Earlier this week, a report by Los Angeles television station KTLA about social media star and “influencer” Jake Paul terrorizing his poor neighbors in West LA with his insufferably obnoxious antics went viral. (If you haven’t seen the video yet, I highly recommend it, especially if you feel like strongly disliking somebody.)
For Paul, going viral is business as usual — the 20-year-old Cleveland native has 8.6 million followers on Youtube, 8.5 million followers on Instagram, and 1.76 million followers on Twitter. It’s estimated that his videos have accumulated 1.3 billion views, ushering him into the mainstream entertainment industry in 2016 via a supporting role on Disney’s Bizaardvark.
Unsurprisingly, Paul’s reach (which has started to eclipse that of his older brother and fellow influencer, Logan) has garnered a huge payday from brands and venture capitalists, which Paul has used to set up Team 10, a self-described “incubator” for up-and-coming social-media personalities.
“I want to be the Dr. Dre of social media,” Paul told People last year. “I want to take my success and replicate it with other artists.”
Because I am extremely old, I had no clue who Jake Paul was until the KTLA story. There was a time, long ago, when seeing a hyperactive kid terrorize adults might’ve caused me to sympathize with the kid, who’s merely trying to enjoy being young, dumb, and responsibility-free. Like Ferris Bueller with better abs! But, again, because I’m a decrepit codger, I immediately sided with his neighbors, who just want to walk down their own street without being accosted by hopped-up jocks who didn’t take their ADD medicine this morning.
My initial impression of Paul was that he was like a cross between Zack Morris, Jay Mohr’s character in Jerry Maguire, and Johnny from The Karate Kid. All of these pop culture references pre-date Paul’s birth in 1997, by the way. My god, this kid was born the same week that the first Daft Punk album was released! Why do I feel so cold all of a sudden? Is the Grim Reaper standing behind me?
It’s always disorienting to suddenly discover something that managed to become extremely popular without you ever noticing it. With Jake Paul, the KTLA story send me down an internet rabbit hole.
What I learned is that Jake Paul has recorded some of the very worst songs of 2017 — and this discernment has nothing to do with age.
When delving into the musical oeuvre of Jake Paul, the most obvious entry point is his biggest Youtube hit, “It’s Everyday Bro,” which has racked up an incredible 71 million views in less than two months. All of the Jake Paul hallmarks are on display — his awkward “Disney Channel flow,” the rinky-dink music composed of a simple drum-machine pulse and rudimentary synth riff, and the tendency to self-mythologize his own meteoric rise from midwestern Vine user to bulked-up Instagram hunk.
In the video for “It’s Everyday Bro,” Paul comes off like an Andy Samberg character surrounded by equally outlandish influencers from the Team 10 stable who you’d swear are made up but are somehow real — British goofball Nick Crompton, shrimpy Chance Sutton, sassy Tessa Brooks, the bilingual Martinez Twins. But Paul’s other music videos are even more ridiculous, sometimes consciously so (like the incredibly annoying bro-country parody “Ohio Fried Chicken,” which has 22 million Youtube views) but sometimes not.
The degree to which Paul is deliberately trolling probably shouldn’t be underestimated. “It’s Everyday Bro” is currently the ninth most disliked video in Youtube history, and given Paul’s behavior on KTLA, it’s hard to believe that he doesn’t on some level relish this. After all, any publicity is good publicity when publicity for the sake of publicity is your only end game.
But some of Paul’s other music videos seem a lot more sincere than “It’s Everyday Bro.” Take “I Love You Bro,” a duet that Jake recorded with Logan that’s currently been viewed almost 35 million times. After an apparent spat between the brothers that I don’t have the energy to investigate further, they were moved to record this ode to the power of their bond and, weirdly, their own all-American, modern-day Horatio Alger story.
“Came up in Ohio, wasn’t much to do, then we found this place called Youtube,” Logan raps. “We made our dreams come true, work hard and you can, too.”
“Work hard and you can, too” is a key component of the Paul brothers’ self-made legend. (For further guidance, please consult “The Rise Of The Pauls.”) Jake even turned this platitude into a memoir, You Gotta Want It, published last year when he was still a teenager.
To be fair, Paul has made some modest strides as a musician. His latest single, “Jerika,” is a sorta-competent, sub-Chainsmokers ballad co-starring his girlfriend, Erika Costell, who (of course) is another influencer. “Jerika,” which has already tallied 15 million views since coming out two weeks ago, is the closest that Paul has come to sounding like a real pop song, though he can’t completely overcome his inherent doofiness. (Yes, “Jerika” is a couple portmanteau combination of Jake and Erika’s names.)
During one of the more tender moments in the song, Paul raps in his usual out-of-breath manner, “If you were a dude, I think I’d die, I think I’d fly, because I’m your guy.” Not even Andy Samberg could come up with something so perfectly, indelibly moronic.