to be biased toward current mainstream pop hits. This is not a one-off conclusion; I have separately reached the top 40 on new accounts from both the Beatles and the Everly Brothers (although both took longer than the ~50 songs it took from Chumbawamba). There are a number of factors at work here, but what this might mean for calculating streams (and, therefore, the Billboard charts) is important. So how does this work?

First: The autoplay rarely, if ever, evidences a long-term trend to take you significantly backwards in time. Here is the list of songs that were released at least four years before the previous song on the list:

  • Two Princes (Spin Doctors): 1993 vs. 1997
  • U Can’t Touch This (MC Hammer): 1990 vs. 1999
  • Just The Two Of Us (Will Smith): 1998 vs. 2005
  • Hey Ya! (Outkast): 2003 vs. 2007
  • Someone Like You (Adele): 2011 vs. 2015
  • California Gurls (Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg): 2010 vs. 2014
  • Hot N Cold (Katy Perry): 2008 vs. 2012

Of these seven, I’d previously played six of them more than once on my current Youtube account (with the exception of Just The Two Of Us), and the only multi-year jump adjacent to any of these songs was for Outkast’s Ms. Jackson (2000 vs. 2003), which I have previously left on repeat at work for forever (forever ever?).

But does the algorithm allow you to step back in smaller chunks? Well, yes and no:

releases
Blue represents video upload date; red represents song release date. Uploads tend to bottom out in 2009 because this was when most mainstream artists switched to a VEVO-sponsored account, something I still have no goddamn understanding of seven years later.

The video I started with was released in 1997. While I was bounced around pretty abruptly to other music easily identifiable as ’90s music, I was pushed forward in time primarily by two artists whose newer material correlates with higher viewcounts, even if it is less popular or less highly regarded. Consider the following sequences:

22    Summertime    DJ Jazzy Jeff/Fresh Prince    10,141,894 views    May 20, 1991
23    Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It    Will Smith    14,486,792 views    Jan 27, 1998
24    Miami    Will Smith    18,158,590 views    Nov 23, 1998
25    Switch    Will Smith    23,098,276 views    Feb 15, 2005

30    My Name Is    Eminem    69,902,544 views    Jan 25, 1999
31    Stan    Eminem    77,691,137 views    Dec 9, 2000
32    Cleanin Out My Closet    Eminem    106,668,174 views    Sep 17, 2002
33    The Way I Am    Eminem    67,558,477 views    Sep 7, 2000
34    Like Toy Soldiers    Eminem    203,551,128 views    Jan 24, 2005
35    Beautiful    Eminem    252,368,687 views    Aug 11, 2009

No, seriously, what is “Switch.” I listened to that song once for this project and again putting this hyperlink in, and I still don’t remember it. And Stan not having even close to the largest number of views in the second sequence is completely unforgivable (well, kind of, since the version I viewed on Youtube is censored to hell and hardly gives you the full impact of the song). This brings me to my second point:

Second (and perhaps the cause of the first): The autoplay tends to preference songs with higher viewcounts. Outside of the Disney Channel frolics, the average video view numbers gravitated toward the ceiling of currently contemplated video views (conflicting figures of speech 100% intended):

views.png
The line represents a rolling five-video average of views, smoothed to minimize visual clutter. Is fashion YOUR kryptonite?

It makes some sense as to why this is the case. A video with more views is more popular; therefore, more people will probably want to get there from their current video. Either the algorithm takes this into account directly, by looking for high-viewcount videos in the immediate related area, or indirectly, by determining what else other people have watched after watching the current video.

Even in taking the Disney Channel universe as its own beast, the algorithm definitely kept steering me to the most viewed videos. DisneyChannelUK has over 1500 videos (and adding more every day, as I heard over 200 times), and yet even though I viewed fewer than 100 distinct videos, this is what their “most popular” page looks like for me:

mostpopular.png

That’s nineteen of the top 25 videos on the channel that I’ve watched. And I swear none of them are the videos I watched after I actually got invested in one of the terrible shows I kept getting clips from. (I mean, uh, that didn’t happen.) And looking at the most viewed Youtube videos at the time I went through this ordeal, seven of the eight most viewed videos released after January 1, 2013 (Blank Space, See You Again, Uptown Funk, Shake It Off, Dark Horse, Roar, and All About That Bass) and seven of the ten most viewed overall came up, often more than once.

What were the exceptions, though? Two were Gangnam Style and Bailando, which I will address in the next point. The third was Baby, a video now nearly six years old, which makes it practically ancient by the standards of the release date chart above. Furthermore, it has more or less stopped gaining views at any appreciable rate at this point, having averaged fewer than 500,000 views per day for the last two years (by comparison, Hello has continued to average over ten million views per day):

viewsperdayfinal
I definitely only circled the Adele Gauntlet each time it happened to point it out and not because it makes the scatter plot look more legitimately like there is a strong upward trend.

If you’re still not convinced, I also ran a very quick test of Maroon 5 songs (and it wasn’t just because I was sad and wanted to listen to Songs About Jane). I took the first four singles from their first album, released in 2003, and tried to see what I would pull up as the first related video. You would probably expect that other singles from that album would show up first, right? Here are the results:

  • Harder to Breathe: Makes Me Wonder (2007)
  • She Will Be Loved: Misery (2010)
  • Sunday Morning: Sugar (2014)
  • This Love: Won’t Go Home Without You (2007)

Third: The algorithm recognizes formalized “streams” and “universes” of videos that are considered closely related due to demographic data, and it seems difficult to move between these streams unless you either a) exhaust everything within your current stream, or b) deliberately calibrate your watch history to bring two streams closer together.

What do I mean by that? For example, this is why I can start at a video of a mashup and never get anywhere other than other mashups. As much as you would expect that a Snoop Dogg—AC/DC mashup would be related to videos from each artist individually, most people who are looking for this kind of mashup are already broadly familiar with popular music and are craving absurdity, commentary, or what have you. Alternatively, consider the cases of both Gangnam Style and Bailando. Both are viewcount monsters, and I should have been pushed toward them eventually if I were going to leave the autoplay running for this long. However, K-pop is not a particularly common stream (or, heh heh, a MAIN stream) in American music, and neither is Enrique Iglesias’ style of Latin music either. (Chart performance suggests that Bailando’s success may be largely due to views from outside the United States.)

Strangely, pathways can create and enforce divides within a single artist or channel. In order for me to start at any of the ten Katy Perry videos in my list and get to the rest of her singles, I generally have to watch a couple videos near the bottom of the list (“exhausting” that stream), and then cut back to a video near the top of the list (deliberately inducing a break in my pathway). Even still, a good number of Perry’s earlier singles are completely missing from any attempt I make to bring them up on autoplay (although maybe that’s because of the problematic ones).

At the same time, pathways may lend themselves to movement between streams. My DisneyChannelUK escape was accomplished partially, as far as I can tell, because of a set of rap/hip-hop videos from a movie that likely did not demographically fit in with the rest of the DisneyChannelUK viewership. I do believe that the last 15 years of mainstream music has primarily developed by blurring the lines between culturally Black and culturally white popular music (which is a completely separate blog post…or ten). However, there are still readily apparent divides, and the places where that divide is bridged (or not, leading to a shift in genre or style) is useful to explore demographic shifts and trends regarding popular music (some of this rambling occurs in the live blog).

So what does this mean? If high viewcounts are actually relevant to the number of streams that get directed to a video through autoplay, what Google has done, in effect, with the autoplay function, is create a mechanism that drags you toward Top 40 radio. As a result, a significant autoplay push toward songs that already have high viewcounts will skew the Billboard numbers toward the tail end of a song’s true popularity. Although the effect is probably small (Youtube makes up one portion of the ~25% weight streaming services are given, and most streams are probably not autoplay-generated), if Youtube streams continue to rise and the autoplay function is embraced as normal by future generations, it could lead to all sorts of havoc on the Billboard charts. Songs that would frequently arise in autoplay could have much longer tails (and thus take longer to exit the Hot 100 once they have peaked). On the other hand, a song like Gangnam Style is going to be working at a disadvantage because even though it is wildly popular on Youtube, it is not being frequently autoplayed on the magnitude that a song like Hello might, for example, ultimately underselling its true popularity.

But what do I even mean by true popularity? Was that something the Billboard charts were ever measuring? Should it be something we actively encourage the charts to measure? Or maybe it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart.

adele-hello-video-2

For a liveblog of the 523 videos I watched to create this article, click here.

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Don’t Cry For Me Next Door Neighbor: A Youtube Autoplay Liveblog

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So you’re with a friend. They’re having a bad day and need cheering up. You pull up your trusty bookmarks and open “Cat In A Shark Costume Chases A Duck While Riding A Roomba” for them. The video is a success! You and your friend start swapping crazy animal and/or Roomba stories, and you get so into the conversation that you forget that Youtube is still open. All of a sudden, something else starts blaring through your speakers. Your entire world crumbles around you. As your friend runs for cover, they shout an unintelligible stream of obscenities at you and are never heard from again.

What? You’ve never had this type of experience before? That must be why nobody’s written about this algorithm before. While it is at most a minor inconvenience among Google’s many attempts to wring video views (and accompanying ad revenue) from the general public, it can very quickly affect what gets views driven to it (even views that only initiate the stream and play a tiny segment of the video count toward the total). And those views affect even bigger things, like the Billboard Hot 100. While unlikely, a particularly strong bent toward or away from certain songs may actually make the difference between a single reaching #1 or not (or perhaps charting at all or not).

So how to actually gain more information about a mechanism like this? The Youtube blurb on the autoplay is incredibly unhelpful:

The autoplay feature on YouTube makes it easier to decide what to watch next. After you watch a YouTube video on your computer, we’ll automatically play another related video based on your viewing history.

So obviously, there’s only one other way to find out. I pulled up a completely random song on Youtube and decided to let things flow from there. Originally, my goal was just to continue watching these videos, without any skips, until I reached something weirdly different, but 522 videos later, I can honestly say that I have learned more about myself, about Drake, about Teen Beach 2: The Movie, and about life than I could have ever imagined.

My distilled conclusions about how the autoplay functions can be found here.

A preliminary note: I use Youtube some for music, but typically just for individual songs, and only rarely for things that are either currently considered either “good” or “popular”. I would consider my musical tastes pretty broad, but I tend to appreciate satire/absurdity more than the typical person. I took this before I started this experiment:

youtube
I swear I was only listening to Hold On to make a parody about environmental law. I guess that doesn’t make it any better.

As a result, my hope was that all of the mashups and novelty videos I’ve watched on Youtube would influence what I was going to get, if not in the first few videos, then certainly by the time I hit video 20 or so. You can see for yourself how that played out.

All videos linked are the actual videos I viewed as opposed to the most popular mirror on Youtube. Year in parentheses is either release date (for songs) or upload date (for clips). Videos were viewed between December 16 and 23, and video viewcounts are as of December 24. 

  • 1. Tubthumping—Chumbawamba (1997). 15,719,976 views. I started here because I thought it would be a waste to carefully choose a real place to start. I think I was right. Anyway, here we go. I’ll probably at least go to 50 videos. I figure that’s enough time to get to somewhere that’s a little bit different than ’90s one-hit wonders.
  • 2. All Star—Smash Mouth (1999). 46,745,782 views. Why is William H. Macy in this video? FARGO HAD ALREADY HAPPENED. YOU ARE A REAL ACTOR, WILLIAM H. MACY. As for the song itself, I don’t have much to say other than this. (And maybe this.)
  • 3. I’m A Believer—Smash Mouth (2001). 14,439,131 views. The twist ending in this video (spoiler…alert?) is that after a number of cases of mistaken identity in trying to find a lady who dropped her keys and singing for 3:02 about love at first sight, lead singer Guy Fieri gives her back the keys, and then she recognizes him, and SHE asks HIM for his number. He says no, and then she starts to run after him. Delightfully subversive and not at all feeding into a separate but equally problematic trope, right? Right? Why are you looking at me like that???
  • 4. Walkin’ On The Sun—Smash Mouth (1997). 17,102,414 views. Do you think that if Shrek hadn’t tanked its legacy by releasing a bunch of terrible sequels that Smash Mouth would be regarded more highly today? Yeah, me neither.
  • 5. Two Princes—Spin Doctors (1993). 20,244,291 views. Also known as “the last time earflap hats were seen in a music video.” It’s probably fitting that the only association I have with this song is this.
  • 6. Breakfast at Tiffany’s—Deep Blue Something (1995). 13,675,002 views. Requirements for becoming the whitest music video of the ’90s:
    • set in New York
    • sunglasses that look like swimming goggles
    • reference other generally white things from not the ’90s in a manner that makes clear you don’t actually understand them
    • This:
      deepblue
  • 7. She’s So High—Tal Bachman (1999). 9,942,466 views. On second thought, videos set in cities that look like New York are acceptable as well.
  • 8. Save Tonight—Eagle-Eye Cherry (1997). 6,761,026 views. Say what you will about the ’90s, but it was really the last time that legitimate baritones could be found in mainstream music. I’m pretty sure the only reason that I’m not a highly successful songwriter is because Adam Levine’s songs are literally an octave outside of my range and I didn’t move to New York early enough to shoot a generic ’90s white people music video.
  • 9. Steal My Sunshine—Len (1999). 10,850,504 views. This is the first song here that I don’t recognize, and it won’t be the last. I am told that this song was on the album “You Can’t Stop The Bum Rush”. This sounds about right to me. We let the most ridiculous songs become one-hit wonders.
  • 10. How Bizarre—OMC (1995). 5,032,429 views. I take everything back. One-hit wonders are awesome. Green-screen is also awesome.
  • 11. Mambo No. 5—Lou Bega (1999). 30,120,693 views. wait no never mind one hit wonders are the worst
  • 12. U Can’t Touch This—MC Hammer (1990). 194,403,795 views. The first ten seconds of this video are two different award show announcements that are…jump cut to make them sound like there are more than two of them? Or was video editing just THAT new and groundbreaking in 1991?
  • 13. Ice Ice Baby—Vanilla Ice (1990). 91,868,863 views. Say what you will about Vanilla Ice being a troubled person or appropriative or what have you (although the story about his record label manufacturing a biography for him is delightfully Motown-esque), there are actual dance moves in this video. How many male artists post-2010 are still doing this?
  • 14. Jump—Kris Kross (1992). 33,491,630 views. “Hey guys, I found this awesome act that’s just going to blow up.” “Okay, what’s the angle?” “Well, both of the members are twelve, they’re named ‘Mac Daddy’ and ‘Daddy Mac’, and they wear all their clothes backwards.” “We need to sign them immediately! Also, can we have them sing a wide-release song called I Missed The Bus?”
  • 15. Informer—Snow (1993). 16,989,950 views. guys what the hell is this and why is it still stuck in my head a month later wait is he saying actual words
  • 16. Here Comes The Hotstepper—Ini Kamoze (1994). 8,811,882 views. I grew up culturally white enough that I literally have not until now known that this is where that hook comes from. And I didn’t know until I looked this song up on Wikipedia that it is actually a sample from something else I’ve never heard of. Cultural isolation is weird.
  • 17. Come Baby Come—K7 (1993). 7,019,907 views. I’m only 17 videos in. Have I already slipped into a corner of Youtube that I would never escape from? Considering where I started, this might be a good sign for combating cultural isolation.
  • 18. Whoomp! There It Is—Tag Team (1993). 11,614,759 views. “These three words mean you’re gettin’ busy/Whoomp, there it is.” I mean, technically, “whoomp” isn’t a word, I guess.
  • 19. Rumpshaker—Wreckx-n-Effect (1992). 7,994,709 views. man, that saxophone player is definitely the real saxophone player they used in recording this song, and it’s really sad they left her at the beach all alone
  • 20. O.P.P.—Naughty By Nature (1991). 6,842,415 views. Wait, no, being serious here, I thought this song was called “Naughty by Nature” and the band name was O.P.P. because the chorus is “You’re down with O.P.P./Yeah, you know me” uhhh let’s move on
  • 21. Hip Hop Hooray—Naughty By Nature (1993). 11,145,755 views.
  • 22. Summertime—DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1991). 10,141,894 views. does will smith look any different now than he did literally in the year I was born, other than short shorts
  • 23. Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It—Will Smith (1998). 14,486,792 views. I only have room in my phone for one spelling-creative ’90s single from a person now known primarily as a movie star. This suit almost tipped the scales, though.
    jiggy
  • 24. Miami—Will Smith (1998). 18,158,590 views.
  • 25. Switch—Will Smith (2005). 23,098,276 views. Can we talk about how Will Smith’s growly upper range in the hook wouldn’t even come close to any record produced in 2015? Instead, we’d have Will Smith ft. Ne-Yo, and Ne-Yo would probably be smash cut into a couple of the “club” scenes of the video without ever having to be in the same room as Will Smith. Or as it’s otherwise known, After Earth.
  • 26. Just The Two Of Us—Will Smith (1998). 7,975,425 views.
  • 27. Black Suits Comin’ (Nod Ya Head)—Will Smith ft. Trâ-Knox (2002). 3,838,931 views. For some reason, my initial association with this song was the song Clint Eastwood recorded for his movie about how the racist white person saves everybody. Which makes me think: Wouldn’t the world be a better place if every star vehicle had to come with a promotional single sung by the person starring in the movie? This is maybe the only thing that could make me excited for Die Hard 6, which I was going to make a joke about being in production already but then I looked it up and it’s in production already.
  • 28. Without Me—Eminem (2002). 260,074,341 views. Well, I guess I’m out of early-’90s reggae/hip-hop territory?
  • 29. The Real Slim Shady—Eminem (2000). 127,810,169 views.
  • 30. My Name Is—Eminem (1999). 69,902,544 views.
  • 31. Stan—Eminem (2000). 77,691,137 views. The way the use of the word “Stan” has spread as a result of this song is still disorienting to me (“orient” pun fully intended). Growing up as a very sheltered Asian child, I knew the term from K-pop first. I just assumed that all of the “r u exostan or super juniorstan?????” comments on Youtube were referencing a translated term I was unaware of. Considering that a relative of mine who uses the term “stan” liberally was actually afraid of the one Eminem song I played for her, I’m curious as to how many K-pop fans are aware of the origin of this term and what they’d think if they knew. Anyway, here’s Elton John.
  • 32. Cleanin’ Out My Closet—Eminem (2002). 106,668,174 views.
  • 33. The Way I Am—Eminem (2000). 67,558,477 views.
  • 34. Like Toy Soldiers—Eminem (2005). 203,551,128 views. well this is an inopportune time to remember that this exists
  • 35. Beautiful—Eminem (2009). 252,368,687 views. well this is an unusual time to get a Starbucks ad
  • 36. When I’m Gone—Eminem (2005). 355,839,996 views.
  • 37. Mockingbird—Eminem (2005). 164,961,384 views. Given the race-based criticism surrounding Eminem, I’m kind of wondering what would have happened if his recording career skipped his first four albums and started with Encore (in 2004). Eminem’s language is still the same, but his subject matter is incredibly different and generally less angry than his most well-known singles (although Stan is a testament to his storytelling talent). Would he have been more quickly accepted into the mainstream musical community? Would some of the class issues that are apparent in his early music, which are less prominent in his later albums, prevent him from being seen as a part of the hip-hop community writ large? The authenticity/social acceptability divide seems to be less of a 1:1 relationship in cases like this and more of a case-by-case study.
  • 38. Sing For The Moment—Eminem (2003). 122,614,446 views.
  • 39. You Don’t Know—Eminem ft. 50 Cent, Cashis, Lloyd Banks (2006). 121,374,301 views. Youtube seems to at least recognize, even for the person with the whitest watch history in the world, that Eminem should probably not be followed by Kelly Clarkson. It’s not really clear to me that I’ll ever get back to Kelly Clarkson at this point, which is an interesting manifestation of the bias toward recognizing the Black community as only adding value as entertainers (whether in sports, music, or film).
  • 40. Smack That—Akon ft. Eminem (2006). 195,305,286 views. So in this music video, Akon is sprung from prison by Sal Maroni to help with a…sting operation? And Akon very, very easily manages to escape by…breaking a glass window with a chair? And Maroni isn’t going to catch Akon after figuring out where the car went? I have so many questions.
  • 41. Right Now (Na Na Na)—Akon (2008). 143,543,639 views.
  • 42. Don’t Matter—Akon (2007). 115,364,575 views. OH HELLO 1-5-6-4 DIDN’T SEE YOU THERE
  • 43. Sorry, Blame It On Me—Akon (2007). 121,124,335 views. It’s interesting to me that a performer in this day and age actually directly addresses a scandal involving them in their music. I don’t know how successful it is (and Akon deflects like a motherfucker), and it’s interesting that he chooses a white family to tell the separation narrative in the video. I think it makes sense, even though it shouldn’t…but 2007. (Not that we’re doing much better in 2016.)
  • 44. Lonely—Akon (2005). 155,997,848 views. When I was 15, I wrote and recorded a parody of this song called “Baloney”. No, you can’t have it.
  • 45. Beautiful Girls—Sean Kingston (2007). 119,740,392 views. Also when I was 15, I went to Six Flags for a day. The only two songs they looped were the clean version of Beautiful Girls (“They’ll have you in denial, in denial“) and George Strait’s All My Exes Live In Texas. We got to the park at 10:30, and I was ready to leave by 1pm. (If you’re going to constantly replay a song around me, it had better be one of these.)
  • 46. Hey Ya!—Outkast (2003). 135,002,618 views. If I keep posting really silly remixes/mashups nobody is going to mind, right? Oh, everybody has already stopped reading?
  • 47. Ms. Jackson—Outkast (2000). 45,005,090 views. How long will it take me to get back to generic white people music? Forever? Forever ever?
  • 48. Roses—Outkast (2004). 17,201,205 views. I for the life of me have always believed that the Katt Williams character in the video was just Andre 3000 multiplied Hey-Ya style and after looking this up my world has been shattered
  • 49. The Way You Move—Outkast ft. Sleepy Brown (2003). 8,220,914 views.
  • 50. Beautiful—Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell (2003). 38,623,382 views. Oh god Pharrell is EVEN SKINNIER in 2003. Also, his falsetto sounds as thin as my falsetto. This means I can still make it, right? I’m already willing to sign my contract for The Voice and renounce my racial background in ten years.
  • 51. Sensual Seduction—Snoop Dogg (2007). 47,109,170 views.
  • 52. Lollipop—Lil Wayne ft. Static (2008). 195,246,090 views. It’s really impressive that Lil Wayne made a song using the Deal or No Deal decision music as the primary sample
  • 53. Loyal—Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne, Tyga (2013). 421,932,199 views. Well, that answers my earlier question about who still dances in their music videos. Chris Brown, and none of his featured artists, who just stand around instead.
  • 54. Post to Be—Omarion ft. Jhene Aiko, Chris Brown (2014). 312,803,053 views. A couple years ago, I went through a death spiral of playing Quizup, a trivia app complete with live standings and leaderboards. In addition to losing six weeks of my life in trying to chase the #1 overall spots in a couple categories, it imprinted in my mind that Omarion’s old band, B2K, released a Christmas album called Santa Hooked Me Up, which is why he and Jhene Aiko know each other. This is their lead single. You’re welcome. (I made it! I made it through this blurb without mentioning “eat the booty like groceries”!)
  • 55. All Eyes On You—Meek Mill ft. Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown (2015). 112,360,606 views. does chris brown just work his way into every single released since 2012
  • 56. Only—Nicki Minaj ft. Drake, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown (2014). 190,441,652 views. Drake: “That’s right, I like my girls BBW” [cut to the lead artist/subject of Drake’s line whose waist is probably at most a 30]
  • 57. 7/11—Beyoncé (2014). 290,883,821 views. Beyoncé: “what if I just do what I want because I’m talented and I been in this game for 20 years”
  • 58. Yoncé—Beyoncé (2014). 39,122,536 views.
  • 59. Feeling Myself—Nicki Minaj ft. Beyoncé (audio only) (2015). 52,997,417 views.
  • 60. Bitch Better Have My Money—Rihanna (lyric video) (2015). 50,872,812 views. Lyric videos are a truly modern creation and come with their own culture, which should itself be studied. Here’s just a taste:
    • In an annotation: Okay since the majority of you think it’s “Pay me what you owe me” then just ignore the fact that my video says “Pay me what you wanted” I’m sorry for the little mistake. IT”S JUST WHAT I HEAR.
    • In the description: For all the stupid ass hoes that wanna try and put me on blast for the lyrics, please shut the fuck up and go somewhere. Read the annotation at the beginning of the video. Don’t fuck with me, you’re gonna waste your time. And especially if you’re under 14, then definitely don’t try to act big and bad. You don’t get any extra points for cussing.
    • In the comments:jeffries
  • 61. I Don’t Fuck With You—Big Sean ft. E-40 (2014). 123,489,751 views.
  • 62. Nasty Freestyle—T-Wayne (2015). 97,901,294 views.
  • 63. Classic Man—Jidenna ft. Roman GianArthur (2015). 40,978,549 views. I have never wanted to buy a three-piece suit more in my entire damn life
  • 64. Hotline Bling—Drake (2015). 261,010,073 views. THIS IS ALL I HAVE EVER WANTED FROM THIS EXPERIMENT. Since the internet has already said everything I could want to say about this video, I’ll move on.
  • 65. The Hills—The Weeknd (2015). 476,515,246 views.
  • 66. Can’t Feel My Face—The Weeknd (2015). 304,936,646 views. In what I have to assume is some sort of Fantastic 4 cross-promotion, the only white person in the performance venue throws a lighter at The Weeknd and he becomes…Michael B. Jordan?
  • 67. Sorry—Justin Bieber (2015). 408,857,743 views. To tell the truth, I was expecting a lot worse from this video. It helps somewhat that Justin Bieber doesn’t even appear in it and that the choreography makes me feel bad that I can barely remember simple step patterns and ugh why do i even get up in the morning
  • 68. What Do You Mean?—Justin Bieber (2015). 501,837,931 views. A song about how boys are confused by “mixed signals” has a music video where Justin Bieber has Henri Toulouse-Lautrec fake-kidnap his girlfriend and actually fear for her life but it’s okay because it was all leading up to a party at a skatepark? Well, at least I understand now why Justin Bieber is Sorry.
  • 69. Where Are Ü Now—Skrillex & Diplo ft. Justin Bieber (2015). 372,944,074 views. I was at a friend’s house the weekend before I published this post when I correctly called this three-song sequence coming from Hello and Ariana Grande’s Focus and convinced at least one person that I was a wizard. So even if this post is for nothing and nobody ever reads this, at least this will be a really cool party trick…until newer and more popular songs come along in the next week or two. Worth it, huh?
  • 70. Lean On—Major Lazer & DJ Snake ft. Mø (2015). 943,640,675 views. “It’s not appropriation! Just some dudes sitting on horses while all the women dance in front of them.”
  • 71. Watch Me—Silento (2015). 512,354,225 views. Guys, all of this mindless music is ruining society! Don’t you remember the better times, when music actually had real lyrics????
  • 72. Uptown Funk—Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars (2014). 1,235,970,680 views. i am going to die knowing that i will never be as cool as bruno mars is in this video, regardless of how long i drill this choreography
  • 73. Sugar—Maroon 5 (2015). 942,058,668 views. Oh, how cute! Maroon 5 is doing a thing where they perform at weddings unannounced. Great, right? I wonder if it’s just a stunt or if they really care ab–ohlevineoh
  • 74. Thinking Out Loud—Ed Sheeran (2014). 901,333,729 views. Oh I guess I found white people music again. When did that happen??
  • 75. I’m Not The Only One—Sam Smith (2014). 529,326,238 views. OH NO
    OH NO MINDY OH NO
    NOOOOOOOOO
    DOES MINDY KNOW
  • 76. Hello—Adele (2015). 801,224,105 views. I find this video sad, but for very different reasons than most people.

