"Hey, what do kids listen to?" someone at Liberal Democrat HQ is saying. "Should we get YouGov to do a poll or something?" And someone goes: no, I have a nephew. I'll call him. Fifteen huddled politicians and their advisors, massed around a speakerphone to Rory, 12. "'Uptown Funk' is pretty popular," Rory is saying. This was two months ago, when it was actually popular. "So I guess that?"
And lo, like a Greek God springing mythologically from the ether, "Uptown Funk" (The Liberal Democrat Remix)" was born. This is real, by the way. In case you didn't know: this is real, and the Lib Dems did it to themselves. Today, unleashed onto the internet like a doodlebug, a one-minute, nine-second remix video of Nick Clegg giving a speech, but to the tune of "Uptown Funk". Hey, kids! We doomed you to paying £9,000-a-year tuition fees, but vote for us! We're the fun party! Agadoo!
Or not, because it's terrible. It's the worst. There's a bit where Nick Clegg has, with computers, been made to howl "ooh-oh-oh-ouh", four times in a row. It's the worst thing ever made. The worst. And, appallingly, you just know other political parties are currently plotting similar failed coups on the youth vote.
So anyway, we spoke to Cassetteboy – who are basically the progenitors of the kind of video that the Lib Dems were trying to make here, so much so that the Lib Dems apologised to Cassetteboy when they posted their Cleggtown Funk video to Facebook – and got them to have their say on it all. Well: we actually only spoke to Mike from Cassetteboy, because in reality there are two of them but when you're doing a phone interview, one-at-a-time is easier. But he speaks for the Cassetteboy Brain Trust.
VICE: So let's talk about the Liberal Democrats a bit. Have you seen this video that they've done?
Mike from Cassetteboy: Yeah, I've just watched it again now. It's awful, isn't it?
It is. There are so many onion layers to unfold here. I'm imagining quite a few people have sent it to you because it's such an obvious rework of what you do.
What were your thoughts when you first saw it? It must be quite surreal to get ripped off wholesale by a political party?
Yes, I suppose so. The main feeling is just huge embarrassment for the Lib Dems. It's just totally cringeworthy. It's badly done, for a start, and it's a pretty pathetic attempt to try to woo the youth vote, I guess. Hasn't really worked, though. It just makes them look ridiculous.
I've already read the comments on YouTube and they're great. "Are you guys trying to get the least amount of votes possible?" is a particular highlight. It does definitely seem like a misguided go after the youth vote, doesn't it?
Yes. The thing is, these things work when they're attacking a political party – but when they're used to celebrate a political party, it's never going to work. You want your political parties to have a bit of dignity and self-respect, and that's not going to come across if they're making their leader do a terrible cover of "Uptown Funk".
I wanted to go back to what you were you saying about how it's not very good, because when you compare and contrast between a Cassetteboy video and this, it's markedly shoddier. How long does a normal Cassetteboy video take? How much footage do you have to watch? Do you make notes while you do it?
Well, if you compare this Lib Dems thing to the Cameron's conference that we did (embedded above), the Cameron one has excerpts from five different hour-long speeches in it. This Nick Clegg one is only using one speech as far as I can tell, so already there's not going to be enough material to make something good. The other thing they've done wrong is take a song and try to do a cover of a song, so there are some clumsy edits in there where they're trying to make words – or he's only said words they need once – and he doesn't say it clearly enough, but they have to use it because they're covering a song. Whereas we watch all the speeches, take the phrases that are particularly well-delivered and punchy, and write lyrics around what we've found. We start with samples which are easy to hear and well delivered and make something out of that, rather than start with the lyrics of "Uptown Funk" and somehow make Nick Clegg say all the words of that song.
You want your political parties to have a bit of dignity and self-respect, and that's not going to come across if they're making their leader do a terrible cover of "Uptown Funk"
Schoolboy Cassetteboy error, basically.
Yeah, kind of. They would have been much better to actually take the content of his speech a bit more and just say what he actually said to music in a punchy way. It would have still been awful, but you could at least hear it.
No, and I don't think there's actually any message at all. They're half trying to make him say something along the cadence of the lines and then half trying to actually do the "Uptown Funk" chorus. It's just a huge mess.
It is a strange mess.
I'm guessing it's a "no" but have you been approached by any parties to do this sort of thing? Has anyone said, "Do you want to do a Liberal Democrat version of 'Uptown Funk' for us?" before?
No. We haven't and we wouldn't have done that. But what the Lib Dems should have done is spent their money on doing an attack video on Labour or the Tories, because people would have been far more interested in sharing that, rather than a video celebrating the Lib Dems. Making a parody video is far more potent when it's used to criticise rather than celebrate.
I'd be much more impressed if a political party tried to engage the youth vote by suggesting some policies that might actually have a positive impact on young people, rather than making their leader do a terrible cover of a song that everyone got bored of a few months ago
Do you think the whole idea of going after the youth vote with this shoddy attempt at going viral is a bit embarrassing, on the whole?
Yes. It underestimates the youth. The parties don't seem to have any interest in wooing the youth vote by actually implementing any policies that actually help the youth. Politics in this country is massively skewed in favour of old people because old people vote – so pensioners' rights are always protected and pensions always go up, and tuition fees go up massively because students don't vote. I'd be much more impressed if a political party tried to engage the youth vote by suggesting some policies that might actually have a positive impact on young people, rather than making their leader do a terrible cover of a song that everyone got bored of a few months ago.
Yeah – a pretty transparent attempt at being shared a lot, but not actually saying much.
Yeah. It's insulting, really, if this is the way they think they're going to appeal to young people.
That's the other thing, as well: young people know how the internet works. They are going to see right through this.
Yes. I mean, I haven't seen a single positive comment about it.
They've shot themselves in their tapping, dancing foot really, haven't they? Nobody's enjoying this at all.
It's a huge embarrassment for them.
You can follow Joel on Twitter, too, but he's less funny.
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