Anonymous No More: Musical Mashup Genius Kutiman Strikes Again

'Thru You Too,' Kutiman's second compilation of YouTube musicians, looks and sounds just as fresh as the first one, which made him one of the best-known Israeli producers in the world.

Tomer Appelbaum

“This song is called… I dunno. Maybe I’ll call it ‘Give it up’ because that’s like the… the… chorus. Okay?”

They call her Da Princess, and until a few days ago she was an anonymous girl who posted home clips on YouTube in which she sang and stammered. One of the millions of people who do the same thing on YouTube, only her voice is far better than most of them. But she’s no longer anonymous. She’s Kutiman’s new star of song and clip, the first part of his new project, “Thru You Too,” which registered over 400,000 views in the first 48 hours after it appeared on the Internet last Friday, and shot up to the Top Ten on YouTube.

The follow-up project to “Thru You,” which lit up the Web in 2009 and made an anonymous Tel Aviv producer one of the best-known Israeli musicians in the world, seemed like a poor idea on paper. Sequels are never as good as the original. In “Thru You,” Kutiman stitched together dozens of home clips of amateur musicians and singers, brilliantly reflecting the cultural moment in which they were created. Wouldn’t reproducing the same idea five years later – an eternity in terms of turbo-charged, technology-based culture – be anachronistic?

Contrary to all expectations, it doesn’t seem so – not if “Give it up” is anything to go by. The element of surprise is obviously gone. We already know the dynamics, we know what to expect, and Kutiman doesn’t mess around with our expectations. He hasn’t changed his 2009 format. But the clip he released on the weekend, three weeks before the launch of the whole project, looks and sounds excellent and fresh. It arouses genuine emotions, not a diluted recycling of old ones.

One of the reasons why Kutiman’s project is still 
relevant is that YouTube has lost none of its centrality since 2009. We still live in that kingdom of endless clips, still searching for excitement in an ocean of nothingness until we discover some little island of beauty. The nothingness has increased many times over in those five years, making it harder than ever to find the beauty. Kutiman does the job for us: sifting over and over, then cutting, pasting and creating a context, which may not be as new as it was in 2009, but is still valid.

It’s valid because of the music itself, starting with the song, sung unaccompanied, on which the whole segment is based. “Da Princess sings anotha acapella original” is the onscreen title of the clip, in black jargon. The clip is dark, the singer gets confused and then corrects 
herself, there is no instrumental backup. You could easily skip it and move on. But Kutiman listened closely and understood that the rough amateurism hides a good soul number, sung in a fine voice that moves you. To say nothing of the repetitive “Oh, Oh” throughout the song that makes it especially catchy. And to say nothing of Da Princess’s dental braces.

Kutiman added dozens of instrumental cuts from other amateur clips to Da Princess’s a cappella song. Two principles seemed to guide him. The first was to give the song a slightly hallucinatory dimension by using psychedelic keyboards and cymbals to add a breath of warm air. The second is that Kutiman makes no attempt to hide the feel of massive editing. Apart from the round groove of the drums, there are parts that sound broken up. Those two fundamentals, the hallucinatory feel and the cutting, seem to be the ones that anchor the clip in our awareness within the vast universe of YouTube. It’s doubtful whether it could have any kind of existence in the less virtual world of the radio or the stage. Da Princess will not become a star, even if she gets rid of her braces. But she got her 15 minutes, with an impact that she could only dream of just a few days ago.