    photo_5
    Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened?/It’s no secret that the both of us are running out of time
  • 77. Someone Like You—Adele (2011). 608,937,354 views. This song serves a very important factfinding purpose in my life. If I can listen to this song without feeling completely despondent, I’m not so sad that I won’t eventually snap out of it on my own. However, if I can listen to this version of this song without giggling uncontrollably, something is wrong.
  • 78. Rolling In The Deep—Adele (2010). 793,204,133 views. “I’m so glad we fired that guy who kept smashing teacups. but now what are we doing to do with all of these broken teacups?” “no clue. what do you think?” “maybe we should make a music video”
  • 79. Set Fire To The Rain (Live at the Royal Albert)—Adele (2011). 200,805,947 views. Wait a minute, a live video? Does this count? Am I done? If I end up in an endless loop of live videos, I’m definitely never getting to Gangnam Style. What do I do? Let it fall, my heart?
  • 80. Turning Tables (Live at the Royal Albert)—Adele (2011). 36,561,111 views.
  • 81. Make You Feel My Love (Live on Letterman)—Adele (2008). 33,051,133 views. “I’d go to the ends of this earth for you/to make you feel my love” [immediate cut to “WORLDWIDE PANTS INCORPORATED”]
  • 82. Don’t You Remember (Live at Largo)—Adele (2011). 44,537,146 views.
  • 83. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Live)—Adele (2011). 12,705,225 views.
  • 84. Chasing Pavements—Adele (2008). 66,897,043 views.
  • 85. Hometown Glory—Adele (2007). 52,675,373 views.
  • 86. Rumor Has It—Adele (2011). 19,042,834 views.
  • 87. One And Only—Adele (lyric video) (2011). 75,991,788 views. okay seriously how many Adele songs can there be she’s only released three albums
  • 88. Skyfall—Adele (lyric video) (2012). 168,096,893 views. Skyfall is great. But why did it steal its chord progression from Stan?
  • 89. Diamonds—Rihanna (2012). 676,418,340 views. This is the weirdest Beatles tribute song I’ve ever heard, and that includes Yoko Ono’s cover of Firework.
  • 90. Chandelier—Sia (2014). 1,047,494,306 views.
  • 91. Elastic Heart—Sia (2013). 485,368,341 views. I’m now really confused as to why this wasn’t on Shia’s playlist when he watched every movie he’s appeared in in reverse chronological order. It wouldn’t be his best, but it would be close.
  • 92. Love Me Like You Do—Ellie Goulding (2015). 874,230,493 views. I appreciate that this is the lead song associated with a “romance” movie where the two leads obviously hate each other’s guts. The title is perfectly suited to an interpretation as charitable or uncharitable as you choose! As Ellie says, what are you waiting for?
  • 93. See You Again—Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth (2015). 1,278,119,284 views. wait why is Andy Samberg reprising his role from Iran So Far?
    samberg
  • 94. I’m An Albatroz—AronChupa (2014). 485,368,341 views. “Let me tell you all a story ’bout a mouse named Dilory/Dilory was a mouse in a big brown house”
    jake_okay“She called herself the ho with the money money blow”
    er-umm“But fuck that little mouse ’cause I’m an albatraoz”
    54820761cfbe942624befe13a2f36a00
  • 95. #SELFIE—The Chainsmokers (2014). 393,714,679 views. this is literally just every single thing i hate in the world, plus david hasselhoff and snoop dogg, in one neat little four-minute package why does this exist
    oh my god there is even a self-congratulatory clip about soliciting video material WITHIN THE VIDEO it’s become sentient
  • 96. Turn Down For What—DJ Snake, Lil Jon (2013). 341,254,620 views. I don’t have anything to say about EDM, really. There are no words to make fun of, the chord progressions are all non-offensive, and I secretly listen to all of it as exercise music anyway. The videos aren’t interesting in any way either, as evidenced by this one. Completely normal.
  • 97. Get Low—Dillon Francis, DJ Snake (2014). 198,278,941 views.
  • 98. Karate—R3HAB & KSHMR (2014). 72,492,336 views.
  • 99. Secrets—Tiesto & KSHMR ft. Vassy (2015). 74,871,097 views.
  • 100. Firestone—Kygo ft. Conrad Sewell (2014). 156,384,738 views. I may be the only person to be disappointed that this isn’t about the tire company
  • 101. Stole The Show—Kygo ft. Parson James (2015). 57,600,531 views.
  • 102. How Deep Is Your Love—Calvin Harris & Disciples (2015). 301,439,160 views. I still to this day do not know the difference between Calvin Harris and David Guetta. I’m sure that this is going to affect both of their privileged lives a lot and I apologize for bringing down music as we know it.
  • 103. Do It Again—Pia Mia ft. Chris Brown, Tyga (2015). 150,586,395 views. Who is Tyga and why does he not ever get his own songs? I feel like Chris Brown should be better at sharing.
  • 104. Body On Me—Rita Ora ft. Chris Brown (2015). 72,267,830 views. Okay, I recognize that this is a very very common setup for a music video but literally the opening scene for this video is Chris Brown alone in an elevator with a lady that has Rihanna-esque makeup…? And then at the end of the video he tracks her down and knocks on her window…?
  • 105. All Eyes On You—Meek Mill ft. Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown (second appearance). Oh no, I’m starting to get repeats? Am I just now stuck in an endless self-reinforcing feedback loop? I still have so much terrible pop music to listen to. Where is Katy Perry? Where is Pitbull? Where is Iggy Azalea? Why am I asking for more of any of these three artists?
  • 106. Only—Nicki Minaj ft. Drake, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown (second appearance). So I guess I’m never going to get to classic ’80s music from here if I’m getting present-day repeats, huh. You win this time, hair metal…but just you wait.
  • 107. 7/11—Beyoncé (second appearance).
  • 108. Post to Be—Omarion ft. Jhene Aiko, Chris Brown (second appearance). Okay, so they’re not in the same exact order as last time. Maybe I’ll end up going into something different after all. If only I had eaten the booty like groceries.
  • 109. Loyal—Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne, Tyga (second appearance).
  • 110. Na Na—Trey Songz (2014). 128,006,599 views. So in just over 100 songs, I’ve gotten “Na Na Na”, “Nae Nae”, and “Na Na”. Only one of them has a music video that illuminates how men aren’t held to the same fitness and beauty standards that women are, even if only indirectly. Of course, the next song is…
  • 111. No Mediocre—T.I. ft. Iggy Azalea (2014). 100,279,193 views. by my count there are conservatively at least 40 different outfits that non-speaking women wear in this video, and I don’t even think we see T.I.’s knees once, which is still pretty much par for the course
  • 112. 23—Mike Will Made-It ft. Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa, Juicy-J (2013). 500,329,822 views. I’ve rewatched this video twice and I still don’t understand why it’s called 23. Is it literally just because everybody is wearing Jordans? Is that it? Am I overthinking this?
  • 113. Feelin Myself—will.i.am ft. Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa, French Montana (2013). 161,541,378 views. Not enough Beyoncé and Nicki eating burgers to be the best “Feelin Myself” in this list
  • 114. Thrift Shop—Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz (2012). 820,365,564 views. Wait. Wait, in the second verse. that’s clearly a sample of this, right? Sheeeeeeeit.
  • 115. Can’t Hold Us—Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton (2011). 369,839,036 views.
  • 116. Radioactive—Imagine Dragons (2012). 446,844,254 views. So apparently Radioactive is the best-selling rock song of all time. How do you feel about, every fan of the 1970s?????? Let’s ask Lou Diamond Phillips.ldpThat’s what I thought too.
  • 117. Demons—Imagine Dragons (2013). 324,267,287 views.
  • 118. It’s Time—Imagine Dragons (2012). 172,342,548 views.
  • 119. On Top Of The World—Imagine Dragons (2013). 78,360,307 views. oh whoa, it’s proof that the moon landing was faked. Wake up sheeple! Lead singer Michael Shannon is showing everybody what really happened! That’s how music videos work, right?
  • 120. Best Day Of My Life—American Authors (2013). 78,411,196 views. So this is just a typical Facebook post in song form? (Last link is weirdly targeted at women when it has no reason to be, certainly speaking from personal experience.)
  • 121. Love Me Again—John Newman (2012). 363,515,682 views.
  • 122. Blame—Calvin Harris ft. John Newman (2014). 203,599,570 views. Wait, so you’re telling me that there’s a song that has a hook starting with “blame it on the” and the last word isn’t “alcohol”? I don’t understand. That’s not how music works.
  • 123. Summer—Calvin Harris (2014). 647,247,164 views.
  • 124. Lean On—Major Lazer & DJ Snake ft. Mø (second appearance).
  • 125. See You Again—Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth (second appearance).
  • 126. Hello—Adele (second appearance).
  • 127. Someone Like You—Adele (second appearance). Oh, okay, this is happening again. Am I going to really have to listen to the same sequence of Adele songs over and over again?
  • 128. Rolling In The Deep—Adele (second appearance). well okay
  • 129. Set Fire To The Rain (Live at the Royal Albert)—Adele (second appearance). I guess I can deal with that.
  • 130. Turning Tables (Live at the Royal Albert)—Adele (second appearance).
  • 131. Make You Feel My Love (Live on Letterman)—Adele (second appearance).
  • 132. Don’t You Remember (Live at Largo)—Adele (second appearance). This is getting a little silly.
  • 133. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Live)—Adele (second appearance).
  • 134. Chasing Pavements—Adele (second appearance).
  • 135. Hometown Glory—Adele (second appearance). Well, good, I’m almost done, just a couple more…
  • 136. Chasing Pavements—Adele (third appearance). what
  • 137. Don’t You Remember (Live at Largo)—Adele (third appearance). literally what is happening
  • 138. Make You Feel My Love (Live on Letterman)—Adele (third appearance). go home autoplay, you’re drunk, and I don’t want to feel your love
  • 139. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Live)—Adele (third appearance). oh god am I doomed to listen to Adele for the rest of my life
  • 140. One And Only—Adele (second appearance). at least like two of the songs are happy
  • 141. Hello—Adele (third appearance). I say goodbye, and you say hello
  • 142. Someone Like You—Adele (third appearance). I hope you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded that for me it isn’t oooooverudcjbyv
  • 143. Rolling In The Deep—Adele (third appearance).
  • 144. Set Fire To The Rain (Live at the Royal Albert)—Adele (third appearance).
  • 145. Turning Tables (Live at the Royal Albert)—Adele (third appearance).
  • 146. Skyfall—Adele (second appearance).
  • 147. Diamonds—Rihanna (second appearance). Oh good I’m free…sort of.
  • 148. Chandelier—Sia (second appearance).
  • 149. Elastic Heart—Sia (second appearance).
  • 150. Love Me Like You Do—Ellie Goulding (second appearance).
  • 151. Burn—Ellie Goulding (2013). 693,040,907 views. “We don’t have to worry ’bout nothing/’Cause we got the fire, and we’re burning one hell of a something” is a really strong opening couplet. I hope it goes down in history as a shining beacon of writing for all aspiring musicians in the future.
  • 152. I Need Your Love—Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding (2013). 378,242,366 views. One thing I do appreciate about Ellie Goulding is that she doesn’t even remotely try to hide her British accent and still succeeds. When people like Adele are pronouncing every single one of their “R”s in songs (and listen to this interview or any other if you don’t believe she probably shouldn’t be), it makes me worried that the music industry is catering to a bubble that doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t, exist.
  • 153. Play Hard—David Guetta ft. Ne-Yo, Akon (2013). 441,305,680 views. HAS ANYBODY SEEN DAVID GUETTA AND CALVIN HARRIS IN THE SAME PLACE? ASKING FOR A FRIEND.
  • 154. Don’t You Worry Child—Swedish House Mafia ft. John Martin (2012). 327,379,873 views. “At Keller Graduate School of Management, we” i still don’t remember the second half of the ad even though I’ve now seen it at least eight times
  • 155. She Wolf (Falling To Pieces)—David Guetta ft. Sia (2012). 372,240,391 views. Wait, are the first four notes of this song and Titanium identical? Wait, are the verse structures identical? Wait, are the breaks almost identical? Wait, there’s no passable mashup of these two songs on Youtube? WHAT IS THE INTERNET FOR?
  • 156. Titanium—David Guetta ft. Sia (2011). 511,476,936 views. 
  • 157. Party Rock Anthem—LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett, GoonRock (2011). 997,136,995 views. Well, this was a left turn.
  • 158. Sorry For Party Rocking—LMFAO (2012). 284,620,896 views.
  • 159. Champagne Showers—LMFAO ft. Natalia Kills (2011). 178,358,323 views. So there is a lot of music out there that I would not consider particularly high quality. It’s pretty rare, though, that there is a track that is so grating that I won’t listen to it. (After all, I did once leave the Nyan Cat theme on for eight consecutive hours.) The primary synth lead is actually not the worst thing I’ve heard, particularly given the baseline with these guys. The initial vocal line (as well as the first verse), though? I actually think it would be fine with no autotune, or even what I expect to be a normal amount of autotune. But this is literally so stepped to the scale that any slight tremor causes a flutter in the vocal line that it is not only nearly unintelligible but rhythmically distracting. Also, Jesus is white again. At least there’s dancing by the artists?
  • 160. Shots—LMFAO ft. Lil Jon (2009). 185,831,939 views. HELLO YOUTUBE. Tell me, how do you feel about current music compared to the classics?2009.pngGood to know, Youtube! Moving on…
  • 161. La La La—LMFAO (2009). 71,491,519 views. You know, I like Silicon Valley, but clearly their depiction of programming is not sufficiently authentic. LMFAO, you have truly opened my eyes to how the magic happens. Also, could we really not spare any autotune from Champagne Showers for this song?
  • 162. I’m In Miami Trick—LMFAO (2008). 34,043,418 views. Given the name of this song, you know who’s coming next…
  • 163. Give Me Everything—Pitbull ft. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, Nayer (2011). 508,712,922 views. “Hey, hey Pitbull. I bet you can’t use the name of a brand twice within the first seven seconds of a song.” “It’s cool, Mike D’Antoni, I can definitely do that papi. Why don’t you name a really random brand that nobody cares about to up the level of difficulty. Dale.”
  • 164. Rain Over Me—Pitbull ft. Marc Anthony (2011). 650,732,232 views. Why is a video called “Rain Over Me” being filmed in a desert? I hate to break it to you guys, but this is probably not going to alleviate the California drought no matter how hard you dance.
  • 165. International Love—Pitbull ft. Chris Brown (2011). 474,435,409 views. Places mentioned in the Chris Brown chorus: New York City, Los Angeles, Miami. At least even if the places Pitbull mentions are overwhelmingly still in the Americas, that counts as international.
  • 166. Feel This Moment—Pitbull ft. Christina Aguilera (2013). 314,131,089 views. The first song I ever sang at karaoke was Take On Me by A-ha. I’m really conflicted about this song, but I’m definitely really sad that this video doesn’t have enough wrench fights:aha
  • 167. Timber—Pitbull ft. Ke$ha (2013). 724,229,714 views. hey remember when a prominent female recording artist tried to sue to release herself from a contract that meant that she was forced to work with somebody she had a valid reason not to associate with, and her label said that her resulting unwilling hiatus from music was good because it advanced other people’s careers to leave the music industry for a while? no? hm it must just be because things like that don’t happen
  • 168. Uptown Funk—Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars (second appearance).
  • 169. Sugar—Maroon 5 (second appearance). hmm no gay weddings? in Los Angeles? Must be a case of CATERING TO MAINSTREAM AMERICA!
  • 170. See You Again—Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth (third appearance).
  • 171. Hello—Adele (fourth appearance). oh here we go again
  • 172. Someone Like You—Adele (fourth appearance).
  • 173. Rolling In The Deep—Adele (fourth appearance). Eventually something different has to happen, right?
  • 174. Set Fire To The Rain (Live at the Royal Albert)—Adele (fourth appearance).
  • 175. Turning Tables (Live at the Royal Albert)—Adele (fourth appearance).
  • 176. Make You Feel My Love (Live on Letterman)—Adele (fourth appearance).
  • 177. Don’t You Remember (Live at Largo)—Adele (fourth appearance).
  • 178. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Live)—Adele (fourth appearance).
  • 179. Chasing Pavements—Adele (fourth appearance).
  • 180. Hometown Glory—Adele (third appearance).
  • 181. Rumour Has It—Adele (second appearance).
  • 182. One And Only—Adele (third appearance).
  • 183. Skyfall—Adele (third appearance).
  • 184. Diamonds—Rihanna (third appearance).
  • 185. Chandelier—Sia (third appearance).
  • 186. Elastic Heart—Sia (third appearance).
  • 187. Love Me Like You Do—Ellie Goulding (third appearance).
  • 188. Blank Space—Taylor Swift (2014). 1,361,446,574 views. Oh good, the one corner of mainstream pop music I was really looking forward to. This is actually my first listen to both this song and the next, and while I am not particularly impressed, I do think that the writing in this song is better than most of the other Taylor Swift that I’ve heard. But on a more serious note, is there a Taylor Swift song that exists that doesn’t mention either red lips/cherry lips/red lipstick or the fact that a man is tall? Still looking.
  • 189. Shake It Off—Taylor Swift (2014). 1,226,798,074 views. Oh, I guess this one doesn’t mention lips at all! Just a “let’s try all of these things, wow I can’t do these things, these are hard, but it’s fine” theme that is dangerously close to being patronizing, and could be uncharitably interpreted that way! At least her Twitter war was relatively bloodless.
  • 190. All About That Bass—Meghan Trainor (2014). 1,176,884,113 views. If I can’t be the bass harmony from Boyz II Men when I grow up, I just want to be the dancing man in this video
  • 191. Roar—Katy Perry (2013). 1,192,465,730 views. WHAT A TWIST ENDING. (Spoiler alert…?) It was all a dream all along…except it wasn’t!
  • 192. Dark Horse—Katy Perry ft. Juicy-J (2013). 1,220,831,645 views. Okay, so this is the second Juicy-J song that’s come up and it’s taken me until now to realize that Juicy-J is not Jesse J. I’m really good at this celebrity thing.
  • 193. This Is How We Do—Katy Perry (2014). 414,661,995 views. Okay seriously. But actually? Respect by Aretha Franklin, which is just a pretty solid song to begin with, is considered an early feminist and civil rights anthem, turning the very dated Otis Redding original into a symbol of strength. So it’s great when we specifically have Franklin’s version recognized like this:
    respect
    “Yo, shout out to all you kids/Buying bottle service with your rent money/Respect”

    A truly moving tribute to a landmark song.

