x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

So bad it's good

The hit video Malls of Dubai is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the city's shopping scene, but it's also part of a strange so-bad-it's-good media trend.

You know self-referential virtual irony has reached a new low when a "music" video called Malls of Dubai becomes a hit on YouTube. The clip, by 16-year-old Dubai teen Rohit Iyengar, won't win an award for music or lyrics, but it is a wry comment on our shopping culture. No wonder it has surpassed 13,000 YouTube views in three weeks.

Malls and YouTube seem to go together. There are mall pranks, a food court musical, earnest documentaries and more. One of YouTube's big hits is another so-bad-it's good video, Let's Go to the Mall, by Robin Sparkles, a fictional character in the US sitcom How I Met Your Mother.

On that show, actress Cobie Smulders plays a character called Robin Scherbatsky who, we are told, had in her youth an alter-ego, Robin Sparkles, whose vacuous Let's Go to the Mall was a huge hit. That ditty, intended by the show's writers to be an awful mockery of teen "bubble-gum" music, has nonetheless had almost 600,000 YouTube views.

What does it say about the internet, and its users, that "so-bad-it's-good" pieces now often become hits? The concept is not new - The Producers was a smash in 1968 - but from Robin Sparkles to Rebecca Black to "Fail" videos to ludicrously inept "... Got Talent" performers, the tide of worse-than-mediocrity seems to keep rising. We have an idea: instead of fretting over this hideous trend, let's just … go to the mall.