About a week ago, a “Bad Lip-Reading” treatment of a Rick Perry video started making its way around the Web. It's a spoofy manipulation of Perry's candidacy-announcement video, in which Perry runs through his Republican bullet points and makes vaguely impassioned calls for action. BLR's version, though, delivers a different, more interesting, more silly message.
The spoof is not the AutoTune-y or glitchy-remix way you see all the time now. BLR's trick is to turn the governor into a kind of live-action puppet, putting similarly-shaped words into his mouth to create a new text. The video is the same, but the script is different.
Within the first 30 seconds of the original video, Perry, complaining about Obama's leadership skills, says, “Last week, that leadership failed, and the tax and spend and borrow agenda of this president led to the first-ever downgrade of the credit rating of the United States of America.”
The BLR makeover employs a man's hokey Rick Perry-ish accent to make Perry say instead: “Ice cream. That is cheap. Fact. And then I suspended Marsha off this bridge and took a virgin heifer nightridin' for a while. We never got a dead spirit. We hated it, though. It's disgustin'.”
The BLR videos have been compared to the Gregory Brothers' AutoTune the News, in which viral clips are remixed and edited into dance-y songs. While BLR makes songs too (more on that in a second), the Perry edit is all talk that's vaguely gibberish and comically deranged.
OK, I know, it sounds so silly. Like verging on stupid. But you have to imagine the process of making up new dialogue/lyrics for the already-speaking mouths of Michael Buble and Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber (as BLR has) can be challenging. And the new words aren't all nonsense — the BLR puppeteers give their puppets choruses and themes and stories.
It's not only that these videos are very funny — though turning Michael Buble's song about looking for love into a song about hunting Russian unicorns is very funny — they're clever, cohesive and a little brutal. Rebecca Black's viral anti-hit “Friday” got BLRed into a clubby song called “Gang Fight.” Ultimately, these videos poke big fun at their subjects: Rick Perry speaks like he's just had a stroke, the dude from Rascal Flatts appears crazily fixated on cheesefries and ham, the Black-Eyed Peas get scatological. Like most sendups, these are unflattering, which is likely a part of their appeal.
What's most interesting about BLR is the way their manipulations so successfully and totally skew the context of a video. We already know that a video can be clipped and edited to omit pertinent details, and various sounds and voices, we know too, can be messed with. And BLR's fun/funny videos drive it home that every element of a recording can be flipped around and transformed into anything you want them to be. Video seems less and less a medium of raw data and more like a paint-by-numbers kit.