  • 194. Birthday—Katy Perry (2014). 118,695,674 views. It’s interesting to me that I went through the lyric video for Birthday, given that there is a perfectly serviceable music video for this song as well. Yes, it involves Katy Perry awkwardly impersonating a Jewish person and actually causing a fake car crash in front of people who don’t know it’s not real, but hey. I bet it was fun to make!
  • 195. California Gurls—Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg (2010). 223,778,949 views. I have listened to this track a number of times and have not until now quite comprehended just how much Snoop Dogg mails in his verse. His most inventive rhyme in the entire thing might be “on ya/California”; most of the rest are really dicey slant rhymes or same-word “rhymes”. Gin and Juice this is not.
  • 196. Wide Awake—Katy Perry (2012). 445,322,790 views.
  • 197. Hot N Cold—Katy Perry (2008). 334,722,774 views. I’ve watched the second-verse club scene probably a dozen times in the last two weeks trying to figure out what brand they’re trying to product-place on Katy Perry’s belt and I still for the life of me CANNOT figure it out. Also, Alexander needs to stop being a dumbshit. His face is pretty frozen in place, but his biggest reaction the entire video appears to be one of legitimate fear when he sees the zebra at the end of the song. I don’t know why he’s scared of zebras, but he should maybe be worried about this whole, you know, commitment thing he made presumably months ago and hasn’t gone back on since. (Or maybe he has, and that’s why he’s worried about it.)
  • 198. Part Of Me—Katy Perry (2012). 371,716,778 views. “What are we doing today?” “Well, you know how we’re part of the greatest military in the world?” “Yeah.” “Well, we’re going to hold up a gigantic American flag parachute up while Katy Perry films a music video under it.” “Great!”partofme
  • 199. The One That Got Away—Katy Perry (2011). 347,223,558 views. Why do we live in a world where Katy Perry gets better age progression than Nelson Mandela?
  • 200. Unconditionally—Katy Perry (2013). 227,645,790 views.
  • 201. Let It Go—Demi Lovato (2013). 432,611,722 views. No. No no no no no. Demi Lovato, don’t you know that Let It Go is meant to be a bittersweet song with a darker bent? That’s why it’s in F minor/A-flat major to begin with—to give it that more muted backdrop on which to work. Doing this song in an open key like G major is completely counter to the spirit of the song. If you’re worried about your break, then you should have done the song in F-sharp/E-flat minor! Ughhhhhhhh.
  • 202. Made In The USA—Demi Lovato (2013). 114,899,737 views. Fun fact: Things can be “made in the USA” even if they’re made in overseas territories. The minimum wage in Saipan was barely $3 an hour as recently as 2006.
  • 203. Ready Or Not—Bridgit Mendler (2012). 123,605,094 views. Who is Bridgit Mendler, you ask? Great question! She’s a former Disney Channel star who was 19 at the time this song was released. Did you have a video on Youtube with 100 million views when you were 19? Unless your name is Adele, I’ll guess the answer is no. I feel really good about my life right now.
  • 204. Hurricane—Bridgit Mendler (2013). 93,526,624 views. And she can rap! Sort of, at least. The fake British accent is kind of strange, though.
  • 205. Replay—Zendaya (2013). 120,244,119 views. Whoa, Disney Channel discovered there are people who aren’t white people! Fun fact: Zendaya is currently 19. This song came out two and a half years ago. I don’t even have anything snarky to say here.
  • 206. Call It Whatever—Bella Thorne (2014). 47,159,169 views. THIS one, though. I assume the reason why bubblegum pop took a bit of a backseat 15 years ago is because the world needed to save up to create this video. It’s cool that they found the diner used in the Forget You music video, though.
  • 207. Can’t Blame A Girl For Trying—Sabrina Carpenter (2014). 27,272,806 views. YOU WERE BORN IN 1999 THIS IS INVALID. “I’m young/And I’m dumb/And I do stupid things when it comes to love” is, well…okay I just remembered when I wrote a six page love letter to a girl in seventh grade after I convinced myself that we would get married in 11 years (why 11? I don’t know) never mind carry on
  • 208. The Middle Of Starting Over—Sabrina Carpenter (2014). 17,342,084 views. Yeah, this is about the amount of greenscreen I’d want to use if I were 15 and trying to make my own music video with virtually unlimited resources.
  • 209. We’ll Be The Stars—Sabrina Carpenter (2015). 14,809,791 views. Yeah, this is about the amount of horses I’d want to use if I were 15 and trying to make my own music video with virtually unlimited resources. Hell, this is about the amount of horses I’d want to use right now if I were in this position.
  • 210. Eyes Wide Open—Sabrina Carpenter (2015). 17,532,069 views. Yeah, this is about the amount of eyeshadow I’d want to use if I were 15 and trying to make my own music video with virtually unlimited resources. Or if I were 24 and wanted to feel pretty. One of these days I’ll learn how IT’S 2016 OKAY I AM ALLOWED TO LEARN HOW. tumblr_inline_nx2fldylqd1tttf6h_500Oh, uh, moving on.
  • 211. If Only—Dove Cameron (Descendants) (2015). 53,999,957 views. Oh no. All the Disney Channel stars were fun while it wasn’t actually music from movies created by the Disney Channel. And yet…this is actually not that much of a dropoff. I still don’t see how I’m going to get to Gangnam Style, but I’m sure it’ll all work out. I’ve already gone 161 videos past where I planned to, so it has to work out eventually.
  • 212. Rotten To The Core—Descendants (2015). 121,077,355 views. oh no never mind this is not ideal
  • 213. Did I Mention—Mitchell Hope (Descendants) (2015). 40,370,800 views.
  • 214. Be Our Guest—Descendants (2015). 28,042,456 views. Well, at least they had the good sense to throw in a cover of a better song from a better Disney movie. A painful cover, but a cover nonetheless.
  • 215. Set It Off—Descendants (2015). 44,770,247 views.
  • 216. That’s How We Do—Teen Beach 2 (2015). 24,057,025 views. Oh god what is this. This is…Teen Beach 2. Here’s the first sentence of the plot summary on Wikipedia: “It is the eve of the first day of school for Brady (Ross Lynch) and Mack (Maia Mitchell), who spend it at Dolphin’s Cove celebrating their ‘meet-iversary’ and reminiscing about the summer and the day they met at Dolphin’s Cove over Brady’s favorite movie, Wet Side Story, the movie Brady and Mack got stuck in during the events of the first movie (‘Best Summer Ever’).” The chorus of this song is “Bubble bubble bubble-a, popple popple popple-a, sparkle sparkle rattly-doo/Fizzle fizzle fizzle-a, whizzle whizzle whizzle-a, boom-a boom-a that’s how we do.” I am voluntarily spending my free time watching this. I don’t understand where I went wrong.
  • 217. Twist Your Frown Upside Down—Teen Beach 2 (2015). 10,104,428 views. Upon further delving into the plot, there are actually a number of redeeming qualities about this movie, which include the recognition that a lot of classic “summer movies” in the cultural consciousness are not particularly kind to women (which is the primary conflict that the stars of the movie and the movie-within-the-movie directly remedy). If these songs are any more upbeat though I am probably going to punch a puppy.
  • 218. Right Where I Wanna Be—Teen Beach 2 (2015). 4,958,841 views. oh god they do get more upbeat
  • 219. Silver Screen—Teen Beach 2 (2015). 4,649,621 views. There is one other redeeming quality: the videos are getting shorter.
  • 220. Best Summer Ever—Teen Beach 2 (2015). 11,985,806 views.
  • 221. That’s How We Do—Teen Beach 2 (2015). 7,729,568 views. I don’t know it yet, but this is about to be the beginning of a world of pain for me. Note that this is not the same mirror as #216 above, instead being a DisneyChannelUK video. This will be important.
  • 222. Cruisin’ For A Bruisin’—Teen Beach Movie (2013). 18,810,525 views.
  • 223. Like Me—Teen Beach Movie (2013). 20,796,552 views. “Thanks for watching! Now click left or right for more great shows or subscribe to keep up to date with the latest Disney Channel Youtube clips!”
  • 224. Can’t Stop Singing—Teen Beach Movie (2013). 16,329,267 views.
  • 225. Oxygen—Teen Beach Movie (2013). 9,088,003 views.
  • 226. Fallin’ For Ya—Teen Beach Movie (2013). 10,677,411 views.
  • 227. Meant To Be—Teen Beach Movie (2013). 12,390,864 views. Oh, delightful. This is literally just the part of Back To The Future where Marty’s mom starts falling in love with him, except the whole parallel movie universe thing avoids that tricky incest problem.
  • 228. Meant To Be—Teen Beach 2 (2015). 897,719 views.
  • 229. No Place Like Home—Austin & Ally (2015). 2,373,193 views. Well, this is a little different. “Set in Miami, Austin & Ally is a multi-camera comedy about the relationship between two very different musicians: extroverted singer and instrumentalist Austin Moon (Ross Lynch), who is fun-loving and outgoing, and introverted and awkward songwriter Ally Dawson (Laura Marano), who is a singer, but has a bad case of stage fright.”
  • 230. Parachute Song—Austin & Ally (2015). 650,281 views. Thankfully, all of these videos are two and a half minutes max.
  • 231. I Love Christmas—Austin & Ally (2014). 902,844 views. “What’s your favorite time of year, can you tell me?” “The one that never gets here fast enough.” If somebody comes up with a song that goes in one of these series, how much do you think they get paid? $500? $250? The chorus for this one is literally “oh-whoa-whoa, oh-whoa-whoa I love Christmas (x2)”.
  • 232. Stuck On You—Austin & Ally (2015). 211,191 views.
  • 233. Think About You—Austin & Ally (2013). 3,143,515 views.
  • 234. It’s Not A Love Song—Austin & Ally (2012). 4,305,174 views. If anybody understood how a microphone works, none of these clips would make any sense. All of these “live performances” with perfect EQ are hilarious. And we wonder why Ashlee Simpson and Milli Vanilli exist.
  • 235. A Billion Hits—Austin & Ally (2012). 1,863,229 views.
  • 236. I Got The Rock N Roll—Austin & Ally (2014). 672,301 views.
  • 237. Better Than This—Austin & Ally (2014). 792,590 views.
  • 238. The Me That You Don’t See—Austin & Ally (2014). 665,070 views.
  • 239. Dance Like Nobody’s Watching—Austin & Ally (2015). 813,359 views. Why am I getting an investment management advertisement? Does Youtube think that most people watching Disney Channel videos need stock market advice? Granted, it seems like everybody in the Disney universe is a teen music sensation, so maybe there’s something there.
  • 240. Me and You—Austin & Ally (2014). 1,414,647 views. This is supposed to be an impromptu live performance and all of the vocals are double-tracked. I don’t even know how to deal with this.
  • 241. You Can Come To Me—Austin & Ally (2013). 4,373,944 views.
  • 242. Mash Up Of Songs—Austin & Ally (2014). 4,975,672 views. This is not a “mashup”. A mashup would involve more than one song being sung simultaneously. This is called a “medley”.
  • 243. Finally Me—Austin & Ally (2015). 3,841,673 views. Oh god why are you dancing with a violin like that I don’t care that it’s almost certainly a prop this physically pains meviolin.pngno no no no no no
  • 244. Can We Dance—The Vamps (Jessie) (2015). 1,045,397 views. um how many Disney Channel original series are there
  • 245. Problem—Pentatonix (K.C. Undercover) (2015). 339,878 views. I guess the answer is “a lot but only one without a primarily white cast”. Also, two guest spots in a row. This means I’m moving back into Top 40 territory, right? Right? Right????
  • 246. Froyo Yolo—Liv and Maddie (2014). 2,825,501 views. I AM SO CONFUSED. WHY ARE THERE ANIMATRONIC ANIMALS AND ANGEL COSTUMES. If the Disney Channel were like this when I was growing up I might have actually watched some of this mess. Also, this seems to be venturing further and further from the mainstream.
  • 247. On Top Of The World—Liv and Maddie (2014). 1,964,239 views.
  • 248. Dancing By Myself—A.N.T. Farm (2014). 693,768 views. Well, this is different. What the hell is A.N.T. Farm, and why are half of the characters about eight years old?
  • 249. Red Carpet (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2012). 248,383 views. Oh god this is a non-song clip. Where is this taking me? How am I already 50 videos away from Katy Perry? WHAT IS THIS SHOW?
  • 250. A Little Research (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2012). 180,591 views. Okay, I’ve done a little research. “Taking place in San Francisco, the series [follows] middle-schoolers in a gifted program at their local high school called the ‘Advanced Natural Talent’ or ‘A.N.T.’ program.” It looks like each of the super young kids is advanced in a different way…and they’ve all been placed through to 9th grade anyway? This is completely ridiculous.
  • 251. Will The Real Chyna Please Stand Up (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2012). 256,040 views. I just started getting sidebar ads for actual ant farms. My life is in shambles.
  • 252. New Girl (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2012). 140,981 views.
  • 253. Romantic Date (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2012). 128,524 views.
  • 254. The Dance (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2012). 186,478 views. These clips are borderline unwatchable, but at least they’re only a minute or so long each, even including the super grating DisneyChannelUK appended message.
  • 255. Opening Title—A.N.T. Farm (2012). 322,067 views.
  • 256. ParticipANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2011). 324,808 views. Never mind. Five minutes.
  • 257. TransplANTed (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2011). 318,344 views. So it looks like every single episode name includes some sort of wordplay involving the word “ANT”. Now I know how other people feel when they have to hear my jokes all the time.
  • 258. PhANTom Locker (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2011). 344,446 views.
  • 259. PhANTom Locker Part 2 (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2011). 246,702 views.
  • 260. Calling All The Monsters—China Anne McClain (2011). 4,621,755 views. Whoa, an actual song!
  • 261. Calling All The Monsters (Behind The Scenes) (2011). 410,503 views. So it looks like McClain, the lead actor in A.N.T. Farm, has a producer father that is constantly looking for opportunities for his daughters (a la Knowles family), whether or not they’re the ones who are pushing for it.
  • 262. IntelligANT (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2012). 263,699 views. It seems to have at least gotten the Disney Channel to greenlight a show with a WOC as a nominal lead…
  • 263. SignificANT Other (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2012). 284,392 views. …and a good number of clearly interracial romantic plots, which is pretty great. But also painful, because it’s Disney Channel romance.
  • 264. Go—A.N.T. Farm (2013). 430,069 views. Another actual song! With McClain’s sisters involved. It’s not the best music, but it’s fine. Some people aren’t convinced, though: 1111china
  • 265. Unstoppable—A.N.T. Farm (2013). 1,004,816 views.
  • 266. Opening Titles—A.N.T. Farm (2013). 238,472 views. Wait a minute. These are, indeed, the opening titles for the show. But didn’t I watch these opening titles 11 videos ago? On this same channel? As it turns out, they are DIFFERENT videos uploaded by the SAME CHANNEL eleven months apart. What the hell? Is THIS why I’ve been stuck watching these videos since #220? How many videos can this channel have? Do I have to watch them all before I can leave?
  • 267. TrANTsferred (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2013). 100,518 views. This channel has 1509 videos. I might be stuck here for a while. But I can’t give up now, right? Bring on the Cheez-Its and the barf bag.
  • 268. TrANTsferred Part 2 (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2013). 129,040 views. I definitely can give up now, right? I’m going to give up now. There’s apparently a vomit gun in this clip and I don’t even know what’s going on anymore.
  • 269. Brand New Season (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2013). 102,444 views. i did not want to see an ad for this show thank you
  • 270. SilANT Night (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2013). 178,894 views.
  • 271. Uncanny ResemblANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2014). 328,304 views. Um, I think this is a straight-up Katy Perry/Gaga parody, which I have to respect given all of the worrisome Katy Perry songs I have just had to listen to. Still, it’s Disney Channel, which means that every joke is setup/straight man explanation/obvious punchline and I am going to throw these Cheez-Its through a window.
  • 272. FinANTial Crisis (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2014). 173,962 views.
  • 273. Feature PresANTation (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2014). 102,547 views.
  • 274. Product MisplacemANT (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2014). 2,147,447 views. This is by far the most viewed A.N.T. Farm video that I’ve seen, and it involves McClain painting anime eyes on her forehead and singing a duet in Japanese with a man in his 40s. I really, REALLY have no idea how to feel about this.
  • 275. Do Your Own Thing—A.N.T. Farm (2014). 1,464,802 views. This is way more sidewalk space than I’ve ever seen anywhere in New York City. Also why are all the people on the right side white? Is this a subliminal message about de facto segregation in large cities? (Of course not—it’s the Disney Channel.)
  • 276. New York ExperiANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2014). 470,887 views.
  • 277. UnwANTed (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2014). 209,647 views. Wait, the Disney Channel is okay with showing kissing? Next they’re going to show people holding hands! It’s a slippery slope!
  • 278. MeANT To Be (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2014). 214,037 views.
  • 279. Unforeseen CircumstANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2013). 291,156 views.
  • 280. Animal HusbANTry (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2013). 108,906 views. On the other side of things, this is the least viewed video I’ve seen on this channel, and CHRIS ROCK is in it. And he makes jokes about Rob Schneider! Do people who watch this show know who Rob Schneider is?
  • 281. Secret AgeANT (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (2013). 338,480 views.
  • 282. Teddy’s Video Diaries (Clip)—Good Luck Charlie (2014). 1,741,616 views. What is this and why is it 74 minutes long. Apparently every single video diary from a 97-episode family sitcom starring Bridgit Mendler. So…ready or not?
  • 283. Teddy’s Video Diaries: Break Up (Clip)—Good Luck Charlie (2014). 803,110 views. just why
  • 284. Teddy’s Video Diaries: Teddy’s 16th Birthday (Clip) (2014). 440,958 views. ugh
  • 285. Teddy’s Video Diaries: Shake It Up (Clip)—Good Luck Charlie (2014). 164,372 views. So…this is a crossover with Shake It Up? What’s that?
  • 286. Future It Up—Shake It Up (2013). 651,901 views. From Wikipedia: “The show’s original concept was for Disney to create a female buddy comedy with a dance aspect. The show follows the adventures of CeCe Jones and Rocky Blue as they star as background dancers on a local show.” The mere fact that somebody has strung together the words “female buddy comedy with a dance aspect” is troubling.
  • 287. Get’cha Head In The Game—Shake It Up (2012). 375,496 views. This is a cover of the High School Musical song. I guess those songwriters writing at $250 a pop for Austin & Ally couldn’t come up with anything here.
  • 288. Made In Japan—Shake It Up (2012). 1,220,886 views. Was the beat for Barbra Streisand by Duck Sauce made in Japan too?
  • 289. Fashion Is My Kryptonite—Shake It Up (2012). 9,398,770 views. “When we up in the club/It’s easy to see/That we got style in our veins/’Cause fashion’s what we breathe” so I’m not sure that anybody associated with this video understands what the cultural understanding of “kryptonite” is.
  • 290. Calling All The Monsters—China Anne McClain (second appearance). Oh no we’re repeating videos in THIS channel? But I have 1420 more to go! Maybe it’s just because this one is so popular.
  • 291. Calling All The Monsters (Behind The Scenes)—China Anne McClain (second appearance). Yeah…and this one too.
  • 292. IntelligANT (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). oh nooooooooooooo
  • 293. SignificANT Other (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). noooooooooooooooooo
  • 294. Go—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). It is now resolved. I will go down with this ship. And I won’t put my hands up and surrender. Even if it takes 500 videos, I will keep going until I am squarely out of Disney Channel territory. (But if it takes 1000, that might be too many.)
  • 295. Unstoppable—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). I guess I’m already 1/5 of the way to 500.
  • 296. Opening Title (#266)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). Do or do not, there is no “why”.
  • 297. TrANTsferred (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 298. TrANTsferred Part 2 (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 299. Brand New Season (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 300. SilANT Night (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 301. Uncanny ResemblANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 302. FinANTial Crisis (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 303. Feature PresANTation (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 304. Do Your Own Thing—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 305. New York ExperiANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 306. UnwANTed (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). Any day now, I’ll exit this loop into something else. That’s what happened with Adele, right?
  • 307. MeANT To Be (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). Don’t remind me that I had the double-loop with Adele where it folded back upon itself.
  • 308. Unforeseen CircumstANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). This loop would be closer to 30 videos than 13. We might be here a while.
  • 309. Animal HusbANTry (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 310. The Dance (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 311. Opening Title (#255)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 312. ParticipANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 313. TransplANTed (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). Did you know that China Anne McClain is the full name of the actor, but the character’s name is spelled Chyna?
  • 314. PhANTom Locker (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 315. PhANTom Locker Part 2 (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 316. Calling All The Monsters—China Anne McClain (third appearance).
  • 317. Calling All The Monsters (Behind The Scenes)—China Anne McClain (third appearance).
  • 318. IntelligANT (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 319. SignificANT Other (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 320. Go—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance). i can’t believe that china park’s is in a band
  • 321. Unstoppable—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 322. Opening Title (#266)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 323. TrANTsferred (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 324. TrANTsferred PArt 2 (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 325. Brand New Season (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance). are you ready for season 3 of A.N.T. farm it’s going to involve exactly the same people with slightly more special effects, and also a weird british guy. so kind of like season 3 of game of thrones except the opposite
  • 326. SilANT Night (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 327. Uncanny ResemblANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 328. FinANTial Crisis (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 329. Feature PresANTation (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 330. Do Your Own Thing—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 331. New York ExperiANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 332. UnwANTed (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 333. Dancing By Myself—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). WAIT. This was the first A.N.T. Farm clip I got. Does this mean that there’s going to be a light at the end of the tunnel? Is this how I get out?
  • 334. Red Carpet (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). YES, we’re getting there. This is the second clip I got.
  • 335. A Little Research (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). Wait…this was the third clip I got.
  • 336. Will The Real Chyna Please Stand Up (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). no please please anything but this
  • 337. New Girl (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance). literally anything but this
  • 338. Romantic Date (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 339. The Dance (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 340. Opening Title (#255)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance). So why exactly does the theme song for this show use the instrumental from Cee Lo’s Forget You?
  • 341. ParticipANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 342. TransplANTed (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 343. PhANTom Locker (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 344. PhANTom Locker Part 2 (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (third appearance).
  • 345. Calling All The Monsters—China Anne McClain (fourth appearance).
  • 346. Calling All The Monsters (Behind The Scenes)—China Anne McClain (fourth appearance). you’re behind the scenes of my music video! it’s called calling all the monsters and it’s a metaphor about how monsters dance
  • 347. IntelligANT (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 348. SignificANT Other (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 349. Go—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 350. Unstoppable—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 351. Opening Title (#266)—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance). you got it, you got it
  • 352. TrANTsferred (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 353. TrANTsferred Part 2 (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 354. Brand New Season (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 355. SilANT Night (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 356. Uncanny ResemblANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 357. FinANTial Crisis (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 358. Feature PresANTation (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 359. Product MisplacemANT (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 360. Do Your Own Thing—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 361. New York ExperiANTs (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 362. UnwANTed (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (fourth appearance).
  • 363. Secret AgeANT (Clip)—A.N.T. Farm (second appearance).
  • 364. Teddy’s Video Diaries (Clip)—Good Luck Charlie (second appearance). hell is knowing that there are another 74 minutes before you have any chance of watching anything you haven’t already watched before
  • 365. Teddy’s Video Diaries: Break Up (Clip)—Good Luck Charlie (second appearance).
  • 366. Teddy’s Video Diaries: Teddy’s 16th Birthday (Clip)—Good Luck Charlie (second appearance).
  • 367. Teddy’s Video Diaries: Shake It Up (Clip)—Good Luck Charlie (second appearance).
  • 368. Future It Up—Shake It Up (second appearance).
  • 369. Get’cha Head In The Game—Shake It Up (second appearance). This is a song about basketball WHY ARE THEY ALL IN BASEBALL UNIFORMS and carrying bats
  • 370. Made In Japan—Shake It Up (second appearance).
  • 371. Blow The System—Shake It Up (2014). 755,558 views. Well, this is at least something I haven’t seen before. The last time I saw this much saturated color was in the alligator from the Allison Williams Peter Pan: peter-pan-croc_612x380_0
  • 372. Freaky Freekend—Coco Jones (Shake It Up) (2013). 590,725 views. So Zendaya and Bella Thorne are backup dancers on a Chicago TV show, but none (or at least only a few) of their performances involve any actual singers at the front of the stage. Who the hell is singing all of these songs?
  • 373. Ring Ring—Shake It Up (2014). 1,104,805 views. Disney Channel grew to LEVEL 32! Disney Channel learned SUPERIMPOSE ACTOR!
  • 374. Egg It Up—Shake It Up (2012). 1,991,897 views.
  • 375. Whodunit—Shake It Up (2012). 1,083,504 views. “Thanks for watching! Now click left or right for more great shows or subscribe to keep up to date with the latest Disney Channel Youtube clips!”
  • 376. Shake Santa Shake—Zendaya (Shake It Up) (2012). 6,836,471 views.
  • 377. Psych It Up—Shake It Up (2013). 1,558,566 views.
  • 378. Sweet 16 It Up—Shake It Up (2014). 2,037,039 views. Even the new music sounds like the same music after 200 videos. Nothing has ever mattered. Nothing will ever matter. Eat Arby’s.
  • 379. Remember Me—Shake It Up (2014). 2,136,258 views.
  • 380. Sweetie—Carly Rae Jepsen (Shake It Up) (2013). 2,380,769 views. Oh good, a 27-year-old who looks 16 with 16-year-olds who could easily be 27. Because we are a culture that places delightfully great weight on what age you look. But only metaphorical weight. If it were real weight, that would be a problem.
  • 381. How Do I Get There From Here—A.N.T. Farm (2013). 1,244,809 views. NO. I AM NOT GOING BACK. YOU BETTER NOT.
  • 382. Beautiful—China Anne McClain (2012). 3,493,551 views. okay, this is acceptable, although there is only one Beautiful
  • 383. You Can Come To Me—Austin & Ally (second appearance). oh no
  • 384. Think About You—Austin & Ally (second appearance). oh, oh no
  • 385. It’s Not A Love Song—Austin & Ally (second appearance).
  • 386. A Billion Hits—Austin & Ally (second appearance).
  • 387. I Got The Rock N Roll—Austin & Ally (second appearance). Apparently this is a fake Disney Channel version of America’s Got Talent. And one of the judges appears to be the Burger King? burgerking.pngThe studio audience seems a little smaller, too.
  • 388. Better Than This—Austin & Ally (second appearance).
  • 389. The Me That You Don’t See—Austin & Ally (second appearance).
  • 390. Dance Like Nobody’s Watching—Austin & Ally (second appearance).
  • 391. Parachute Song—Austin & Ally (second appearance).
  • 392. I Love Christmas—Austin & Ally (second appearance).
  • 393. Stuck On You—Austin & Ally (second appearance).
  • 394. Better Together—Austin & Ally (2015). 1,059,185 views. I JUST NOTICED that the descriptions for these videos are possibly even worse than anything else associated with these videos: “Aw, Austin sings this totes cute song ‘Better Together’ to help show how close him, Dez, Trish and Ally really are!” They don’t even use Oxford commas, which is completely unacceptable. Aren’t Oxford commas British? (Apparently not. Weird.)
  • 395. I’ve Got That Rock N Roll—Austin & Ally (2015). 306,147 views. Yup, so the multiple versions of a single video on the same channel is not an unusual occurrence for DisneyChannelUK. This explains how they manage to have over 1500 videos of content. Also, “OMG check out that super cool guitar solo as Austin rocks out!” There are a number of things that Austin is probably not actually doing in this clip, but the one he’s clearly not doing is actually playing the guitar. At least he has a headset mic, so he could actually be plausibly singing (he’s not).
  • 396. Heard It On The Radio—Austin & Ally (2015). 163,346 views. “Do you #love this song?” This is not how hashtags work, DisneyChannelUK.
  • 397. Illusion—Austin & Ally (2012). 1,686,281 views.
  • 398. Living In The Moment—Austin & Ally (2013). 1,145,574 views. “The wire’s taking all the pressure off Austin’s knee!” Really? I couldn’t tell. pressure2
  • 399. Don’t Look Down—Austin & Ally (2014). 735,182 views.
  • 400. Double Take—Austin & Ally (2012). 7,130,337 views.
  • 401. Something To Dance For/TTYLXOX—Shake It Up (2012). 62,445,953 views. This is an actual mashup, at least. And to their credit, the songs are different enough that the mashup is actually not something you’d necessarily expect. But 62 million views? That’s reserved for finger-biting and trips to the dentist and mysterious ticking noises. If only better and more interesting mashups could approach those viewcount numbers.
  •  402. Determinate—Lemonade Mouth (2011). 26,986,127 views. The sad thing is that we’re now about 200 videos into Disney and this is probably the best writing that I’ve heard by a pretty decent margin. And by “probably the best writing”, I’m referring to a song that has the quatrain “I wanna cry/I can’t deny/Tonight I wanna up and hide/And get inside”.
  • 403. Breakthrough—Lemonade Mouth (2011). 13,197,213 views. Never mind. This song includes the line “Life is like a string of crappy days”. I take everything back.
  • 404. And The Crowd Goes—Lemonade Mouth (2011). 1,398,303 views.
  • 405. Somebody—Lemonade Mouth (2011). 7,845,629 views.
  • 406. Hit The Lights—Selena Gomez & The Scene (2011). 29,966,475 views. Wait. A studio track by an artist that’s not associated with that artist’s show? Is there hope??? I’ve never associated Selena Gomez with hope before in my life. I don’t know how this works.
  • 407. Love You Like A Love Song—Selena Gomez & The Scene (2011). 46,973,520 views. Wait, this isn’t even the main mirror of this video, and it has 46 million views. This seems like borderline copyright infringement. I’ve written extensively about this song elsewhere, but it annoys me to no end, mostly because Gomez spends most of the chorus pronouncing it “beh-bee” as if she is actually the robot on the screen in this video. She clearly isn’t incapable, since the last instance of it in each chorus is pronounced normally. (And don’t get me started on what “loving somebody like a love song” might actually mean.)
  • 408. Magic—Selena Gomez & The Scene (2009). 48,588,637 views. Wait, there are 90-second clips of Selena Gomez songs on this channel? This is definitely a copyright problem of some sort.
  • 409. Naturally—Selena Gomez & The Scene (2010). 4,587,877 views.
  • 410. Round And Round—Selena Gomez & The Scene (2010). 3,276,270 views.
  • 411. Falling Down—Selena Gomez & The Scene (2009). 2,290,040 views.
  • 412. Starstruck—Sterling Knight (2010). 1,898,310 views. Starstruck is apparently from the Disney Channel Original Movie “Starstruck”. This is the only information that DisneyChannelUK thought to provide in the description.
  • 413. Something About The Sunshine—Anna Margaret (2010). 529,935 views. the names and the lyrics change, but everything stays the same
  • 414. Me, Myself, And Time—Demi Lovato (2010). 2,668,480 views. Wait so Bridgit Mendler’s character is Teddy, and she has a sister named Charlie. Demi Lovato’s character is named Sonny. Bella Thorne and Zendaya are CeCe and Rocky. I have no idea what this trend means, but it seems statistically significant.
  • 415. Gonna Get This—Hannah Montana (2010). 10,355,809 views. Oh, this is where we are now.
  • 416. Ordinary Girl—Hannah Montana (2010). 2,842,836 views. Just an ordinary girl, mini skirt with my J’s on…wait no, wrong song. Also, the blonde kid haunting my dreams from Austin and Ally and Teen Beach (both 1 and 2) is definitely in this 2010 video (1:40), which just goes to prove that Disney has been plotting to take over the world for years and years now.
  • 417. Que Sera—Hannah Montana (2010). 1,264,886 views.
  • 418. I’m Still Good—Hannah Montana (2010). 2,421,616 views.
  • 419. Supergirl—Hannah Montana (2009). 9,845,668 views.
  • 420. Let’s Chill (Ice Cream Freeze)—Hannah Montana (2009). 3,307,110 views. Oh, good, the Ice Cream Freeze is a dance. If it were trying to refer to an actual food item, that would be nonsensical. Some of these other moves in retrospect, though…the “Cell Phone Slide, left to right”? I guess a slide is not a swipe.
  • 421. Pumpin’ Up The Party—Hannah Montana (2010). 1,190,657 views. “The music’s gonna start a revolution”—can somebody tell Hannah Montana that Footloose already happened?
  • 422. It’s All Right Here—Hannah Montana (2009). 748,714 views. Some people have a little bit of a hard time letting go of the past and also separating fact from fiction. newmiley
  • 423. Let’s Do This—Hannah Montana (2009). 1,187,984 views.
  • 424. Life’s What You Make It—Hannah Montana (2007). 1,769,013 views. On the upside, the live drummer for Miley appears to be a woman of color, which is way too unusual if I’m noticing it right now, after 225 straight Disney videos. My brain should be pure mush, and it most likely is, and this STILL stood out to me.
  • 425. Nobody’s Perfect—Hannah Montana (2007). 1,068,853 views. I definitely learned this alternative choreography over seven years ago and still have most of it. I’m definitely not doing it right now. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
  • 426. See You Again—Miley Cyrus (2007). 417,499 views. INFERIOR “SEE YOU AGAIN”; BRING BACK ANDY SAMBERG
  • 427. GNO—Miley Cyrus & The Muppets (2007). 216,405 views. So videos 425-433 are part of a “Top 10 Party Music Videos” countdown that it appears DisneyChannelUK put together in 2010. So keep this in mind if you’re going to host a party soon. I might show up, but if I don’t hear any of these songs within the first five minutes, I’ll know exactly how boring you are and leave immediately. (I don’t know why only nine made it into this list, but I have no intention of hearing the tenth, because it is clearly not as good as any of these.)
  • 428. We Rock—Camp Rock (2010). 1,119,624 views.
  • 429. Play My Music—Jonas Brothers (2010). 370,160 views.
  • 430. Start The Party—Camp Rock (2010). 247,382 views. Also, at your party, you better have a button substantially similar to this so that we can know when the party starts: startOtherwise, it’ll just be too difficult for your guests to know.
  • 431. One Hit Wonder—Phineas & Ferb (2010). 5,854,752 views.
  • 432. High School Musical 2 Megamix—High School Musical 2 (2010). 2,080,193 views. When I entered grad school, I bought a new laptop. For some reason, I decided to cover the Apple logo with a Zac Efron High School Musical 2 sticker. An unfortunate side effect of this was that the Apple logo would shine through the sticker, so when the lights were dim, it would appear that Zac Efron’s illuminated, smiling face was staring into your soul. I’m only writing this story so that I don’t have to listen too closely to all of this terrible music.
  • 433. One World—Cheetah Girls (2010). 3,195,962 views.
  • 434. We Got The Beat—Radio Rebel (2012). 2,578,534 views.
  • 435. What I Said (Rap Battle Edition)—Let It Shine (2012). 3,342,044 views. Oh hello. Let It Shine is a Black-focused retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. “The film follows a shy, talented rapper and musician who pens romantic hip-hop verses only to stand idly by as they’re delivered to the girl of his dreams by a proxy, his best friend.” I’m pretty sure that this video’s choreography was used in Teen Beach 2 as well, though, so the apple doesn’t fall TOO far from the tree. Still, this is what took me from super-white ’90s music to super-white ’10s music, so maybe this is what can take me from super-white Disney Channel music to super-white literally anything else music.
  • 436. Don’t Run Away (Rap Battle Edition)—Let It Shine (2012). 2,464,635 views. We’re still here: “Thanks for watching! Now click left or right for more great shows or subscribe to keep up to date with the latest Disney Channel Youtube clips!”
  • 437. Moment Of Truth—Let It Shine (2012). 2,015,548 views. is it time for me to link Mom’s Spaghetti again? no? it’s never time?
  • 438. Guardian Angel (Rap Battle Edition)—Let It Shine (2012). 1,293,200 views. At this point, I’m trying to think of literally anything that I could do to tip the scales in favor of leaving DisneyChannelUK. When I’m not advancing the playlist, I am at this point trying to play as many mainstream pop, DisneyMusicVEVO, and similar songs to try to influence the algorithm to jump out of its pattern (which I realize is what happened when the Adele progression looped a second time). It is almost certain to not work, but in the words of Sabrina Carpenter, you can’t blame a girl for trying.
  • 439. Me And You (Rap Battle Edition)—Let It Shine (2012). 3,473,716 views.
  • 440. Don’t Run Away—Let It Shine (2012). 2,511,456 views. Uh, what is the difference between the Rap Battle Edition of this song and the normal one? I know the performers are different, but the writing and production appears to be otherwise identical. Is the only difference just that one is sung in a club?
  • 441. Moment Of Truth (Movie Version)—Let It Shine (2012). 20,699,967 views. Wait. Wait, have I done it? HAVE I DONE IT???? I HAVE DONE IT. This video is by a non-Disney channel uploader. I AM FREE.
  • 442. Guardian Angel—Coco Jones/Tyler Williams (Let It Shine) (2012). 13,081,973 views. Well. This video belongs to DisneyMusicVEVO, so I’m not out of the woods yet. In the words of Miley Cyrus, “Keep on movin’, keep on climbin’/Keep the faith baby, it’s all about the climb.”
  • 443. Rise—McClain Sisters (2012). 16,683,271 views. I’ll let this comment do the talking: monkeysI wonder how they’d feel if they knew that China Park’s is in a band…
  • 444. Great Divide—McClain Sisters (2012). 10,647,368 views. This is not the fakest snow I’ve seen, but it’s REALLY close. divide
  • 445. Dynamite—China Anne McClain (2011). 48,101,356 views.
  • 446. Calling All The Monsters—China Anne McClain (2011). 24,974,209 views. Just realized that the two older McClain sisters end up letting their younger sister, who is something like 13 at the time this video is filmed, go up to and then into a strange house by herself. Seems quite realistic.
  • 447. Watch Me—Shake It Up (2011). 113,818,359 views. The odd thing is that within the show, Bella tends to get the more club-oriented music, enough that even after only watching a dozen Shake It Up videos, this kind of music seems much more her character than Zendaya’s. However, the “debut singles” that each of them had was a major shift away from this characterization, with Zendaya’s single something at home in a club and Bella bringing the saccharine breathiness. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Zendaya might just be a better singer. Or maybe I’m reading too much into a small sample of videos. Also, remember when I used the term “only” for a dozen videos for a Disney Channel show? My world has been altered forever.
  • 448. Replay—Zendaya (second appearance). oh no. oh no no no I know where this is going i swear to god if this is where we’re going
  • 449. Call It Whatever—Bella Thorne (second appearance). this is completely unacceptable and I am straight up not okay with this
  • 450. Shower—Becky G (2014). 207,330,467 views. wait, what
  • 451. Can’t Stop Dancin’—Becky G (2014). 80,568,910 views. we broke the chain? I’m afraid to look
  • 452. Lovin’ So Hard—Becky G (2015). 38,137,780 views. Well, it’s not great music, anyway, but it’s something different. I’m still not convinced that we’re not going to fall straight back into Disney music.
  • 453. Break A Sweat—Becky G (2015). 11,790,294 views.
  • 454. Focus—Ariana Grande (2015). 277,871,685 views. Serious question, how did they shrink those boxes Drake was dancing in for this video?
  • 455. Sorry—Justin Bieber (second appearance). I think I can officially say that I’ve made it all the way back. I guess it’s probably a pipe dream to try to get to Gangnam Style from here, so maybe I should just get to 500 and then call it a day.
  • 456. What Do You Mean?—Justin Bieber (second appearance). Here are all of Justin Bieber’s interpolations at the end of the song. I still don’t understand how his communication method of choice is a fake kidnapping:
    • This is ours, baby
    • You’re so confusing, baby
    • Be more straightforward
    • Give it back
    • What does he want given back to him? The kidnapping? Maybe for him, that would be more straightforward. Boys are confusing.
  • 457. Where Are Ü Now—Skrillex & Diplo ft. Justin Bieber (second appearance).
  • 458. Hotline Bling—Drake (second appearance).
  • 459. The Hills—The Weeknd (second appearance).
  • 460. Can’t Feel My Face—The Weeknd (second appearance).
  • 461. Cheerleader—OMI (Felix Jaehn Remix) (2014). 337,829,918 views.
  • 462. Hello—Adele (fifth appearance). Hello, Adele, my old friend. I’ve come to listen to 13 of your songs in a row again.
  • 463. Someone Like You—Adele (fifth appearance).
  • 464. Rolling In The Deep—Adele (fifth appearance).
  • 465. Set Fire To The Rain (Live at the Royal Albert)—Adele (fifth appearance).
  • 466. Skyfall—Adele (fourth appearance). 
  • 467. Diamonds—Rihanna (fourth appearance). Or…not? What just happened?
  • 468. Chandelier—Sia (fourth appearance).
  • 469. Elastic Heart—Sia (fourth appearance).
  • 470. Love Me Like You Do—Ellie Goulding (fourth appearance).
  • 471. Sugar—Maroon 5 (third appearance).
  • 472. Uptown Funk—Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars (third appearance).
  • 473. All About That Bass—Meghan Trainor (second appearance).
  • 474. Rude—Magic! (2013). 777,470,073 views.
  • 475. See You Again—Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth (fourth appearance).
    There’s the Andy Samberg I know and love. It’s been a long time without you, my friend.
  • 476. Watch Me—Silento (second appearance).
  • 477. Lean On—Major Lazer & DJ Snake ft. Mø (third appearance).
  • 478. Hey Mama—David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha, Afrojack (2015). 557,489,770 views.
  • 479. Worth It—Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink (2015). 553,957,529 views. Okay, how many other unambiguously racially integrated pop groups can you name? Okay, what if I say that groups where all the minorities are named “scary” don’t count?
  • 480. Bang Bang—Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj (2014). 564,769,888 views. This is just the straight version of Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, right? Can we all agree? At least if we’re talking about eighth notes (but also maybe performers)? Also, the variety of faces on this cover seems pretty accurate.jessie_j_-_bang_bang_28featuring_ariana_grande_26_nicki_minaj29_cover_art Nicki knows exactly what kind of shit she is not taking, and that is every kind.
  • 481. Bad Blood—Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar (2015). 696,971,082 views. Wow, we’re two-for-two for Taylor Swift songs that don’t talk about tall men or red lips. And really, for a couple minutes, all of the celebrity cameos do distract you from the fact that the songwriting is just kind of boring.
  • 482. Blank Space—Taylor Swift (second appearance). Oh wait we’re here.
  • 483. Shake It Off—Taylor Swift (second appearance). And last time we were here…
  • 484. Roar—Katy Perry (second appearance). oh no it’s happening even faster
  • 485. Dark Horse—Katy Perry ft. Juicy-J (second appearance). i swear to god this better not
  • 486. This Is How We Do—Katy Perry (second appearance). it’s fine, maybe it won’t go to Demi Lovato and will instead play Firework or something
  • 487. Birthday—Katy Perry (second appearance). even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
  • 488. California Gurls—Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg (second appearance). ugh it’s going to happen again isn’t it
  • 489. Wide Awake—Katy Perry (second appearance).
  • 490. Hot N Cold—Katy Perry (second appearance).
  • 491. Part Of Me—Katy Perry (second appearance).
  • 492. The One That Got Away—Katy Perry (second appearance).
  • 493. Unconditionally—Katy Perry (second appearance).
  • 494. Let It Go—Demi Lovato (second appearance). nope this is just happening again
  • 495. Made In The USA—Demi Lovato (second appearance).
  • 496. Ready Or Not—Bridgit Mendler (second appearance). I can definitely say that I am NOT ready
  • 497. Hurricane—Bridgit Mendler (second appearance).
  • 498. Replay—Zendaya (third appearance). if I put this song on replay it will stop me from having to listen to Teen Beach 2 sing-alongs again
  • 499. Call It Whatever—Bella Thorne (third appearance).
  • 500. Can’t Blame A Girl For Trying—Sabrina Carpenter (second appearance). Oh hey look that was fast. Can’t believe we’re already at 500 songs already! Let’s, uh, just cut it off here, for no other reason. Thanks for reading, everybody!

But because I’m morbidly curious as to whether DisneyChannelUK would reel me in again, I did keep going:

  • 501. The Middle Of Starting Over—Sabrina Carpenter (second appearance).
  • 502. We’ll Be The Stars—Sabrina Carpenter (second appearance).
  • 503. Eyes Wide Open—Sabrina Carpenter (second appearance).
  • 504. If Only—Dove Cameron (Descendants) (second appearance).
  • 505. Rotten To The Core—Descendants (second appearance).
  • 506. Did I Mention—Mitchell Hope (Descendants) (second appearance).
  • 507. Be Our Guest—Descendants (second appearance).
  • 508. Set It Off—Descendants (second appearance).
  • 509. Rotten To The Core—Sofia Carson (2015). 49,009,311 views. Oh, this is different. Where are we going?
  • 510. Better In Stereo—Dove Cameron (2013). 41,290,889 views. Starting to have doubts about going forward with this…
  • 511. What A Girl Is—Dove Cameron, Christina Grimmie, Baby Kaely (2015). 13,342,546 views.
  • 512. Froyo Yolo—Liv and Maddie (2014). 15,875,676 views. The full-length version of this video is the one Disney Channel video of the 200+ that I’ve seen here that’s actually almost worth watching. The animatronic frozen yogurt blob with a mouth and the Disney-level lyrics actually applied to such an inane subject matter create something truly special. Ish. froyo*shudders*
  • 513. Count Me In—Liv and Maddie (2014). 5,758,798 views.
  • 514. You, Me, And The Beat—Liv and Maddie (2015). 905,142 views. The only good thing I can say about this sequence of videos is that they’ve all been from different channels.
  • 515. As Long As I Have You—Dove Cameron (2015). 432,250 views. Well, not anymore.
  • 516. Say Hey—Dove Cameron (Liv and Maddie) (2015). 597,973 views.
  • 517. True Love—Dove Cameron (2015). 1,487,374 views.
  • 518. Written In The Stars—The Girl and the Dreamcatcher (2015). 3,692,675 views. So this is…two Disney Channel stars who are dating each other writing original music? Nothing could possibly go wrong! Also, even if Dove Cameron goes on to be a successful actor or singer, the only association I will ever have with her is “Sweet and yummy froyo’s all I eat/’Cause you only live once”.
  • 519. I Know What You Did Last Summer—Shawn Mendes/Camila Cabello (2015). 24,537,216 views.
  • 520. Stitches—Shawn Mendes (2015). 153,697,607 views.
  • 521. Perfect—One Direction (2015). 115,615,778 views. Presented without comment: likedNOT SO PERFECT NOW, HUH? As for me, though…
  • 522. Drag Me Down—One Direction (2015). 286,282,982 views. I have never been so happy to see One Direction in my life, and I’m pretty sure such a reaction will never occur again.
  • 523. Sorry—Justin Bieber (third appearance). If you’re still reading this, I really, truly am sorry. On the upside, I’m the only one of us that’ll have to deal with this for the next three years:recommendedforyou.png

Click here to read my distilled conclusions about how the autoplay actually functions.

Every Browns Loss Since 1999, Ranked

UPDATE (3 Mar 16): Hello! This list has now been updated through the end of the dreadful 2015 season. I will continue to update this list until the Browns win a playoff game, which means I will die updating this list.

A friend of mine reached out to me last week, the day after a 26-23 Browns loss to the Broncos where the Browns had been in field goal range in overtime. He wanted to make sure that I was doing okay after another very Brownsy outcome. Undeterred, I told him that this loss likely didn’t even rank as one of the worst 50 Browns losses since they returned to the league in 1999. (Being a child of the ’90s, I have no recollection of the pre-move Browns.) While my friend did not contest this assertion, I of course had to empirically test this to make sure. The result is this monstrosity.

The Cleveland Browns have lost 178 games since their return, which is now officially more than any franchise (the Lions have lost 177 in that same timeframe). While there is no loss with perhaps quite the impact of The Drive or The Fumble or Red Right 88 (or The Shot, or Jose Mesa, or you get the idea), there is still plenty of material here for consumption. I would say I hope you enjoy, out of some sort of self-pity or schadenfreude, but I don’t know that that’s healthy for you, me, or anybody.

A few notes about this list:

  • This is entirely subjective. Honestly, a lot of the ones outside the top 60 or so start to blur together, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there are similar losses ranked a dozen spots apart, or losses that you might see as wildly different ranked very close together. If this truly pains you, I invite you to make your own ranking.
  • I tried to make the primary criterion the emotional impact of the loss. This resulted in an odd hodgepodge of proxies that I used: close losses generally floated to the top of the list, unless they were games against clearly superior teams that we didn’t have much of a chance of winning at any point during the game. At the same time, blowouts usually didn’t register that highly unless they were particularly egregious and/or killed momentum in an otherwise promising start to the season. The problem is that once you start to elevate 30-3 losses, you find a lot more of them than you expect…
  • Season situation is definitely a factor here, and I note it where relevant. The 24-6 loss that the Browns suffered this past week is not nearly as bad in my mind as the 24-6 loss that the Browns suffered last season, but you’ll see why in the descriptions below.
  • This post is current as of Tuesday, October 27, 2015, at which point the Browns have 178 losses since 1999 (177 regular season, 1 playoff). I currently have no intention of updating this weekly, since changing all of the numbers by one every week would be an ordeal.

So, without further ado:

186-138. EH, THESE AREN’T THAT BAD

186. Jacksonville, 1999 Week 15, 24-14. A perfectly respectable loss to a team that moved to 13-1 as a result of the game, and a sign of progress for a team nearing the end of a very long season. Skip down to #44 to see how the Browns finished the 1999 season.

185. @New England, 2007 Week 5, 34-17. I am cheating a bit and using hindsight where I can, so this loss to the 16-0 New England team looks better in retrospect than it might have when they were 4-0.

184. Denver, 2006 Week 7, 17-7.

183. Philadelphia, 2000 Week 16, 35-24. Another respectable late-season loss after a brutal previous 15 weeks, but Chris Palmer got fired anyway. Considering that Butch Davis, in his four miserable seasons as Browns head coach, averaged more wins (six) than Chris Palmer won in his two seasons as Browns head coach combined (five), and that Butch Davis is Butch Davis, this gives you some sense of how fun it’s been to be a Browns fan over the past 16.5 seasons.

182. @Baltimore, 2014 Week 17, 20-10. Connor Shaw becomes the 22nd quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999, and surpasses expectations by just enough (and when I say he surpasses expectations, he had a 50% completion percentage, 0 TD, and 1 INT) that otherwise reasonable people were clamoring for us to give him a chance to start over McCown and Manziel this season before he got hurt.

181. @Green Bay, 2013 Week 7, 31-13.

180. Buffalo, 2012 Week 3, 24-14.

179. Tennessee, 2000 Week 17, 24-0. Getting shut out in the last game of the season probably didn’t help Chris Palmer. I, at this point, had become numb to the world after watching the Spergon Wynn Game (see #72), so Doug Pederson’s 30 attempts for 75 yards actually felt like a proper ending to this season. (This is clearly all post hoc rationalization.)

178. NY Giants, 2000 Week 10, 24-3. Maybe I don’t remember 1999 and 2000 well enough. Mostly what I remember is running into the house screaming and waking my napping parents after the first Browns win in 1999 (on a Hail Mary) and also a lot of “well they’re only down by twenty-eight now, maybe they can come back in the next 5 minutes”.

177. @Denver, 2012 Week 16, 34-12.

176. @NY Giants, 2004 Week 3, 27-10.

175. @Cincinnati, 1999 Week 14, 44-28. The 1999 Browns, who score a meager 217 points over the course of the season, hit their high-water mark in a game they lose by 16.

174. @Denver, 2009 Week 2, 27-6. Actually, now that I’m writing this, I think the only reason I keep ranking Denver losses so low is because I have The Drive and The Fumble, two sports moments that occurred before I was born, pounded into my subconscious, and every single Denver loss gets “un”-fairly measured against those two. This one probably should be higher, although I kind of want to pretend we were never excited about Eric Mangini.

173. @Kansas City, 2003 Week 10, 41-20.

172. @Seattle, 2015 Week 15, 30-13. Manziel is showing progress! Manziel COULD BE OUR QUARTERBACK OF THE FUTURE!

171. @Kansas City, 2015 Week 16, 17-13. Manziel CONTINUES TO SHOW PROGRESS! Never mind that there was poor time management on the last drive and that there was just barely not enough time not to be able to spike the ball after a huge gain and run a final play! He is OUR FUTURE!

170. @Baltimore, 1999 Week 3, 17-10.

169. @Pittsburgh, 2008 Week 17, 31-0. I have some Week 17 blowouts ranked much, much, much higher, particularly when they’re against Pittsburgh and Baltimore. However, this was the game where Bruce Gradkowski becomes Post-1999 Browns Starting Quarterback #13, as we had signed him off the street less than a month prior to this game. Sometimes, low expectations are a blessing.

168. Houston, 2008 Week 12, 16-6.

167. Tampa Bay, 2006 Week 16, 22-7.

166. @Tampa Bay, 2002 Week 6, 17-3. I’m cheating twice on this one, because this dropped the Browns to 2-4 and made it look like the 2002 season was going to be another lost season, reducing the leverage of this specific loss. However, it was also a loss to the ultimate Super Bowl champions, who destroyed the league and allowed less than 200 points on the season.

165. @Cincinnati, 2006 Week 2, 34-17.

164. @Jacksonville, 1999 Week 6, 24-7.

163. Arizona, 2015 Week 8, 34-20.  Taking a 20-7 lead into halftime against arguably the best team in the NFC was great, and then the second half happened.

162. @San Diego, 1999 Week 13, 23-10.

161. @San Francisco, 2011 Week 8, 20-10.

160. @Tennessee, 2008 Week 14, 28-9.

159. New England, 1999 Week 4, 19-7.

158. Tennessee, 1999 Week 12, 33-21.

157. @Baltimore, 2012 Week 4, 23-16. Phil Dawson, potentially still my favorite player on the post-1999 Browns (other contenders being Josh Cribbs, Joe Thomas, and wow isn’t it sad when your favorite players from 20 years of your team are a kicker, a kick returner, and an O-lineman?), hits three field goals of 50+ yards in this game. (Hey—better take your moral victories where you can find them, because ish just gets worse from here.)

156. @Houston, 2006 Week 17, 14-6.

155. Carolina, 1999 Week 11, 31-17.

154. @Kansas City, 2013 Week 8, 23-17.

153. @Cincinnati, 2001 Week 5, 24-14.

152. @St. Louis, 1999 Week 7, 34-3.

151. @Indianapolis, 2012 Week 7, 17-13.

150. @Cincinnati, 2009 Week 12, 16-7.

149. @NY Jets, 2013 Week 16, 24-13.

148. @Seattle, 2003 Week 13, 34-7.

147. @Cincinnati, 2012 Week 2, 34-27.

146. @Buffalo, 2010 Week 14, 13-6. Low-scoring games seem to be a thing with Buffalo, although we win as many of those than we lose, including the most ridiculous win and the worst win in post-1999 Browns history.

145. Baltimore, 2011 Week 13, 24-10.

144. @Tennessee, 2000 Week 12, 24-10.

143. Pittsburgh, 2015 Week 17, 28-12. Since 2008, the Browns have ended with the Steelers in five separate seasons. In every single season that this has happened, the Browns have lost and fired their coach afterward. Since 2008, no other AFC North team has had a coaching change. The game itself was not bad, though.

142. @Pittsburgh, 2004 Week 5, 34-23.

141. @Tennessee, 1999 Week 2, 26-9. Judging by the difference in ranking between this loss and 1999 Week 1, you can get a sense of how quickly even eight-year-old me fell into the typical Browns routine.

140. @Pittsburgh, 2009 Week 6, 27-14.

139. @Carolina, 2006 Week 5, 20-12.

138. Tennessee, 2011 Week 4, 31-13.

137-91. OKAY, THAT HURT A DECENT AMOUNT

137. @Pittsburgh, 2011 Week 14, 14-3.

136. Baltimore, 1999 Week 9, 41-9. The 1999 team gave up 40+ points three times and 437 points overall, which was 29th of 31 in the league at the time. That was a stat that would get worse before it would get better…before getting worse again.

135. Oakland, 2000 Week 4, 36-10.

134. @Pittsburgh, 2012 Week 17, 24-10.

133. @Minnesota, 2005 Week 12, 24-12.

132. Arizona, 2000 Week 6, 29-21.

131. Pittsburgh, 2013 Week 12, 27-11. Remember when the Browns had a 237-yard receiver and still only scored twice? Remember how the league suspended Josh Gordon for 16 games for having a drink on a plane, 12 games more than Greg Hardy got after a finding that he “used violence” on his ex-girlfriend on four separate occasions?

130. @Cincinnati, 2010 Week 15, 19-17.

129. @Denver, 2000 Week 7, 44-10.

128. Houston, 2014 Week 11, 23-7. I’m pretty sure people will quibble with me ranking this one so low, especially considering that the only game we won for the rest of the season was gifted to us by one Mike Smith, and especially because Ryan Mallett was making his first start of the season, and all that, but I honestly personally brushed this loss off very quickly, expecting Brian Hoyer to bounce back quickly and post some numbers down the 2014 stretch and attributing this one single bad game to JJ Watt being JJ Watt.

…Welp. Maybe this should be closer to #100 or so.

127. @Oakland, 2011 Week 6, 24-17.

126. @Pittsburgh, 2006 Week 14, 27-7.

125. @Baltimore, 2006 Week 15, 27-17. As a result of this loss, the Browns seal their first and only winless division record.

124. San Diego, 2009 Week 13, 30-23.

123. Minnesota, 2009 Week 1, 34-20. Like I said, if I said I was excited about Eric Mangini, I’d at least say I was lying.

122. Oakland, 2015 Week 3, 27-20. I mean, I did think that the Browns would win this game, but the fact that there was even a comeback from 20-3 down blunts this one perhaps more than it should.

121. Miami, 2013 Week 1, 23-10. As much as Rob Chudzinski was an offensive mastermind during the 2007 season, he didn’t do a lot to inspire confidence as a head coach heading into the 2013 season. Granted, we still had a trigger-happy owner who fired him after a single season, but you know. That coaching search worked out and we got our first guy.

120. Pittsburgh, 2011 Week 17, 13-9. Speaking of random coaches we’ve had in the past, Pat Shurmur, or something.

119. @Pittsburgh, 2010 Week 6, 28-10.

118. Dallas, 2008 Week 1, 28-10.

117. @New England, 2003 Week 8, 9-3. Look, if you had one chance…

116. @St. Louis, 2015 Week 7, 24-6. This loss drops Mike Pettine into second place in winning percentage among Browns head coaches since 1999 (at .391), behind…you guessed it, Butch Davis, at .414. Ladies and gentlemen, the Browns.

115. Cincinnati, 2000 Week 9, 12-3. Sometimes, games look very similar…

114. Cincinnati, 2008 Week 16, 14-0…but usually only one of them is your fifth consecutive game without an offensive touchdown.

113. @Houston, 2011 Week 9, 30-12.

112. Green Bay, 2009 Week 7, 31-3.

111. @Chicago, 2009 Week 8, 30-6.

110. Washington, 2012 Week 15, 38-21.

109. @San Diego, 2006 Week 9, 32-25. Good ol’ Phil Dawson kicks 6 field goals in this one, so Chiefs fans know how we felt.

108. Baltimore, 2000 Week 5, 12-0.

107. Atlanta, 2010 Week 5, 20-10.

106. @Green Bay, 2001 Week 15, 30-7.

105. @Indianapolis, 2005 Week 3, 13-6. The Colts run out the final eight minutes of the game on a single drive, and the Browns never see the ball for a game-tying chance.

104. @Baltimore, 2013 Week 2, 14-6.

103. @NY Giants, 2012 Week 5, 41-27. After the Browns take a 17-7 lead, the Giants score 34 of the next 37 points.

102. @Carolina, 2014 Week 16, 17-13. With a legitimate chance at ensuring only the third .500 season since 1999, the Browns decide to punt on 4th and 11 inside Carolina territory down 4 with three minutes left in the 4th quarter. They never get the ball back again.

101. @Baltimore, 2005 Week 6, 16-3.

100. Pittsburgh, 2004 Week 10, 24-10.

99. Tennessee, 2001 Week 12, 31-15.

98. @Baltimore, 2010 Week 3, 24-17.

97. St. Louis, 2003 Week 14, 26-20. The Rams score both of their touchdowns within 42 seconds as a result of consecutive interceptions.

96. @Baltimore, 2000 Week 13, 44-7.

95. @New England, 2001 Week 13, 27-16.

94. @Cincinnati, 2015 Week 9, 31-10.

93. Jacksonville, 2000 Week 1, 27-7.

92. @Pittsburgh, 2000 Week 8, 22-0.

91. Baltimore, 2012 Week 9, 25-15.

 90-68. NOW YOU’RE JUST MESSING WITH US

90. @Pittsburgh, 2001 Week 17, 28-7. All of Pittsburgh’s skill players on offense rest, and they still put up 28 points on the Browns. Also, I used to think that Maddox (the Internet guy) was Tommy Maddox.

89. @Philadelphia, 2008 Week 15, 30-10.

88. @Baltimore, 2011 Week 16, 20-14.

87. Cincinnati, 2005 Week 1, 27-13.

86. @Pittsburgh, 2005 Week 10, 30-9. Johnny Manziel passes for 372 yards and a touchdown…and the Steelers still win by 21.

85. @Houston, 2005 Week 8, 19-16.

84. @Tampa Bay, 2010 Week 1, 17-14. A trio of 2010 games with scoreless second halves…

83. Baltimore, 2010 Week 16, 20-10…where in this one, a failed onside kick coming out of halftime when down 3 leads to the final score…

82. Kansas City, 2010 Week 2, 16-14…and where in the other two, 14-10 leads fail to hold up.

81. Pittsburgh, 2003 Week 12, 13-6. Four red zone trips result in a total of six points. Bend-but-not-break offense: the specialty of Browns teams over the last decade and a half.

80. Detroit, 2005 Week 7, 13-10. Jeff Garcia, the Browns starter the previous year, leads a comeback by Detroit against the Browns in the second half, and gloats about it in the press conference afterward. Because even Detroit looks down on the Browns.

79. San Diego, 2003 Week 7, 26-20. The Chargers come in 0-5, but manage to use an 8-minute drive in the fourth quarter to kick the final field goal.

78. Pittsburgh, 2008 Week 2, 10-6.

77. Cincinnati, 2015 Week 13, 37-3. Ladies and gentlemen, your 24th Cleveland Browns starting quarterback, Austin Davis!

76. San Diego, 2004 Week 15, 21-0.

75. @Buffalo, 2014 Week 13, 26-10. Johnny Manziel’s first game action, in relief of a highly ineffective Brian Hoyer. Manziel comes in and leads a drive where he runs for a touchdown. He also does this:

Manziel Bills

74. @Pittsburgh, 2005 Week 10, 34-21. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t playing with an injured knee, so of course Charlie Batch starts and runs in a touchdown before suffering a broken hand, bringing 2002 Browns nemesis Tommy Maddox in…but the Steeler passing touchdown for the day goes to Antwaan Randle El, a college QB playing WR in the NFL, on a reverse.

73. @NY Jets, 2015 Week 1, 31-10. McCown leaves the game with a concussion, and five turnovers give the Jets enough short fields that they can’t not capitalize offensively. There are some rumblings before the game that the Browns might be able to replicate their 7-9 record from last season, but the Jets had other plans, and Manziel’s propensity to dance with the ball indicates that he has learned little in camp. Of course, Manziel then won the next week and the Jets are off to a hot start, but that loss was a quick shortcut to the typical sky-is-falling mentality of a Browns season. (Although in Cleveland, the sky often is falling, at least during football season. And through the winter. So much lake effect.)

72. @Jacksonville, 2000 Week 14, 48-0. Only in Browns land could a 48-0 blowout land outside the top 70 losses, but while this game was simply painful to watch, it was a start for the third quarterback of the season, which we have seen above is never a good sign going in. Spergon Wynn, in his first of a total of three career starts, goes 5/16 for 17 yards and an interception. He is pulled in the second quarter, put back in after halftime, and then pulled again in the fourth quarter. At this point, I feel like I cite to low expectations often enough that I need to come up with a jingle. (Not just in this article, but in real life. Sorry, mom.)

71. Baltimore, 2009 Week 10, 16-0. Putting their best foot forward, the Browns are shut out on Monday Night Football.

70. @Baltimore, 2008 Week 3, 28-10. A 10-7 lead at halftime turns into a 28-10 final with three Baltimore touchdowns in six minutes.

69. Baltimore, 2008 Week 9, 37-27.

68. Pittsburgh, 2001 Week 9, 15-12 (OT).

67-38. LEGITIMATELY AWFUL LOSSES

67. @Baltimore, 2004 Week 9, 27-13. In a game that included a 7-yard punt by the Browns, a tip-drill interception by Ed Reed in his own end zone was returned 106 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.

66. Denver, 2008 Week 10, 34-30. The Broncos, down 23-10 in the third quarter, score 3 touchdowns in the fourth to come back and win.

65. @Pittsburgh, 2013 Week 17, 20-7. A seventh straight loss to end the season, the only points of the game scored by the Browns are with 2 minutes left in the game.

64. Cincinnati, 2006 Week 12, 30-0. Other than getting shut out by the league’s 32nd-ranked defense and picked off four times, this game is memorable for an incredibly visible argument between “star” WR Braylon Edwards and star…ting QB Charlie Frye on the bench. At one point, Edwards grabs Frye’s jersey, and other players have to actually physically separate them. Of course, Edwards fighting with his own QB was fine, but he is traded immediately, three years later, when he allegedly fights with a friend of Lebron James. Priorities.

63. @Baltimore, 2009 Week 3, 34-3. Brady Quinn is benched for Derek Anderson, and they combine for 126 passing yards and 4 INTs.

62. Cincinnati, 2014 Week 15, 30-0. Huh, this score looks familiar. This is Johnny Manziel’s first start, and boy, what a start. 10/18 for 80 yards and 2 INT, and the team finishes with 107 yards of offense…which is still not even close to the lowest 5 yardage outputs by the Browns since 1999.

61. Detroit, 2013 Week 6, 31-17. Leading 17-7 going into the second half, Cleveland gets outscored 24-0 by Detroit, and Brandon Weeden does this:

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60. @Cincinnati, 2005 Week 14, 23-20.

59. NY Jets, 2004 Week 11, 10-7.

58. New England, 2004 Week 13, 42-15. New England is up 42-7 in the third before pumping the brakes.

57. @Denver, 2003 Week 15, 23-20 (OT). The Browns allow Denver to drive for the game-tying field goal in the closing 70 seconds of regulation after going up 20-17.

56. Chicago, 2013 Week 15, 38-31. Chicago scores three straight touchdowns in the fourth quarter to overcome the Browns’ second-half lead.

55. Cincinnati, 2003 Week 4, 21-14. Marvin Lewis’s first win of his head coaching career. Tim Couch throws an interception on the Browns’ last drive to a cornerback who had crashed his car the previous day and had been rushed to the ER to be treated for his injuries. Or, in other words, how Tim Couch felt behind his O-line most weeks.

54. Denver, 2015 Week 6, 26-23 (OT). I was ultimately right: not quite in the top 50, mostly because this was a game we had no business winning in regulation. Down 10-0 at halftime, the Browns force overtime and then manage to intercept Peyton Manning in his own territory. However, the resulting drive, starting at the Broncos 39, goes TFL-sack-sack-penalty, and the Browns have to punt from their own 43 instead of getting a legitimate field goal try. The Broncos then score on their next possession.

53. Philadelphia, 2004 Week 7, 34-31 (OT). A very similar game to the above. Playing against an undefeated team, the Browns have a chance to jump into the playoff race (a win would have put them at 4-3), and a large comeback forced overtime, but the Browns were unable to muster any offense in the extra period.

52. Jacksonville, 2013 Week 13, 32-28. Jaguars score the winning TD with 40 seconds left, and Brandon Weeden is Brandon Weeden. And to think, Josh Gordon had 261 receiving yards in this game with these kinds of throws being made by his quarterback:

unnamed (3)

51. @Dallas, 2004 Week 2, 19-12. Sadly, the last time the Browns have won their season opener (and thus have a chance to go 2-0). While the Browns manage to intercept the Cowboys three times in the fourth quarter, those three interceptions turn into three points (and a safety given up). That’s right: three turnovers turned into one (net) point. If this were hockey, that would be pretty good.

50. Jacksonville, 2005 Week 13, 20-14. Jaguars score the last 17 points of the game, with the Browns managing 55 yards and 0 points in the second half. The Jaguars manage to get to kneeldowns by gaining 28 yards on a third-and-19 play.

49. Indianapolis, 2008 Week 13, 10-6. The only touchdown scored in this game is a fumble return TD in the fourth quarter.

48. @Cincinnati, 2011 Week 11, 23-20.

47. Pittsburgh, 2002 Week 9, 23-20. After racing out to a 14-3 lead in a game for first place of the division, the offense cannot stay on the field. (Browns’ time of possession is 17:50.)

46. @Washington, 2008 Week 7, 14-11. Phil Dawson has a 54-yard game-tying field goal attempt as time expired which has the leg but is just wide right.

45. @Arizona, 2011 Week 15, 20-17 (OT). The Cardinals score 10 points in two minutes in the middle of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 17.

44. Indianapolis, 1999 Week 16, 29-28. The 2-13 Browns lead the game wire-to-wire…that is, until the Colts kick the game-winning field goal as time expires. Coming off a productive Jacksonville loss (#186 on this list), it is a…way to end a season (although not the worst end to a season; that’s #38).

43. New Orleans, 2006 Week 1, 19-14. First play from scrimmage is a 74-yard TD for the Browns…called back for holding. The last play of the game is a tip-drill interception by the Saints.

42. Cincinnati, 1999 Week 5, 18-17. The Bengals score the go-ahead TD with five seconds left, robbing the Browns of their first win in the new era.

41. Indianapolis, 2002 Week 15, 28-23. A 16-0 halftime lead is for naught as a go-ahead TD pass to an open Andra Davis is dropped with 83 seconds remaining in the game.

40. Baltimore, 2006 Week 3, 15-14. After carrying a 14-3 lead into the fourth quarter, Charlie Frye throws an interception with three minutes left that leads to the game-winning field goal.

39. Cincinnati, 2009 Week 4, 23-20 (OT). Browns block a PAT to force overtime, but can’t do anything offensively past that, and Shayne Graham kicks the game-winning field goal as time expires in overtime.

38. Pittsburgh, 2010 Week 17, 41-9. What a way to end the season at home.

37-22. IS THIS REAL LIFE

37. @Miami, 2004 Week 16, 10-7. I’m just going to copy and paste snippets from the AP recap and let them wash over you. “The teams combined for six turnovers and went 3½ quarters without a point after an early 7-all tie with impressive ineptitude.” “The Dolphins faked a field goal, tried a pooch punt instead and netted 2 yards. They had a 6½-minute drive that barely reached midfield. Tight end Randy McMichael, who has lobbied for more passes, dropped two. Feeley drilled a throw 5 yards into the chest of defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban, who was too astounded to make the interception.” “The Browns lost a fumble at the Miami 2 and had a takeaway negated by a penalty.” “But the ugliest moment came in the third quarter, with an interception and two fumbles on the same play. Luke McCown’s deep throw was intercepted by Arturo Freeman, who fumbled. Teammate Patrick Surtain picked up the ball, then lateraled to Sam Madison, who fumbled. The Browns recovered for a net gain of 26 yards.” “Phil Dawson missed a 43-yard field goal when his attempt hit the right upright.” The only reason this game isn’t higher is because the Browns clearly should not even be in position to win this game at any point.

36. NY Jets, 2010 Week 10, 26-20 (OT). Chansi Stuckey fumbles in overtime in Jets territory, and the Jets end up scoring the winning TD with only :16 left in overtime. Who is Chansi Stuckey, you ask? I don’t quite know, but apparently he was our second leading WR that year. I will no longer curse the Browns’ thin WR corps (and I do mean literally thin, between Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, and Travis Benjamin).

35. Philadelphia, 2012 Week 1, 17-16. Browns score a TD when down 10-9, and elect to kick the extra point instead of going for two. The Eagles then score the go-ahead TD with 83 seconds remaining.

34. Pittsburgh, 2005 Week 16, 41-0. ugh

33. Baltimore, 2003 Week 16, 35-0. Jamal Lewis rushes for 205 yards, which gives him 500 yards against the Browns alone in 2003. (More on this later, at #25.)

32. @Cincinnati, 2013 Week 11, 41-20. Trying to climb into the playoff race and jumping out to a 13-0 lead after the first quarter, the Browns promptly give up 31 points in the second quarter to Cincinnati.

31. @Jacksonville, 2014 Week 7, 24-6. After trouncing the Steelers 31-10 and looking like playoff contenders, the right side of the offensive line is pushed around all day by the Jaguars and the Browns commit two turnovers in 51 seconds in the fourth quarter, turning a 10-6 game into a blowout. After this game, the Jaguars, in their most recent 26 non-divisional matchups, were 2-0 against the Browns and 0-24 against the other 27 teams in the league.

30. Baltimore, 2002 Week 5, 26-21. The Tim Couch Cry Game. Couch suffers a concussion when the Browns are down 23-0 and the home crowd cheers, which leads to an emotional and expletive-laden interview where he lashes out at the Cleveland fanbase. In the meantime, Kelly Holcomb mounts a furious fourth-quarter comeback that falls just short. Controversy? What controversy? (Also, can we talk about how even only a dozen years ago, players would get concussions and then be cleared to talk to the media after the game?)

29. Baltimore, 2014 Week 3, 23-21. Playing with the lead all game, the Browns score zero points off of two fourth-quarter field goals (one miss, one blocked), either of which would have forced the Ravens to try for touchdowns.

28. Pittsburgh, 2006 Week 11, 24-20. Roethlisberger throws for 224 yards in the fourth quarter, and the Steelers complete the comeback from 10 down at three different points in the game.

27. @Baltimore, 2003 Week 2, 33-13. Jamal Lewis sets the then-NFL record with 295 yards in a single game. In doing so, Lewis quashes a comeback attempt that had gotten the Browns within 16-13.

26. Carolina, 2002 Week 13, 13-6. Carolina intercepts the ball on a desperation drive, but fumbles it and the Browns return it for a touchdown…except the play is ultimately waved off because the pass is ruled incomplete. The Browns are out of timeouts and thus unable to challenge the play.

25. Pittsburgh, 2007 Week 1, 34-7. The Week 1 beatdown so bad, the Browns became the only team in NFL history to trade their starting quarterback between weeks 1 and 2. The only touchdown came on a pass to our fullback when down 24-0, and he decided it was a good time to break out an outrageous dance. (People started booing, if I remember correctly. Usually people get at least one week in before they start to lose faith in the team…of course, this became the Browns’ best season since their return.)

24. @Dallas, 2012 Week 11, 23-20 (OT). Dallas scores 17 points in the fourth quarter to tie the game in regulation.

23. Indianapolis, 2003 Week 1, 9-6.

22. Seattle, 2001 Week 1, 9-6. Rian Lindell hits a 52-yard field goal into the wind as time expires. The Browns had first and goal with three minutes remaining but failed to convert.

21-13. THIS SIMPLY DID NOT HAPPEN. IT COULD NOT HAVE

21. @Jacksonville, 2010 Week 11, 24-20. Browns force five straight turnovers, but only manage to convert them into 10 points. Jags then score two touchdowns in the final four minutes. The Browns win the turnover battle 6-1…and still lose. (Maybe partially because Colt McCoy was 9 yards away from being the Browns’ leading rusher.)

20. @Buffalo, 2004 Week 14, 37-7. The Browns manage 17 total yards of offense (15 of them on a garbage-time drive after the two-minute warning).

19. @Cincinnati, 2004 Week 12, 58-48. That’s not a misprint (especially considering what the team did two weeks later). Tied an NFL record for highest losing score in league history. Second highest scoring game (combined score) in league history. Browns are driving late in the fourth quarter down 51-48, but Kelly Holcomb throws a pick-six to provide the final margin.

18. Pittsburgh, 1999 Week 1, 43-0. Welcome to the New Browns era! The Browns are outgained by the Steelers 464-40. Being eight years old, I actually thought that Drew Carey, who came out onto the field in a jersey, was part of the team. Honestly, he wouldn’t have done any worse.

17. @Cincinnati, 2007 Week 16, 19-14. With a win guaranteeing a playoff berth (and likely a division crown), Derek Anderson throws five interceptions. Although the Browns beat the 49ers the next week, they lose the division tiebreaker to the Steelers. A Colts win later that evening would be sufficient for the Browns to sneak into the playoffs, but the Colts rest Peyton Manning and lose handily.

16. St. Louis, 2011 Week 10, 13-12. Phil Dawson’s 22-yard field goal attempt after the two-minute warning falls victim to a very very bad snap, and the kick is booted wide right…once again proving that nobody’s perfect (why no, I do not know the choreography to this song from memory).

15. Cincinnati, 2011 Week 1, 27-17. Cincinnati backup QB Bruce Gradkowski (yes, he of the one-start-at-the-end-of-2008 fame) notices that the Cleveland defense is slow out of the huddle, and thus rushes to the line and quick-snaps the ball for an easy go-ahead touchdown. Keep in mind that when Gradkowski started for us, he lost 31-0 (see #169).

14. @Pittsburgh, 2014 Week 1, 30-27. After falling in a 27-3 hole, the Browns score 24 straight points after halftime to tie the game, but then allow the Steelers to march down the field and kick the game-winning field goal as time expires. Of course, this game is far better known for this, which is definitely not particularly fitting because it represents the state of the rivalry over the last 17 years or anything: unnamed (4)13. @Pittsburgh, 2007 Week 10, 31-28. Browns blow a 21-6 lead thanks to 0 offensive points after halftime (a 100-yard absurd kickoff return for TD by Josh Cribbs keeps the Browns in the game—Derek Anderson’s reaction at 0:27, by the way, is emblematic of every single post-1999 Browns quarterback: “yay! I don’t have to worry about being the one who messes up the getting of the points?”). A game-tying 53-yard field goal attempt as time expires from Phil Dawson falls short.

12-1. NOTHING IS REAL ANYMORE, ALL HAIL THE MATRIX

12. @San Diego, 2015 Week 4, 30-27. After tying the game at 27, the Chargers drive down the field for a field goal try as time expires. Josh Lambo, the Chargers kicker, misses the kick, but Tramon Williams is whistled for offsides, which gives the Chargers an untimed down and therefore a second chance to hit the field goal, which he does. This couldn’t even crack the top 10, and that’s partially because we have more untimed down hijinks coming. Hold onto your pants.

11. Indianapolis, 2014 Week 14, 25-24. The Colts come back from 14 down and drive for the game-winning touchdown with 32 seconds remaining after converting 4th and 2 on the 3 yard line.

10. Baltimore, 2015 Week 12, 33-27. In a game that features four turnovers in the last two minutes while the game is tied at 27-27, the Browns line up for a 47-yard field goal as time expires. The kick, of course, is blocked and returned for a touchdown. To add insult to injury, this is the first field goal all season that rookie kicker Travis Coons had missed. The kick-six nullifies an incredibly heads-up game-tying drive by Austin Davis(???). I watched this game while hate-eating bagels on an elliptical machine, and in typical Cleveland fashion, I was a little offended that we were going to win the game after all of my self-loathing.

9. @Detroit, 2009 Week 11, 38-37. In a matchup of 1-8 teams, the Browns build a 24-3 lead over the Lions, but lets them back in it over the course of the second half. On the last play of the game, with Detroit trailing 37-31 and with no timeouts remaining, Stafford is injured and the ball is intercepted, but pass interference is called. As a result, Detroit gets an untimed down. Eric Mangini decides to call timeout before this untimed down, which gives Stafford enough time to test out his arm and re-enter the game. He then throws a touchdown to win the game. Mangini’s explanation for calling the timeout was that he wanted to “get his team ready” for the untimed down.

8. @Arizona, 2007 Week 13, 27-21. On the last play of the game, Derek Anderson throws a pass to Kellen Winslow in the end zone. Winslow catches the ball but is pushed out of bounds before he can land with both feet in the end zone. Under the rules at the time, if a player could have stepped in bounds but for the forceout, the catch should be ruled a touchdown. Officials refuse to reverse the call on the field of an incomplete pass, and the Browns lose. As a result of this game, the forceout rule is removed at the end of the 2007 season.

7. @Oakland, 2007 Week 3, 26-24. On the last play of the game, Phil Dawson kicks a 40-yard field goal through the uprights. Unfortunately, Oakland coach Lane Kiffin has called timeout from the sidelines right before the ball is snapped (a new rule as of 2007). On the second try, the kick is blocked. After Week 3, the rule is amended so that this exact circumstance is no longer possible.

6. @New England, 2013 Week 14, 27-26. Patriots, down 26-14, score a touchdown with 61 seconds left, recover the onside kick, and then score another touchdown thirty seconds later.

5. @Pittsburgh, 2002 Wild Card, 36-33. The Steelers, down 24-7, mount an insane rally, with 29 points in the last 19 minutes of the game. The last touchdown goes to fullback Chris Fu’amatu-Ma’afala, who has 127 total yards from scrimmage and 0 touchdowns in the 2002 regular season. (Fu’amatu-Ma’afala only scored ten touchdowns in his NFL career.) The two-point conversion to make it a three-point game is a pass from Antwaan Randle-El, which the Steelers would make use of again three years later in a game against the Browns. (This loss, if it were a regular season loss, would be #13 in this ranking.)

4. @Chicago, 2001 Week 8, 27-21 (OT). The Browns are leading 21-7 with a minute to play, but Chicago scores a touchdown with 32 seconds remaining, recovers the onside kick, and then converts a 34-yard Hail Mary as time expires to tie the game. On the Browns’ first drive of overtime, Chicago intercepts a screen pass and returns it for a touchdown. Video highlights point out the Baylor-style tip-drill touchdown that victimized safety Mike Brown before his hero moment in overtime.

3. @Pittsburgh, 2002 Week 4, 16-13 (OT). The Browns get an interception deep in Steelers territory in overtime, but Phil Dawson misses a 45-yard field goal. On the next drive, the Steelers attempt to kick a field goal on second down. The attempt is blocked, but the Steelers recover. The refs rule that since the ball did not cross the line of scrimmage, the Steelers are entitled to kick another field goal on third down, and that attempt is good.

2. Kansas City, 2002 Week 1, 40-39. Dwayne Rudd’s Helmet Toss. On the last play of the game from the Chiefs’ own 47, trailing 39-37, Trent Green is under pressure, and linebacker Dwayne Rudd gets to him. Right before Green goes down, though, he shovels a lateral to one of his linemen, who then runs to the 26 of the Browns well after time has expired. However, Rudd thinks he has sacked Green cleanly, and expecting that the game was over, immediately removes his helmet and throws it, an automatic 15-yard penalty. Since a game cannot end on a defensive penalty, the Chiefs get an untimed down and kick the (now a chip shot) 28-yard field goal.

1. Jacksonville, 2001 Week 14, 15-10. Bottlegate. The Browns are 6-6, looking to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Browns are driving, down 15-10, with 68 seconds left in the game. Tim Couch appears to complete a three-yard throw to Quincy Morgan on 4th and 2 from the Jacksonville 12, setting up first and goal. Couch hurries everybody to the line and then spikes the ball. At this point (and only at this point), Terry McAulay, the head official, signals that the Morgan completion is under review. Although the rule is that once another play is run, the play before cannot be reviewed, McAulay’s reasoning is that the replay booth buzzed him before the spike play was run, but that he had to confirm with another official that the buzz had happened before the play was run. The ruling of a catch is then overturned by the officials, and the Jaguars are awarded the ball. At this time, fans start throwing bottles and other debris onto the field, and the referees decide to call a forfeit of the game with 48 seconds still on the clock. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ultimately has to call the referees and force the last 48 seconds of the game to be run, even with a significant amount of debris still remaining on the field.

A couple general thoughts:

  • The years with the worst loss luck seem to be 2001, 2002, and 2007…which happen to be three of the four years where the Browns managed a 7-9 or better record (2014 is the fourth). This at least somewhat stands to reason Pythogarean-ically, since you would expect more close games from a team who scores and gives up about the same number of points as opposed to a team who averages a three-score loss every game.
  • The Browns have had a lot of really bad offenses. There are really only a handful of shootout losses, and most of those seem to involve the Browns losing from ahead rather than falling just short in a comeback.
  • On a related note, the Browns have been shut out 13 times in 16+ years. Many of those were in the first couple of years back, but it’s still been a fun run of offensive ineptitude.
  • The Browns have lost to their current division rivals a total of 71 times (PIT: 27, BAL: 24, CIN: 20) for ~40% of their losses; since division games now make up 37.5% of the schedule, their run of ineptitude within the AFC North is particularly notable.

It’s cool, though, the NFL totally has parity, so everything is okay. There’s always next year to bring about heartbreaking losses in ways yet unimagined.

Judges of Old: Putting The “Frail” Supreme Court in Historical Context

UPDATE (2/13/16): Hello. If you have reached this page in connection with the recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, I do think there are some additional useful tidbits of information to note. 

  • First, the longest vacancy on the Supreme Court happened in 1844-46. Yes, it lasted over two years, and also started in the first third of an election year. Outgoing President Tyler nominated two people to the seat, but both were rejected by the Senate. Incoming President James K. Polk also nominated two more people, but one was rejected by the Senate and one withdrew. It was only on Polk’s third (and the fifth overall) nomination that Robert Cooper Grier was seated after a vacancy of 834 days.
  • Justice Scalia’s death becomes only the second in the last 43 years. In fact, with the growing tide of retirements/resignations (mentioned below), election-year vacancies have become exceedingly rare. Only two Supreme Court Justices have been nominated in an election year since 1916: Benjamin Cardozo, a widely acclaimed choice by Hoover in 1932, and William Brennan, a recess appointment that was later ratified by the Senate after Eisenhower won reelection in 1956. This speaks some to the increased politicization of the Court, but it could just as easily be seen as Justices wanting to minimize vacancy time. 
  • Perhaps most importantly for the future, we have very little data on how this nominating process will proceed from here. Justices have been scared of timing it this way in the past, but we really have no way to know if their fear has been justified, and we are likely to find out, as if it works out as expected, this will probably be the example that people keep in their minds for the next fifty years. 

A common topic of conversation for people who watch the Supreme Court is how political processes will influence its future makeup. As legal issues before the Court are increasingly viewed through a political lens, more and more observers are attempting to read the minds of Justices that they see as at “retirement age” to determine whether they might step down from the bench, and whether a like-minded president might be some incentive to do so.

And when this exercise commences, most people are quick to point out that four of the current Justices (Ginsburg, Kennedy, Scalia, Breyer) are 77 or older, and that many, many former Justices had been long retired by then. All four of these Justices plus Clarence Thomas have served on the court for at least twenty-one years. Given that unqualified and relatively inexperienced lawyers tend not to get confirmed, the age of the Court must be a concern collectively, if not individually.

But is there a way to figure out what proper retirement age is for your generic Justice outside of mere anecdotes? I set out to determine how the age breakdown of the Court has changed over time, and how that was being driven both by appointments and decisions to retire or resign.

(A brief aside regarding methodology: I determined the average age of the Court based on its makeup on December 31 of each year listed. I am assuming that everybody currently on the Court is still serving on December 31, 2015. I then made a few adjustments: If a seat was vacant on December 31, but somebody had held it in the previous calendar year, I calculated the age of the Court based on what the previous holder’s age would have been on December 31 if they had still held the seat. However, if a seat had been vacant for an entire calendar year (two instances), I did not count the seat as being held by anybody. I also counted Justice James Iredell as serving in 1789 as he was an original appointee to the Court.)

The first chart here plots the age and year of every Justice leaving the Court, drawing a distinction between those that either retired or resigned and those who died while serving on the Court. (Roughly ten Justices retired from the court very shortly before they died due to medical reasons related to their eventual death, and those Justices on this chart are also marked as having died functionally while serving on the Court.)

Deaths 2

There are some immediate observations that stand out. First is the frequency of deaths of active Justices as compared to retirements/resignations. In the first two decades of the Court’s existence, there are eight resignations as compared to only two deaths. The latter is in part due to the relative youth of the Court at the time, but the former is related to the Court’s perception as an inferior branch of government. But by 1810, as the Marshall Court establishes itself, retirements and resignations have become the exception rather than the norm, with only four resignations over the next 70 years, three of which are highly unusual:

  • 1835: Gabriel Duvall, perhaps the most insignificant Justice, retires at the age of 82, by some accounts long after he has stopped substantively contributing to decisions.
  • 1857: Benjamin Curtis, the first Justice with a law degree and the only Whig justice to serve on the Supreme Court, resigns as a result of the decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford. (His successor, Nathan Clifford, is unfortunately pro-slavery.) Curtis goes on to successfully represent President Andrew Johnson at his impeachment proceedings.
  • 1861: John Archibald Campbell, a former child prodigy originally admitted to the Georgia bar at the age of 18, resigns from the Supreme Court immediately following the Battle of Fort Sumter and returns to his home in Alabama. He is later named an assistant Secretary of War for the Confederacy. After the war, he is briefly imprisoned but then is released and continues his private practice, later arguing the Slaughterhouse Cases in front of the Supreme Court.
  • 1877: David Davis, a renowned independent, is supposed to serve on the 1876 Electoral Commission to resolve the presidential election between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes. The commission of 15 members (5 representatives, 5 Senators, and 5 Justices) is selected specifically to break 7-7 along party lines, with Davis as the tiebreaking independent. However, Davis is simultaneously chosen by the Democrat-controlled Illinois Legislature as the new Senator from Illinois (direct election of Senators was still thirty-five years away). While the legislature does this in hopes of currying favor with Davis, he promptly resigns from the Supreme Court to take his Senate seat and refuses to serve on the Commission as a result. As the remaining members on the Supreme Court are all Republicans, every dispute is resolved 8-7 in favor of Hayes, and he wins the election by one electoral vote (185-184).

As the nineteenth century comes to a close, while retirements are still uncommon and most Justices serve until their death, they are no longer unusual. The final tipping point is sometime around FDR’s presidency, with the increasing age of the Court bringing about, indirectly, FDR’s attempted Court-packing plan and a particularly compressed spate of retirements (only Owen Roberts’s seat remains unchanged between 1937 and 1941, as Harlan Fiske Stone is elevated to Chief in 1941). This is a subject for a much longer post and has been explored exhaustively by better writers than me. In the meantime, it is worth noting that after the rather unexpected deaths of Chief Justice Fred Vinson in 1953 and Justice Robert Jackson in 1954, only one Justice (William Rehnquist in 2005) has actually died while actively serving on the Supreme Court, and only two others (John Marshall Harlan II and Hugo Black, both in 1971) died very shortly after they retired.

With respect to the entire court, the average age of active Justices has stayed mostly within a narrow range (between 60 and 70 years old) for much longer than you might expect. Since first rising above 60 years in 1825, it has only dipped below 60 twice: at the end of the Marshall Court (when 79-year-old John Marshall died and 82-year-old Gabriel Duvall retired) and immediately following the FDR nominations mentioned above. Similarly, the only times the average age has risen above 70 are immediately preceding the FDR nominations as well as immediately before Chief Justice Warren Burger’s retirement in 1986.

And yes, that includes the current Court. Considering that five of the Justices have served for over 20 years, it would be easy to assume that the Court, which rarely appoints those under 50, should easily have an average age over 70. Even with four relatively old Justices on the Court right now, the Court’s stability over the last 20 years has not yet translated into a historically old Court (although the Court will pass 70, on average, in mid-2016, so we are approaching potentially uncharted territory). Given the steady increase of life expectancy from 1790 to today, it would be logical to see the greatest jumps in average age being made from 1880 to 1950. And while there is a slight upward trend during that time, the “noise” of FDR turning over most of the Court at once dominates any signal that might be seen as a result.

Perhaps this makes sense, though. While the average life expectancy for the United States has increased dramatically, the people who have managed enough education and social connections to get appointed to the Supreme Court are far more likely to be sufficiently moneyed to have access to state-of-the-art healthcare and are likely to avoid the types of activities that would result in life-threatening injuries that would drive down life expectancy in the nineteeth century.

While this might imply that there should be more Justices in their eighties nowadays, as the ~$250,000 salary for Justices is sufficient to have access to top-of-the-line benefits, there is no upward trend at all if the plotted points for deaths are isolated in the above chart. In fact, the trend may be slightly downward, with more recent Justices dying at generally younger ages than those from the early- and mid-nineteenth century. While many Justices now do in fact live longer, they are now retiring first instead. Thus, it is more likely that you will have several retired Justices than several active Justices above 85, even though Roger Taney served until his death in 1864, when he was 87. Although there is no upward trend for the ages of Justices at their death, retirements and resignations are certainly happening, on average, at progressively older ages for Justices, with David Souter being the only Justice in nearly 35 years to retire before the age of 75.

Supreme Court Appointments
Chief Justices, whether newly appointed or elevated, are marked in a brighter red. Those directly elevated from an Associate Justice seat are: Justice White (1910), Justice Stone (1941), and Justice Rehnquist (1986). Both Justice Rutledge (1795) and Justice Hughes (1930) served prior nonconsecutive terms as an Associate Justice.

Another reason for the lack of Justices in their eighties may be hidden in the age trends for appointments. In considering who is unfit to be a Supreme Court Justice, one of the first criteria would be experience. Based on life expectancies, a balance between experience and youth (or at least not-being-super-old) should also result in a gradually increasing age for most nominees. This should be reinforced by the trend toward a seven-year training period for lawyers between 1850 and 1930. However, if you discount the early days of the Supreme Court, before the Marshall Court firmly established the Court’s legitimacy, and start at the appointment of Justice Thompson in 1823, the vast majority of appointees have been in their 50s since then. While there was a slight trend toward older nominees between the Civil War and the Great Depression, that trend has, if anything, reversed itself since then. The most recent Justice to be at least 61 years old at the time of their appointment is Lewis Powell, in 1972. (The 13 new appointees of over 61 years of age were all nominated between 1870 and 1971.)

That’s correct: Supreme Court appointees are, on average, getting younger, and have been since the 1930s. Again, the specter of the Court Packing Plan and the resultant politicization of nominees looms large. Beforehand, a handful of cross-party nominations had previously succeeded, including Justice Field in 1863 and Justice Lamar in 1910, and before the two parties aligned significantly with the ideological spectrum, it was common for presidents to nominate from other ideological wings of their parties. However, if legal doctrine, and particularly constitutional law arguments, can be easily broken down into “Republican” and “Democrat” views, gaming the system by trying to keep your nominees on the Court as long as possible becomes not only attractive but feasible. Court watchers should find this as no surprise.

The youngest Justice appointed in the last 200 years is William O. Douglas, FDR’s third appointee during this flurry of replacements. Douglas, of course, went on to become the longest-serving Justice in history. His record could feasibly be broken (in 2027) by Clarence Thomas, who was appointed by George H.W. Bush in 1991 at the age of 43. Thurgood Marshall, Thomas’s predecessor and a liberal Johnson appointee, publicly expressed frustration at the time of his retirement that Bush was going to be able to choose Marshall’s replacement.

As a result, terms of service are getting longer. While there are plenty of exceptions to this (John Marshall, for example, is still the fourth-longest serving Justice in the Court’s history), very few Justices nowadays serve for fewer than 20 years. (The last Justice, in fact, to serve a shorter term than David Souter’s 19 years was Lewis Powell, the last Justice appointed past age 60. The last one prior to Powell was Warren Burger, the third-most recent Justice appointed past age 60.) Indeed, if you look at both charts, each set of points plotted tends to overlap with the average line early but drift significantly away from the average line in the last 50 years.

So what does this all mean? Well, a few potential things. First, if maximizing terms of service is the goal, appointees will likely continue to get younger in the coming decades. (Perhaps this does not immediately mean a rash of appointees in their 40s, but instead it might mean that we are unlikely to see another appointee over the age of 55.) It is unclear where the legal profession might draw the line for “sufficient experience,” but considering that judges are being nominated to Article III courts in their thirties, we might not have reached the baseline quite yet.

Second, the Court may, as a result of how long terms of service coincide, see wild swings in average age. While there were political considerations at play during the court-packing days and it is perhaps less likely that a significant number of the nine seats are ever replaced in a short period of time, the Justices themselves have started to take political officeholders into consideration, as Sandra Day O’Connor did in 2005 when she chose to retire.

This may result in the third and fourth events that I expect to see in the coming years: at least one wild swing on the ideology of the Court as a result of a single-party run of success in the electorate (or perhaps simply as the result of an unexpected death), and resulting mass retirements whenever the executive changes hands, including retirements of younger Justices. (This is on display to some extent in the Sixth Circuit, where two judges took senior status in 2009-10, after the last executive party switch, and nobody else has since 2001, immediately following the previous executive party switch. However, I could also easily see this going the other way, with Justices refusing to retire simply to ride out another few years for the benefit of their ideology.) In fact, even if a Justice is in good health, they may follow the lead of Justice Souter: retire early, but immediately after a party switch. While Justice Souter’s retirement was seen as consistent with his odd reputation, and while most Justices are where they are because they are the types of people who would enjoy the job that they have, Souter’s active circuit-riding and sitting by designation illustrates that these opportunities would still be available to the Justices that might follow this path.

In fact, if reports of a blue wall are not, indeed, exaggerated, we may be in for the latter sooner than we think. While the older crop of Justices does not seem to be in any hurry to retire, the four younger Justices, particularly Sotomayor and Alito, might be more receptive to this reasoning, particularly if the nomination for one of the older Justices’ replacements gets even slightly messy. This, of course, would serve to drive down the average age of the Supreme Court and perhaps turn it into perhaps a mid-career job as opposed to a late-career one. But perhaps that would spur the judiciary into becoming more adaptive with changes in society and technology. Or perhaps it might create a market for former Justices running for elected office, like Justice Hughes did in 1916.

Or perhaps I’m just speculating wildly based on two interesting charts that I cobbled together over the weekend.

Do The Right Thing, and Pay For It: Show Me A Hero and David Simon’s Mayor Fascination

This post contains significant spoilers for the just-aired final two episodes of Show Me A Hero (as well as the previous four) and for the entire run of The Wire. Please do not read any further if you have not seen both of these.

L: Oscar Isaac as Nick Wasicsko. R: Aidan Gillen as Tommy Carcetti.

David Simon likes mayors. While The Wire was hardly a standard police procedural, one of the less discussed ways in which it diverged from typical television is its fascination with the chain-of-command chess match and the motivations of those several levels above the rank-and-file detectives in homicide. Perhaps it is only natural, then, that he devotes a 35-episode arc to the chain-of-command top dog: Tommy Carcetti, who I will not call Martin O’Malley even a single time for the rest of this essay.

It also makes sense that his new HBO offering, Show Me A Hero, focuses on very similar power dynamics (but in the context of a very different issue). While the show, as the book it was adapted from, uses a very broad lens, following a multitude of characters through the seven-year arc, Oscar Isaac is nominally billed as the lead for his portrayal of Mayor Nick Wasicsko. The touch is similarly Simon-esque: for every surface difference, there are a number of parallels, and avid fans of The Wire will notice themes that are lifted directly: for example, Doreen Henderson’s spiral during Part 4 into drug addiction parallels the arc of Dee-Dee, a character who only needs a single scene each in Seasons 3, 4, and 5 of The Wire to make a huge impact.

But for David Simon, his message draws from more than just a single trope. The layers of narrative lend an overwhelming amount of context to each character’s decisions, and he uses their flaws to both justify and critique their decisions. This is the territory I will attempt to explore, using the two mayors as a vehicle to connect Show Me A Hero to the thematic universe of The Wire.

First, though, let us get one thing straight: Show Me A Hero is not the second coming of The Wire. Most importantly, Show Me A Hero uses non-diegetic music. But in addition, David Simon, far before thousands of people could not convince themselves to keep going through the first half of Season 2, mused that those first six episodes were “all prologue,” a sea of deliberately-paced scenes stitched together with no seeming direction until they were appended to the latter six. No, Simon’s ideal canvas is a far larger one, one that could not hope to be examined in a mere six hours. However, as this is neither a review of Show Me A Hero or a defense of Season 2 of The Wire (in my mind criminally underrated by the general public), I will leave this at that.

It is easy to draw parallels between the two. Tommy Carcetti is a boyish white councilman who mounts a hopeless campaign for mayor; that is, hopeless until a linked series of events turns his hopes around and catapults him to a unexpected narrow victory, at which point he is besieged by problems he had no way of comprehending ahead of time, only lasting two years in office before moving on. Nick Wasicsko is the same. However, I think it is one single pair of parallel decisions that informs their arc and, ultimately, their fates. Both are given significant character development to foreshadow this turn of events. Both are confronted with factors that make them feel like it is impossible to choose the other option. And, although it does not directly bear on the importance of this decision to Simon’s construction of their arcs, the consequences for their decisions, both good and bad, are exactly what each simultaneously hopes and fears.

* * *

Aidan Gillen as Tommy Carcetti

Tommy Carcetti was always a bit of a bad boy. Simon makes this abundantly clear throughout his three seasons on the show. From the one-night stand at the beginning of Season 3; to Theresa D’Agostino’s (and by proxy, his) embrace of an calculated campaign at every step, regardless of who he may be putting on a straight face for; to the low-angle shots that frame Carcetti’s wheels turning in the mayor’s chair; the signs are there. Not that he doesn’t have any heart at all, of course—he takes time to go see Hamsterdam and listen to Colvin, for example, and entering the race once Gray is already in eats him up inside (not only evidenced by the monologue that leads to Tony Gray’s “fuck you” moment, but also by Carcetti’s willingness to justify feeding the witness information late in the campaign to him as some help to get Gray over into the state legislature).

However, Carcetti in Season 3 is driven by not only an honest belief but a reasonable one that he is running to unseat a mayor who has become completely unsuited to running the city of Baltimore. As he reminds everybody he talks to, the tax base is moving to Baltimore County due to a crime increase that should, no, must be reversible. Royce’s failure to do anything about this means that he has to go. Ironically, Hamsterdam itself is a symbol of the failure of the war on drugs to begin with, and one of Royce’s few moments of actually channeling David Simon’s beliefs, driven by the crime numbers, is his momentary pause to see if there is some way he can sustain the experiment.

By the end of the series, Carcetti is on to the governor’s mansion, where bigger and better things await, with his final Season 5 montage scene the fulfillment of his promise to Bill Rawls to bring him along to the Maryland State Police leadership. This is just a microcosm of how Carcetti’s MO has changed: while he refers to Royce in private as a truly bad mayor, no such rhetoric is used in Seasons 4 and 5 to describe the policies of the governor that he plans to run against; in fact, he is often referred to by the Carcetti camp simply by his Republican Party identification. The move is framed as purely political.

When does Carcetti switch over from idealist to political operative? You could point to over a dozen instances that illustrate this transformation, and in fact, he shows flashes of this early in Season 3. However, I see one decision in particular that best encapsulates his evolution: his decision not to take state money to bail out the Baltimore city schools, which are $54 million in the red.

To lend some context to that number, the entire yearly operating budget of Cleveland public schools, which I assume supports a comparable number of students, is in the neighborhood of $700 million. This hole is simply insurmountable in the normal course of operations, as Season 5 demonstrates. Carcetti is clearly aware of that. And indeed, the reason he meets with the governor in the first place is because he has weighed the negatives of his decision (primarily, the reaction from potential out-of-city voters in the gubernatorial race) and decided that the city’s need is too great for him to ignore this potential solution. Even after a first meeting, where the governor demands greater control over the city schools, Carcetti still schedules a second meeting, intent on going through with the deal.

But even this moment of wisdom is pulled out from under us after the governor insists on calling a press conference to announce that he will generously allow the city to make up the deficit through state funds. Carcetti, of course, ends up not taking the deal. Even Carcetti’s chief of staff Michael Steintorf, who had in an earlier discussion told Carcetti not to ask for the money because “kids don’t vote,” is nearly speechless, at first only managing “Jesus. You left it on the table.” This brief about-face from Steintorf is fascinating considering that Carcetti’s moral compass in the show and the biggest voice in his ear advising him to take the deal, advisor Norman Wilson, is the first to speak up in this scene, outraged specifically at the governor’s shameless attempt to deal himself a political trump card in the upcoming gubernatorial race. Steintorf, around in part at least to spin and do damage control, was likely already assuming what for him would be the scenario that would create the most work. Wilson, on the other hand, likely is frustrated with just how hard it is to get politicians together to do something that is uncontroversially good.

Note that Simon makes a distinction here regarding what Carcetti is willing to accept and what is a bridge too far. Losing local control of the schools is difficult, but ultimately not a problem for Carcetti. However, calling a press conference to announce the funding? He’s out, and shame on the governor for bringing politics into this. But even implicit in that accusation is the idea that politics will trump policy in Carcetti’s world moving forward.

Carcetti, through Steintorf, spins this decision in his own mind quite cleverly. While he has put the financial (and by extension, overall) health of the city on hold, he justifies this by saying that he will help the city from the governor’s office. And certainly if the current governor has $54 million to throw at the schools, one who is more sympathetic to Baltimore’s plight should easily be able to find plenty of money for city expenses. However, this is a proposition that cannot occur for at least another two years. Furthermore, it would require the cooperation of Carcetti’s replacement, who might have different ideas for city spending than Carcetti does. Not only is this justification unreasonable, it feeds further into the idea that continuing to move up the political ladder is not only desirable, but also necessary and morally vindicated.

This plot point does not actually have any particular impact directly on the school storylines in
Season 4. It can be seen as a way to superficially tie the schools to the continuation of Carcetti’s storyline from Season 3. However, more than any other development, it sets the table for Season 5. McNulty’s serial killer is only necessary because nobody is getting paid to do real police work since any money that can possible be spared is being used to patch up the school budget. Marlo Stanfield is only caught because they can feel the effects of these cutbacks on surveillance and he starts to get lazy again. Even Whiting and Klebanow, the bosses at the Sun, settle originally on the failing school system and its lack of resources when searching for a “Dickensian” story that will catch the eye of the committee.

This Season 5 mess, of course, is all artfully spun to Carcetti’s advantage. He gives speeches and enacts token reforms to show that he cares about the homeless, and then takes the credit for McNulty’s unbelievably speedy resolution of the copycat case, passing the mentally ill perpetrator off as the real Red Ribbon Killer even though he is fully aware of the truth. To Simon, it is not even important to show whether or not Carcetti does ultimately help the city financially once he reaches the governor’s office. Carcetti has already bought into the system, and he is reaping the benefits.

In Jimmy McNulty’s black-and-white world, Carcetti is the textbook example of a boss (and not in the positive, Lonely Island way). Regardless of whether there are good motivations present (and in Carcetti’s case, he may have more than the bosses that McNulty regularly deals with), he has placed self-interest first in his decisionmaking process. Considering what McNulty tells Theresa D’Agostino on their one actual date together in Season 3 and his diatribe in Season 5 blasting the “new day” rhetoric used to bring him back to Homicide, it would be interesting to see his reaction if he knew that Carcetti had a chance to repair the budgetary mess and that he declined to do so for these political reasons.

* * *

Nick Wasicsko
Nick Wasicsko in 1988. Photo by Sara Krulwich/New York Times.

Nick Wasicsko’s choice, of course, is different. His two choices both have their downsides: one is actually impossible, and the other is merely unpopular. Wasicsko has a law degree, and thus likely understands the issue as well as, if not better than, every other member of the city government. The decision should be open and shut for him. And once he makes it, he treats it as such. But even so, he still feels the pull of the voters. “What about the Supreme Court?” he asks the city’s lawyers, perhaps a half-dozen times, in a number of different ways. They remind him that the case is hopeless: “Don’t hold your breath.”

Unlike Carcetti, he does not have the same long-term experience on the city council to think politically with such ease. He is, in Part 1, portrayed during his only term on the council as being more interested in talking to the secretaries than starting council meetings on time. He doesn’t have a grand plan with his mayoral run like Carcetti did—just $40,000 from Maury Levy and some standard talking points. Even after capitalizing on the emotion surrounding the issue, he still only beats Martinelli, the incumbent, by about three points even with the anti-housing support. (Simon draws another tangential parallel here: both Carcetti and Wasicsko, while standing on the street leafleting, are accosted by excited constituents that are clearly motivated by racism. Both are rightfully taken aback, but neither tries to do anything about it. What can they do? Clearly the answer is not to throw back a surefire vote.)

In fact, it is not made clear what Wasicsko actually thinks about the housing. During Part 1, every other named council member sitting before the 1987 election chimes in (Restiano, Longo, Fagan, Spallone). But Wasicsko does not speak up: he is simply taking the entire scene in, looking mildly agitated, whether at the protesters, his fellow councilmen, or at the proceedings as a whole. All of Wasicsko’s statements in Parts 1 and 2 about the housing are either deliberately placed as part of his campaign strategy or, once he gets into the mayor’s chair, simply tackling the issue from a problem-solving perspective. The remaining evidence we have about his thoughts on the plan are simply crumbs (for example, his failure to object to Mary Dorman’s characterization that he is against the housing plan, which itself can also be chalked up to politics).

However, if he had any thoughts of rejecting the housing plan, it is made abundantly clear that doing so would be disastrous for somebody. Leonard Sand, fully aware of the pressure that Yonkers residents are putting on their leadership, speaks forcefully into his other ear this entire time. While Judge Sand does not have a front-row seat for the visceral onslaught from the protesters, he can feel Wasicsko’s instincts for political self-preservation giving him second thoughts.

Once Wasicsko is up for reelection against Henry Spallone, framed largely as a referendum on the housing issue, he seems resigned to his fate. He knows that he is simply leading as a leader should, but understands that he is likely done. But out comes the knife-twist, a common Simon plot device: Wasicsko receives poll numbers that indicate that he will survive Spallone’s primary challenge, which he chooses to leak to the press. Spallone, a much more seasoned politician working with more experienced operatives, then switches parties in order to run in the general election and take advantage of the added pool of Republican voters, most of whom also oppose the housing developments. And thus, the cycle is complete: After benefiting disproportionately from the outrage over desegregation, Nick Wasicsko is unfairly swept out of office for facing the cold reality of the situation.

By the time the Profile in Courage award comes around, a plot development so obvious in its signaling that you would call it heavy-handed if it weren’t actually true, Wasicsko is in full reclamation project mode, reminding everybody that he was the lone voice of reason in dealing with the court. He valiantly tries to take the credit he feels, not wrongfully, that he is due. But through David Simon’s lens, politics was never going to work that way.

* * *

Dennis Kucinich
Dennis Kucinich in 1977, shortly after his election as mayor of Cleveland. Cleveland Plain Dealer via AP Images

At heart, both of Simon’s mayors had to choose between the principled choice and a choice that they perceived as being best for their career. What makes the difference between the two even more well-defined is that Wasicsko was merely battling to keep his own job, whereas Carcetti’s alternate choice would have ensured that his own job was available to him should he choose to keep it.

As a native Clevelander, my mind naturally free-associates this with a similar fight involving a “boy mayor”: Dennis Kucinich’s guidance of the city of Cleveland through a default. Kucinich was elected in 1977 at the age of 31, becoming the youngest mayor of a major city in the United States, which should sound familiar. There was enormous public pressure on him to sell the city-owned electrical utility company, Muni Light. However, Kucinich refused to sell the power utility, which resulted in retaliation by the banks that stood to profit heavily from the sale. This led to the city defaulting on its obligations, and like Wasicsko, Kucinich was very soundly voted out of office two years later, not returning to elected office of a similar stature for 15 years.

Kucinich, of course, is not dead—he’s made two runs for president and has spent the past 35 years sticking to his often non-mainstream guns. But that is, by all accounts, at least somewhat due to serendipity: as a result of his refusal to sell Muni Light, the mob (which in the late ’70s was declining but still incredibly powerful) ordered a hit on Kucinich to be carried out at a parade, which he managed to escape because he was ill on the day that the parade happened. Ultimately, calculations made recently have estimated the city’s savings due to its retention of Muni Light at roughly $200 million between 1985 and 1995. Even though his decision was more purely economic in nature and in consequences than the desegregation of Yonkers, it was still a decision that he paid for in many different ways. (His response, oddly enough, was the opposite of Wasicsko’s: he went ahead and put the city into default, although he had a better reason to do so.)

* * *

This is, I think, the heart of Simon’s message. Using your power to do the right thing is difficult and likely painful. Especially when it comes to the health of our institutions, whether local or federal, and when you are accountable to somebody else, or even worse, the general public, it will likely feel comfortable to simply protect yourself and wait the difficult decisions out. (As an aside, this is one of many reasons why life tenure for federal judges has never truly been and likely never will be in jeopardy—Judge Sand, if he had to be either reappointed or reelected over the course of this 29-year lawsuit, would have faced an incredible backlash for literally doing what his job (and the Constitution) required of him.)

Simon has poignantly illustrated the incredible destructive capacity of majoritarian policymaking. He has recognized, on one hand, the difficulty for actors inside the system to survive while trying, rightfully, to counteract these problems and survive in this realm. Furthermore, he has pointed out the incentives, on the other hand, to simply keep doing what you can in the name of self-preservation and kick the reform can down the road. However, where he seems to still have a bit of a blind spot is in the realm of influencing people with power through assembly and protest. Surely, the grotesque nature of many of the white protesters at council meetings using rhetoric currently associated with Black Lives Matter was somewhat intentional, even if the scenes were filmed before these protests really entered Baltimore’s public consciousness. Even so, there is only one very brief shot of a civil rights protest throughout the entire series—Pat Williams, who introduces herself to Mary Dorman during this protest in Part 4, is the only character that seems to want to try to work outside the system to achieve these goals.

Perhaps this is just outside of Simon’s experience. That’s fine. But it is important to remember that these areas exist. Much of the (white) educated left has anointed Simon as a White Person Who Gets It as a result of his incredible storytelling ability and his insight, far before criminal justice reform became a popular topic again in this country, into just what kinds of destructive effects overpolicing and draconian drug laws created. However, Simon is working from the point of view of a longtime police reporter. His insights into the institutions themselves are incredible, but it is understandable for him to have a lesser understanding of actors outside the system, even if his lessons here can be applied to them.

Simon, of course, famously told Baltimore protesters to “go home”, even in the immediate wake of the Freddie Gray incident. In later interviews, Simon appears to have softened that stance (and has at least cursorily understood why that sentiment was misguided), but still tends to view protests in an unfavorable light due to individual bad actors. This likely seems at odds with his opinion, in the same interview, that the burden of combating further racial discrimination is on the white community, but it is part of a larger obsession, particularly regarding protests and their consequences, with optics and respectability, which are supposed to “help” the white community come around on these issues.

Of course, this is not to say that Show Me A Hero does not illustrate broadly many problems that may fall through the cracks of public consciousness. For starters, the idea that the North has its own deeply rooted problems with race is simply not yet part of the mainstream narrative in this country, but is fundamental to true progress toward further racial equality. And Simon does tackle respectability politics briefly in Part 6, regarding the required housing orientation for new residents.

However, protesters aren’t looking to get reelected. And the chain of command doesn’t really exist for community organizers in nearly the same way. The incentives aren’t truly the same. And, once again, the fact that Simon is more familiar with a world of political games is not a black mark on him, or at least certainly not by itself (to paraphrase, “you’re white, I’m white, the whole government is white”). And I am sure Simon has a thousand more things that he could say eloquently about organizational bureaucracy before he would have to repeat himself.

But maybe this is why Simon likes mayors.

* * *

Interestingly enough, these distinctions seem to have made their way over to the casting department as well. Aidan Gillen is, of course, now equally known for being the evil studmuffin, I mean, er, the manipulative but mysterious Petyr Baelish in Game of Thrones, a role you could easily see Tommy Carcetti disappearing into with a bit more self-discipline and a bit less remote-throwing. Conversely, Oscar Isaac’s breakout role is as Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk singer becoming increasingly desperate for any career-related lifeline to hold onto. Both him and Nick Wasicsko have one thing going for them (talent/the law), and their time onscreen is spent trying to find anybody that will lend a friendly ear.

Carcetti’s purported inspiration has kept climbing the ladder, riding an increasing Democratic stranglehold on the state of Maryland all the way to the race for the Democratic presidential nominee. Ironically, he has been upstaged as the liberal alternative in the race by somebody who has gotten there by actively putting on the opposite public persona. But while this journey is equally worth scrutiny, it would likely not have added to what David Simon has to say about Tommy Carcetti. He has, by the time he has recaptured the governor’s office, reached an equilibrium in the eyes of Simon as somebody concerned with amassing power first and doing the right thing second. While Simon, unlike McNulty, does not explicitly pass judgment on this philosophy as a whole, it seems clear that he is trying to outline the pitfalls of this strategy, particularly when you compare his arc to Cedric Daniels, who of course resigns as police commissioner rather than play the stat games Carcetti wants him to play. (Or course, this decision ends up benefiting another seasoned self-interested type: Stan Valchek.) He climbs the ladder not because of his thoughtful and effective policies or his good intentions—even though he has them, that is beside the point.

No, Carcetti continues to climb the ladder because he has learned how to play the game—a game Nick Wasicsko could have learned to play if he had the chance. While the game is rigged, as Marla Daniels reminds us way back in Season 1, it is hard to call Wasicsko’s choice part of a game—in his position, both choices were impossible. Even Henry Spallone, while we do not see the inner workings of his administration, cannot do anything while in office other than what Wasicsko did, much to the consternation of the Save Yonkers Federation. Wasicsko, as he is represented in the series, shows flashes of political acumen—riding the wave of discontent into office, persuading his fellow councilmen to vote yes, and even extracting a concession out of Judge Sand regarding the housing site at the church, the only instance in which Sand bends at all in the entire series.

But shrewdness applied to unpopular ends, much like the gods in Baltimore, will not save you. And Wasicsko’s missteps, perhaps driven by his relative lack of experience and unsustainable rise, are magnified on the back end of his mayoral term. As he gets more and more desperate in his attempts to save what’s left of his political career in Parts 5 and 6, his quote to Dorman in Part 2 on the phone carries particular weight: “A leader is supposed to lead and that’s what I’m trying to do.” The tiny taste of his run as mayor has made him hungry for more, and in some way, he feels entitled to lead due to the validation he has received since leaving office. As a result, his attempts to play the game simply drive him further from his goals and alienate the connections he needs to stay relevant. For Wasicsko, perhaps his biggest problem wasn’t the fact that he made a politically bad decision. Instead, it was that he convinced himself that people would see it as a politically good decision, not only wiping out the controversy during his term but also the fact that he would not have come close to the mayor’s office without the housing issue in the first place.

* * *

Nick Wasicsko, perhaps because he cannot see a way out of what he believes is targeting by the power players in Yonkers for this belief, takes his own life in 1993, fourteen years before the Yonkers litigation is fully resolved. He does so near his father’s grave in Oakland Cemetery.

Oakland Cemetery is, fittingly, on the west side of the Saw Mill River Parkway, in the Black section of town. The Schlobohm Houses are less than a half mile away.

* * *

To punctuate the importance of the decision to forgo state money on the overall narrative arc of The Wire, a scene is included later on in the episode—one of the last scenes of the season. It does nothing to advance the plot on its own, but in this context is telling. Norman Wilson is meeting with Royce’s chief of staff Coleman Parker. As he expresses his frustration with watching Carcetti turn down the money, Parker’s response is an indictment of all politicians: “They always disappoint.” And while David Simon might clarify that he sees the incentive structure the other way around, it seems to dovetail perfectly with the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote that forms the basis for the name of the miniseries (which is taken from the book): “Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.”

In Carcetti’s case, the avoidance of a (political) tragedy also results in the avoidance of real, concrete change. Change that Nick Wasicsko, although he only had a limited time to savor it in Part 4 and never got the validation he desperately sought from the residents of Yonkers themselves, can claim for posterity.

The MTA’s Accessibility Gap

The MTA, for all our complaints, does several commendable things. Its customer costs are relatively low, especially when accounting for its 24/7 service, relative train frequency, and extensive system. However, one area where they aren’t so great is on accessibility.  Of the five largest subway/light rail systems in the country, two (San Francisco and DC) are fully accessible. Two more have far more than half of their stations accessible (Boston—only some Green Line stations non-accessible; Chicago—primarily some Blue and Red line stations non-accessible). This leaves New York. While there are 490 stations in the New York system (including Staten Island), barely more than 100 stations are accessible:

ADA Subway Map
Click for full-size

This is not entirely the MTA’s fault. The funding battles between the city, the state, and any number of other stakeholders can lead to, well, problems. Furthermore, since the entire MTA bus system is accessible, this is not as pressing a problem as, for example, where the MTA is going to find funding to keep an aging system even functional for the foreseeable future. For a city that is generally very unfriendly to people with disabilities, the bus system is a good start.

However, the bus system is set up more to complement the subway system than to handle standard commuting patterns, and it is generally neighborhood-based and might require multiple transfers to ride between boroughs. Those who already may need a little more time to take any trip are thus waiting even longer to get where they need to go.

It is interesting that Midtown Manhattan has so many more accessible stations than elsewhere (eighteen between 34th and 66th, as many as all of Queens and more than all of the Bronx)—while I understand that it is a focal point of the subway system to begin with, the people least likely to have the resources to find alternate means of transportation live in the outer boroughs (or in other corners of Manhattan).

Some other observations:

  • The J/Z is already isolated. Losing Broadway Junction, however, is devastating for South Brooklyn access (and transfer access in Manhattan via the L).
  • Also, the fact that the J ends at Chambers on the weekends means that there is no Williamsburg Bridge service on the weekends. The M terminates at Delancey/Essex, which is a noncompliant station with stairway transfers to the F, and the J does not have a single accessible stop or transfer in Manhattan, making Marcy Avenue effectively the last stop on either. This means that to get from Marcy or Flushing Avenues to Manhattan, you either take the M to Myrtle/Wyckoff to transfer to the L or the J all the way out to Jamaica Center to transfer to the E/LIRR. Either way, it’s likely a trip that will take way longer than an hour from Williamsburg/Bushwick.
  • The 2/3/4/5 trains are also somewhat isolated from the rest of Brooklyn outside of Atlantic Center. However, the loss of Botanic Garden makes it much more difficult to get to other parts of Brooklyn from the neighborhoods served by those trains (which also no longer include Brownsville or East New York).
  • Wanted to get to Astoria, Woodlawn, or South Brooklyn? Too bad.
  • The only transfer station in the Bronx is Yankee Stadium. (The loss of Grand Concourse/149 Street by itself is not so bad since the 4/5/6 lines can still transfer at 125th, but since the 5 now usually terminates at East 180 Street, getting from Wakefield to anywhere else in the Bronx also becomes that much harder.)
  • Note that while Broad Channel is still marked on the map, it is not itself an accessible station. It merely provides same-platform transfers between the Rockaway Park shuttle and the A. There is no way to switch directions, which means that traveling from Rockaway Park to Far Rockaway requires you to transfer at Broad Channel to an inbound A, then transfer to a Far Rockaway–bound A at Howard Beach/JFK.
  • Haha the G train (whose only accessible stop is at Church, although I suppose I should have marked the ability to same-platform transfer at Hoyt/Schermerhorn to the A/C).
  • The BDFM was already isolated from many of the other lines (as it does not run through the Financial District and doesn’t transfer to many other lines in Midtown). However, the elimination of the Bryant Park and 14 Street transfers make it even more difficult to get from the BDFM to other boroughs.
  • Finally, it is interesting that some of the less central stops that still have access are in areas that are considered more typically upper-class or tourist-friendly, such as Lincoln Center (1) or Bowling Green (4/5).

For an account of my quest to break the Guinness World Record for visiting every MTA subway stop in the shortest amount of time, click here

A Guinness World Record Diary: Dr. Strangeline, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee and Love the MTA

1.

“Good morning.” 

These may be the two least favorite words of anybody riding the New York City subway. Although I have never used the subway as a five-day-a-week tool since I moved to the city four years ago, I have accepted—or even embraced—the “don’t-bother-me” attitude that pervaded the country’s largest mass transit system. Sure, if somebody had a question about what transfer to make or whether they were indeed going toward Rockefeller Center, not saying anything would have been rude, but “good morning” never preceded one of these types of questions. That was reserved for the dregs of the subway social hierarchy: the panhandlers, or even worse, the performers. Every once in a while, there might be a person with a clipboard thrown in there, but they were equally seen as a disturbance (and likely far more awkward).

And yet there I was, on Friday, January 16, 2015, doing exactly the thing I knew would be most likely to evoke the vitriol and ire of my fellow riders—not once, not twice, but over a dozen times for something far less necessary than to scrape together money to eat, far less interesting than subway acrobatics, and far less worthwhile than anything that could be called a “cause.”

“Good morning. My name is Mat, and I’m trying to break the world record for the fastest time to travel to every NYC subway station. In order to provide complete documentation to Guinness that I did this, I need a list of witness signatures that prove I was on the trains when I claim I was. You don’t need to provide any personal information other than your name. If you could take a couple seconds of your time to sign this, I would really appreciate it.”

* * *

2.

On July 6, 2014, I got an email from my friend containing a link to an article accompanied by two words: “Beat them.” This was not out of the ordinary, as I have a bit of a reputation among my friends for being oddly obsessed with geography, infrastructure, and maps. For several years as a child, I was convinced that I was going to become a cartographer. While in grade school, I told this to everybody who would listen, at which point most people asked me why I wanted to be a  photographer (as an eight year old, I did not speak particularly clearly). I figured I would add the story to the list of trivia I knew about the subway but never expected to use.

Within an hour of receiving this email, I had created a spreadsheet for me to try to at least match on paper the 22 1/2–hour running time that the British team had achieved. There are 468 stations in the New York system, excluding Staten Island, and the record requires you to stop at every station on a train (no passing through on an express). The tangled web of stations in both Manhattan and Brooklyn require a lot of manipulating and cutting to minimize backtracking. As the subway itineraries are long and exhaustive PDFs, I calculated these schedules manually, which meant that it generally took at least three hours to come up with a route, check it for completeness, and then calculate the amount of time it would take.

By late that evening, I was ready to call it quits. The best I could do was 22 hours and 41 minutes, and that was with several instantaneous transfers that I would be incredibly lucky to make even one of, let alone all.

“If only I could leave the system and just walk to the next line,” I thought. “Then I could get rid of most of this backtracking and inefficiency.” It was only then that I looked up the Guinness rules and learned:

Transfers between subway lines must be made by scheduled public transport or on foot.

By the next day, I had gotten my scheduled time down to 21 hours flat. The game was afoot. (Literally.) 

* * * 

3.

While I received multiple assurances from Guinness that my planned route—despite the several running transfers outside the system—would receive consideration and potential validation, I was still worried. As I said before, my route is only calculated at a faster time than the 22:26:02 posted by the previous team because of my running ability and the fact that I planned to exit the system more than a dozen times. This would decouple the Guinness record from the recordkeeping of the Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee, which based on some cursory research appeared to have validated every Guinness record to date.

The ANYSRC website lays out a set of strict rules for three classes of records, with the Class B record being the most common attempt and the most analogous to the Guinness requirements. However, Rule XIV in the ANYSRC rules has no analogue in the Guinness requirements:

Each contestant making the run must pay one token fare upon entering the Transit Authority system prior to the run, and until the completion of the run must pay no further fare nor reenter premises of the Transit Authority by fraudulent means, or [by] means of any sort of pass.

In short, an ANYSRC attempt is done on a single fare, foreclosing the running transfers that I planned to rely on so heavily to take me under 22 hours and change.

Although my friends urged me to keep moving forward, a sneaking feeling remained at the back of my mind throughout the planning. I was deliberately disregarding ANYSRC guidelines; what would the backlash be? I didn’t want to have to defend myself against the people who I hoped would be most interested in the record quest.

* * *

4.

Thankfully, thoughts about guidelines and anxiety over other people’s opinions of me had to be put on the back burner quickly. I was starting a new job on September 15, and with Guinness’s pace of doing business, I had to start planning almost immediately to make an attempt before then.

Service changes, the bane of every New York City commuter, meant that even if I had found a good route, I would have to modify it significantly in order to make sure that I didn’t bypass any stops that might be temporarily closed or plan to ride lines that were either diverted or not running. For several weeks, however, there were too many simultaneous service changes to allow any variation of my route to move forward. The MTA did not always post all of their service changes more than a couple weeks in advance, so people I had asked to help time the attempt were stuck in limbo as I waited for a date.

Finally, I found three workable days at the latest possible time: September 10, 11, and 12. I hurriedly arranged an attempt on September 10, and before I knew it, I was on my way out to a far-flung corner of the system with a partner and two witnesses. Although I was a bundle of nerves on the way out, once I got into action mode, the only things I could think of were the next station, whether my my proof requirements were all in order, and when I might be able to drink more liquids. Restrooms didn’t even register as a concern the first attempt, although we ultimately called it quits roughly two thirds of the way through due to a run of bad luck with transfers that we couldn’t recover from. (For the record (pun intended), since this seems to be what everybody is most curious about, I used the restroom exactly once on every subsequent attempt—there are a few dozen open ones left inside the system and I had noted where they are.) Buoyed by the fact that this record was a possibility, I then tried again on September 12, getting much further but still packing it in roughly an hour and 45 minutes short of my goal. I made one more attempt on Columbus Day before my attempt in January.

* * *

 Queensboro Plaza

5.

A wise man once said that hell is trying to board an Astoria-bound N/Q train at Queensboro Plaza at 5:15pm. That person probably never had to simultaneously comply with Guinness requirements.

Guinness requires three separate kinds of documentation: pictures from each station, the log book, and the witness book. The pictures must demonstrate that you are inside the train while the doors are open. Over the course of taking nearly 2,000 pictures in the subway system, I have learned many lessons about trying to take pictures within a small window of time, particularly regarding making sure that the station signs are placed in focus as opposed to the random section of doorframe I need to illustrate.

New Lots Av
New Lots Avenue on the 3…not so good.

The log book was not much better. Times for both arriving at and leaving each station must be documented down to the second. Since the only way I could think of making this metric consistent was to use the times that doors opened and closed at each stop, looking at my watch while having my logbook out compressed the time (and range of arm/hand motion) for pictures even further.

Finally, the witness book. This requires a name, date and time, location, and signature from as many people as possible who can attest to your presence on the subway. Thankfully, Guinness guidelines stated that this was a “get as many as you can” requirement if attempting the record solo or as an unsupported team.

On top of all this, visiting every stop in the system, regardless of route, requires dealing with rush hour, and the crowded trains can cause problems when you’re on the opposite side of the train from where the doors are opening.

Lexington Av/53 Street
This is one of the better cross-train photos. You can still read the station sign, and nobody is looking at me as if they’re confused or ready to deck me.

It can cause even more problems when you’re trying to transfer at the same time. The running generally comes with a sense of urgency, especially when you need to exit the system entirely.

During my first three attempts, I happened to transfer outside the system to an N/Q going from Queensboro Plaza out to Astoria between 4 and 6pm. For those unfamiliar with the station, the outbound Queensboro Plaza platform is on top of the Manhattan-bound platform, which itself is above a mezzanine where fare turnstiles are located. For a platform this far above street level, a running transfer from another train at a below-ground station means climbing the equivalent of seven or eight flights of stairs to get there. Managing to take a picture when you’re trying to squeeze onto a crowded train as the doors close on you, especially when you need to show that the doors are open and you can barely lift your arms from running, is generally an adventure. The one above is probably my best photo from all of those attempts combined.

In conclusion, it’s probably a good thing that I did not want to become a photographer when I was eight.

Mosholu Parkway
That’s a pen. Because I am incapable of using even an iPhone camera.

* * *

6.

To say I struggled with the witness requirements would be an understatement. Although I didn’t do the first attempt alone, which allowed me to devote more of my time to soliciting witnesses, it took me nearly all of the second and third attempts to figure out a workable system that would bring me maximal return for an investment of no more than 60 seconds at a time (since I had to always pause to take pictures and note times). Although I publicly gave the previous record holders a hard time for needing six people to break the record, I personally envied the ability that they had to split up duties so that nobody was doing so much that they might miss a station.

At first, I solicited witness signatures individually. This was incredibly time-consuming and very draining, as I was talking to people constantly. Furthermore, people approached individually were incredibly unlikely to sign the witness book. Most people simply saw the list in my hand and said “no, thank you” before I could finish the first sentence.

Ultimately, I realized by the middle of the third run that it would be easier to announce to an entire subway car what I was doing and then pass the witness notebook. While my success rate with this method was still low (and if I saw anybody sleeping, I became scared of trying to speak and usually backed off), I managed to get at least a fair few signatures this way, enough to balance out all the strange looks I would get from people who thought such an undertaking was frivolous (not that they weren’t correct).

* * *

7.

Though some people dismissed me as a curiosity disrupting their commute (which was not unfair), I was pleasantly surprised by some folks who did strike up long conversations with me over the course of these attempts. Perhaps my favorite was the nice old lady who I talked to on the D train in the Bronx on my final attempt. Once I told her what I was doing, she asked exactly what it was I did for a living, and I explained that I worked in criminal appeals.

She agreed that this was a worthy cause, and then explained to me that the criminal justice system was a conspiracy put together by the Rothschilds to oppress minorities and poor people. Although I tried to cut off conversation, she insisted on continuing to talk to me about Christian morals for the super-rich and how the United States has corrupted those morals until I got off the train ten minutes later. I was so disoriented that I nearly forgot to take a picture at the station where I transferred.

155 Street
I clearly wasn’t in a rush or anything after almost forgetting AND YOU CAN KIND OF READ IT

* * *

8.

One of my favorite transfers was at Park Place/World Trade Center. I found this transfer interesting due to the layout of the station. In order to transfer normally from the E to the 2/3 train, you have to take the stairs at the far north end of the E platform, walk several blocks north through a long passageway to the A/C platform, and then walk that same distance back south to take a stairway up (followed by several flights of stairs down) to the 2/3 platform (path marked in blue below). However, subway patrons who have unlimited passes, as I did, can ascend those same stairs from the E train platform, exit at the turnstiles, cross the hallway, and swipe back in at the stairs to the 2/3 platform (path marked in red below).

WTC/Park Place

This cut out a minimum of 60 seconds of running (and likely closer to 2 minutes if I were simply walking quickly), and 60 seconds was often the difference between just catching a train and having to wait six minutes for the next one. However, on my fourth attempt, as I sprinted through the turnstiles and started descending toward the 2/3 platform, I got stuck on a narrow staircase behind a middle-aged lady on her phone, taking her time going down the stairs. After a few seconds, as we continued gradually down the stairs, I could just barely see that a 2 train in the direction I wanted had its doors open, and not knowing how long the next one would take, tried to cut around her, saying “excuse me.”

She immediately stopped, turned around, and shot back, “No, excuse YOU!” before continuing to descend the steps at the same rate as the doors closed on the 2. Luckily, the display noted that only four minutes remained until the next train. The lady on her phone then ambled onto the train headed in the opposite direction that had just pulled in.

It struck me that my frustrations were not because that I was ultimately catching the same train that I would have caught had I gone the long way through the passageways. New Yorkers are usually aware of letting people catch trains at their own pace. While manspreading is the trendy subway respect topic nowadays, it folds into a general desire for awareness of one’s surroundings and how they are impacting other people’s commutes. And while men are not the only ones who display these manifestations of entitlement, it’s important to point out particularly because not every example is a “no, excuse you” and not every situation is necessarily recognized by the person responsible. Particularly during rush hour, I knew that my picture taking and logbook writing would be problematic on crowded trains, and though the best I could do was simply try to use as little space as possible while still doing what I needed to do. I may not have always succeeded, but I would like to think I learned how to be less obnoxious over the course of four attempts. (Do you hear that, couple I rode with on attempt 2 who talked very loudly about my suuuuper annoying need to strangely take selfies every minute or two and how it was getting in their personal space?)

* * *

9.

Being an east Asian person, I generally have to deal with relatively innocuous but pervasive stereotypes. My wardrobe for all four of my attempts consisted of a T-shirt and either shorts (for the first three attempts) or baggy pants (and a jacket for my fourth attempt, during which the temperatures were in the mid-30s). Because the subway is generally several degrees warmer than the surface temperature and I was only at surface level while running with a backpack, I tended to look underdressed on any line at any time of day. Combine this with incessant picture-taking and furious jotting in the log book, and people had a very particular narrative that they would project onto me.

“You doing this for a school project?”

“Is this for school?”

“Where do you go to school?”

“Is this for a class?”

Of course, the fact that people view east Asians as generally nonthreatening (and the fact that my first-attempt partner was white) ended up working heavily in my favor, particularly considering what might be running through people’s minds had I looked vaguely Middle Eastern instead while doing all of these things.

But who exactly is to blame for that, if anybody? 9/11 is fresh enough in the collective consciousness of the city, and it is still responsible for one lingering station closure (Cortlandt Street, on the 1, which is no longer even counted in the 468-station figure that the MTA and Guinness use). And regardless of blame, whose burden is it to change that? Is it the people themselves who are making these judgments? Is it the people in leadership positions who perpetuate these stereotypes who need to lead by example? Is it Guinness who needs to create an accountability and enforcement scheme that doesn’t create additional hazards for minorities attempting the record? (Where this gets tricky, after all, is not in the record itself—it’s only in the proof requirements.) Is this why every single record holder before me, with potentially as few as one exception, has been a white male?

* * *

10.

Other than comments asking whether I was working on a school project, the next most common question was about how I planned to deal with “unfamiliar” neighborhoods. Even those who themselves lived in these less-traveled areas were incredulous that I would be willing to ride (and sometimes run) through their neighborhoods.

During my first attempt, I was discussing the pre-planned route with two passengers on the 2 train in the Bronx when I mentioned that we were going to take several transfers on foot, including from the end of the 2 to the end of the 5. Both of these people immediately tried to persuade me that it was not worth doing the walking transfer, even though it was the middle of the day and the neighborhood was not particularly dangerous. At a walking speed, the transfer was only a few minutes shorter than backtracking on both the 2 and the 5 trains, but I knew that any extra speed I might be able to muster would be well worth the exertion. While both of these people were worried about us getting lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood, I tried to express that I was confident enough in my navigational abilities to find my way to the other subway station.

Even if most riders were not worried about my well-being, it was clear that almost everybody from these (not so) far-flung areas immediately pegged me as an outsider. My first witness on my first attempt was an older lady who raised one eyebrow when I started to introduce myself and kept it raised while she signed the witness book and watched me try to convince two other potential witnesses to do the same. (New Yorkers, of course, have a very low tolerance for nonsense.) A train conductor at Lefferts Boulevard, at the end of one branch of the A, told me that my attempts were “exciting.” Without ever asking where I was from, she said that if I succeeded, that I should “come back out around these parts and let people know.”

Even though MTA passengers earn a wider range of incomes than users of most other American mass transit systems, there is still the sense that the professional and affluent residents of the city limit themselves to certain areas of the subway system: Manhattan, below the M60 bus; Astoria and Long Island City; Greenpoint and Williamsburg; and Brooklyn, west of Prospect Park. While this professional class may have familiarity with other portions of the subway system, venturing outside of this fairly limited bubble is rare. (As a result of this bubble, it was not much of a surprise to me when I ran into a former professor on my third attempt and a friend on my fourth attempt, exactly where I might have expected: both in lower Manhattan, on the F and E trains respectively.)

The picture of a typical subway rider changes drastically once one ventures even slightly outside this bubble. In almost all other portions of the city, the subway ridership was entirely working-class and, with some exceptions, very heavily tilted toward minorities. When English was still spoken, it was spoken with a variety of increasingly heavy accents. During my second attempt, I rode in the Bronx with a number of high school students in the early afternoon. One particular group of students that I sat near for close to 30 minutes spoke entirely in Spanish, even though their homework assignments were clearly written in English.

Although my Spanish is rusty, one thing I did understand is that at one point one of the boys in the group, who was more interested in looking over his homework than engaging other people in conversation, mentioned something about trying to keep college options open. One of the “popular” kids in the group started making fun of him for thinking that he was going to get a chance to go to college.

* * *

11.

Quick transfers are one of the most satisfying feelings imaginable. Right as you arrive at the new platform, a train is pulling into the station, and you’re barely standing still long enough to exhale before you’re on a moving train again. This satisfaction generally follows significant amounts of stress, however, when the transfer you’re making is outside of the system.

During my second attempt, I was off to a decent start, but an early running transfer had a problem: For some reason, the entrance to the uptown 215 Street station on the 1 was roped off. I could see that the next 1 train was due to arrive at 215 Street in four minutes, which left me with a dilemma: I could either run downtown to the 207 Street station and try to catch this next train there, or run uptown to the 225 Street station to buy myself an extra minute to run (but have to run much further). I chose to run downtown partially because it meant that I wouldn’t have to change direction after running down the stairs at 215 Street, and somehow managed to sprint to 207 Street just in time to see the 1 train pulling in. However, as any MTA rider could tell you, the card swipes are incredibly fickle, and it took me four or five swipes to actually get let through the turnstile. While I caught the train, I did not have much time for a picture before the doors closed.

207 Street
BUT IT LOOKS PRETTY GOOD. I don’t know how I did this. Seriously.

During my fourth attempt, I planned to run to Vernon Boulevard/Jackson Avenue on the 7, a change I had made only the day before regarding a station I was unfamiliar with. While most stations allow you to switch directions without exiting fare control, I knew that the few stations where you couldn’t were primarily on numbered lines. However, as I was severely winded from my running transfer, I did not even think to look at the sign above the subway entrance to determine whether the station would let me access both platforms.

I needed to board the Flushing-bound train, but I descended below ground without checking the direction of the platform and ended up on the Manhattan-bound side, at which point I realized I needed to exit, cross the street, and get on a train going in the other direction. I located a Flushing-bound entrance and pulled my card out to swipe when I got the error message stating that I had already used my card at the station and would not be let through.

The Metrocards that are now in use in the MTA system allow you to refill either with value or with time (for unlimited swipes), and you can carry both on your card. Because the MTA does not want their unlimited cards to be abused, you cannot swipe the same unlimited card at the same station unless 18 minutes have elapsed. Because my card had several days of unlimited swipes remaining, it would not let me access the roughly $10 in individual fares I also had banked on the card. Therefore, with the rumble of an approaching train in the background, I had to run to a ticket kiosk, buy an entirely new card with fare, swipe through, and then try to take a picture and note the time before the doors closed.

There are many variations on the “You know you’re a real New Yorker when…” trope. With the above situation in mind, my addition to this compendium might be as follows: You know you’re a real New Yorker when you can refill your card in under 15 seconds with the pressure of an approaching train. Although I did ultimately catch this train, this was probably the biggest scare I had up until that point in any attempt. The emotional letdown of just missing a train combined with the knowledge that I would have made it had I paid attention to the directional signage would have been incredibly disheartening even though I was still ahead of record pace at the time.

Vernon Blvd/Jackson Av
He actually missed the train and may or may not hate me forever.

* * *

12.

During my third attempt, I boarded an L in Canarsie going into Manhattan. Wanting to avoid crowds, my general practice was to get in the first car. Through the first several stops, I noticed that the number of people in the car was abnormally low, even for the first car, and that many people were only taking the car a single stop. Being several hours into my attempt and with many running transfers already completed, I started wondering whether I smelled weird. Being equipped with a far-below-average sense of smell has had its benefits, especially in New York (and especially in weighing whether riding the subway for almost a full day was feasible). However, in this case, it rendered me unable to locate the reason for every other rider’s move into the second car until the conductor stopped the train with the doors open at Myrtle/Wyckoff Avenues and, while holding his nose, exited the conductor’s compartment and walked directly over to the only other person in the car, who was slumped against the end of a bench twenty feet away from me.

“Last stop. Can’t stay on the train.” The passenger slowly sat up and groaned, as if in pain. “Don’t make me do this the hard way.” The passenger started to pick up various items scattered around him. First, a bag that had been sitting on him when he was sleeping. Next, a paper cup full of change. Third, a jacket that he eventually put on with great difficulty. Fourth, a cane that was almost entirely covered in duct tape. As he tried to rise while balancing his cup, it became apparent that his right arm ended at his elbow, explaining the awkward manner in which he had put on his jacket. As a result, he ended up letting go of the cane to stop the cup from falling and lost the cane, which clattered to the floor at the conductor’s feet. At this moment, the passenger looked out the door of the train car and noticed which station it was. He then spoke, deliberately and with some difficulty, but without any uncertainty in his tone.

“This ain’t the last stop. I’m going to Third Avenue.”

“I will call security.” The conductor moved to stand in the door of the car and said something softly into a walkie-talkie. The passenger had finally retrieved his cane, but was sitting back down.

“I’m not going nowhere until Third Avenue.”

After a prolonged awkward silence, the conductor got back in the front compartment, shaking his head, and restarted the train. The entire encounter had lasted about two and a half minutes (based on my log of how long the doors remained open), and likely would have lasted longer if it had not been for the frequency of the L trains and the backup the conductor would have caused.

More and more people continued to pour into the first car, and they continued to move backward into the second car as we approached Manhattan. As he promised, the passenger did indeed leave the train at Third Avenue, but the smell lingered, as almost everybody who boarded at subsequent stops was willing to point out. One group of twentysomethings remarked just past Union Square that somebody in the (white and affluent-seeming) crowd that was stuck in the car must be homeless, because “that is the only explanation.”

Third Avenue
People at Third Avenue literally fleeing for the next car.

* * *

13.

One of the few people I struck up a conversation with during my third attempt definitely did not see me as an outsider. I was waiting for a train far uptown when a man, clearly a tourist, walked up to me and asked me how to get to a stop that was in the same direction as my train. After talking for a little while, we realized that we grew up only a few miles apart from each other, no small feat in New York, since I was raised in the Midwest. I later realized that he was the only person to ask me for directions over the course of all four attempts, perhaps because my constant picture taking and notebook scribbling was seen as strange.

* * *

14.

As I mentioned, I started a new job on September 15. This job primarily involves working on criminal appeals for indigent clients. The office I work for has jurisdiction over cases originating in Manhattan and the Bronx. Although there are many attorneys I know who live in Manhattan, many of the locations of the crimes we deal with are not from areas that are immediately familiar to your typical fancy (read: bougie) New York City lawyer.

Not long after my third attempt, I visited a client in prison who had lived quite close to the route of one of my walking transfers before he was incarcerated. I was taking notes while he was describing his life in that neighborhood when he suddenly paused in the middle of describing the location of a local restaurant:

“Wait a minute. How do you know Kingsbridge Road? How do you know Dyre Avenue? What’s a snappy-looking professional like you doing knowing about that area?”

I couldn’t bring myself to tell him the real reason, so I made something up about how a previous client had also lived in the neighborhood.

Dyre Avenue
The chicken counter he mentioned was right outside the station and always smelled good. It didn’t help that all the food I brought on each run was nonperishable: bread, crackers, and energy bars.

* * *

15.

Nearing the end of my fourth attempt, I was not only ahead of record pace, but set to finish with over an hour (and potentially an hour and a half) of time to spare. I only had a few transfers left, and everything was going according to plan. However, as I approached Midtown for the last time, the F train had one more twist for me.

We sat at Bryant Park for a minute or two, which was bothersome but did not raise any red flags. At the next stop, Rockefeller Center, we were held for almost five minutes. Although this raised my suspicions, we eventually got under way. However, when we next stopped at Fifth Avenue/53 Street, a stop not served by the F, I started having flashbacks to the ending of my third attempt…

* * *

16.

I was approaching Coney Island on my third attempt, looking to transfer to the F train once I got there. At the time, I was roughly thirty minutes ahead of record pace with only a couple hours left. I knew that the F had switched over to the late-night schedule (most, if not all, trains running every 20 minutes). It was looking like I could catch the next train with a few minutes to spare. However, at the last stop before Coney Island, we were held by the dispatcher for nearly nine minutes. As a result, I missed that train by two minutes and had to wait. I begged the conductor of the following train to leave early, but we left at almost exactly the scheduled time (as that decision was out of his control).

At this time, I was still a good twelve or so minutes ahead of record pace with only a few transfers to make. However, on my next pass under the East River, there was significant track work happening in the tunnel. We sat for several minutes waiting for the tracks to clear before we were allowed to pull through (at a much slower speed than usual). I ultimately arrived at my last transfer one minute behind record pace.

I still had hope. This transfer was a running transfer, and while I was projected to lose another few minutes, all I had to do was lap one train and I would be alive. Although the transfer time was short and the distance significantly uphill, I managed to get to the platform just in time to catch the train I needed. I was once again two minutes ahead of record pace.

In order to have your record validated, you not only need the three pieces of proof that you assemble over the course of the attempt, but also a witness who sees the beginning of the attempt and one who sees the end of the attempt; they will need to start and stop a stopwatch that you cannot carry with you over the course of the attempt. Because I was expecting to show up half an hour early, I had two witnesses waiting for me at the second to last station on my route for much longer than I had anticipated, outside in relatively chilly weather. I hoped that they wouldn’t kill me when I showed up (particularly if I were still ahead of record pace). I knew that if I reached them by the 22:22 mark, there was a shot that we could reach the last stop in under four minutes.

However, there was additional trackwork on this line. It was not significant, but it was enough to slow down the train so that I picked up my two witnesses just past the 22:24 mark. Although both of them were still optimistic that I could make it to the last station in two minutes, I knew that this would be nearly impossible. We ultimately pulled into the last station in just about four minutes, officially stopping the clock at 22:28:13.

I had finished, something I had not done in either of my first two attempts, but I was 2 minutes and 11 seconds slow (over the course of 22+ hours). I thought I was done, as I was exhausted, starting to feel sick, and could in no way imagine going through that entire process again.

* * *

17.

5 Av/53 Street
From earlier in the day.

When I saw the distinctive red tile of the Fifth Avenue/53 Street stop on my fourth attempt, I could not comprehend the situation. I immediately sprinted to the conductor at the center of the train, who happened to be the exact same conductor of the 12:42 F from my third attempt. (I nearly lost it at this point, convinced the subway gods were playing tricks on me.) He said that there was a signal malfunction along the F track, and that Queens-bound F trains would have to run along the E/M line into Queens. He noted that transferring to an F going in the other direction would be possible in Jackson Heights. However, backtracking to that extent would add another 20 minutes to my attempt in addition to any delays that had happened simply as a result of the diversion away from the F line. Furthermore, I was worried because a late-night service change also diverting Manhattan-bound F service was going to go into effect in about 45 minutes.

I was so distraught that I completely forgot to log the times and take pictures at each of the stations along the E/M line. Luckily for me, I had already visited each of these stations earlier in the day and thus already had those pictures and times. To minimize the backtracking, I improvised a running transfer in Long Island City to hit the remaining F train stations and managed to catch one of the last Manhattan-bound trains not diverted.

I made my last transfer and arrived at Flushing/Main Street at 11:31:33 PM on January 16, 2015, 21:49:35 after my start time of 1:41:58AM and 36:27 faster than the old record. (This is, to the best of my knowledge, the first completed run to visit all of the stations within a single calendar day.)

And then I got back on the subway to go home, stopping at a local diner to eat two entrees’ worth of food and then sleep until 5pm the next day. (I had worked the day before but not slept the night before this attempt, so I had been up for close to 48 hours straight by the time I finally got to bed.)

* * *

18.

During my first attempt, my friend and I got behind very quickly very early. As a result, I became a little disheartened and started eating a bunch of my food around the six-hour mark. Since I had not slept well, the food made me drowsy and thus it was very difficult for me to keep my eyes open, let alone log times accurately, for the next two hours. At Marcy Avenue on the J, I nearly fell asleep entirely, at which point I told my friend that we might want to call it a day. He told me that we should keep going until it would be nearly impossible to catch up to record pace, even under optimistic circumstances. As a result, we continued on for another seven hours, making up significant time with the walking transfers but ultimately succumbing to my too-optimistic transfer predictions. He is the primary reason why I felt like this first attempt was a success, and why I decided to try again.

At my third attempt, that friend was serving as one of my two witnesses. My frustration at finishing two minutes slow almost made me let go of the idea again. However, his observations about how far ahead I had been and the excitement of my second timer, who repeatedly told me that I had “proved the concept” on the way back, made me at least keep an eye out for days that would have favorable service changes, which is when January 16 fell into my lap. Without either of them, I likely would still be two minutes and 11 seconds short, a time that would haunt me even more than it still does now.

I have had further help from a large number of people who served or offered to serve as timers, witnesses, moral support, editors of this rambling essay, or what have you, and people who were generally interested in the endeavor (as opposed to (or sometimes while) telling me that this was a crazy scheme). It would be impossible to thank them all here, but I would not be here without all of them believing not only in me but in a concept so ridiculous that it’s near-impossible to explain using just one sentence. You da real MVPs.

* * *

19.

Staten Island Rail terminal
Even though Staten Island isn’t necessary for the record, I felt like things were…unfinished. So I took pictures at every station and logged times the next day like a nerd. Because I am a nerd.

Guinness now has the materials. While I believe most of it is exactly what they asked for, there are a few things that I am aware may trip me up. If I do not get this record validated, it has still been an incredible journey. If I do, I will still have the utmost respect for the previous record holders, the team of six that managed to outrun all the timetables on a single fare, perhaps a more impressive achievement than my own.

Maybe it’s good the ANYSRC rules are different after all.

Update: As of May 12, 2015, I am officially the new world record holder

For my version of the MTA subway map removing all stations inaccessible to people with disabilities, click here.