Scene: It’s a bright day in 2007, and maybe you’re an 18-year-old college freshman who is still several years away from owning a smartphone. Maybe you’re living in San Marcos, Texas but spending most of your days in Austin, [not doing anything illegal], and generally enjoying the times before every stupid thing you’ve ever done would end up on the Internet.
Now imagine you get to your friend’s dorm one day and they say, “Hey, Ben—” I mean, “Hey, [your name], wanna see something crazy?” Of course you say yes. It’s your first time living away from home and you’re down with crazy, within reason of course. Now imagine the bemused but humorous thoughts that run through your brain when that friend pulls up “Chocolate Rain.”
“Chocolate Rain” was a phenomenon. In case I haven’t made it abundantly clear, I was the college freshman in those examples above [pause for shocked realization], and I have an absolutely crystal clear memory of watching “Chocolate Rain” for the first time. I don’t remember what day, but I remember it being hot and sunny, and I had driven up to Austin to spend the weekend with some friends who lived in the Prather dormitory on the University of Texas campus.* The video, which premiered in April of 2007 though I didn’t see it until August or September of that year, features Tay Zonday singing somewhat odd lyrics that appear to be an allegory about racism in America, but then again I’m not a scholar.
But what really made the video was Tay Zonday’s occasionally awkward actions, like providing subtitles when he moves away from the mic so he can breathe in, and the slightly askew “what’s-up-doc?” way he holds his mouth when he says “chocolate rain.” It’s great. And look, please don’t think I’m knocking the guy. First off, anyone who sings in front of people is brave, because there are few things on this earth cringier than listening to a bad singer, and that pressure has to weigh on a man. (For the record, I think Tay has a fine voice). Secondly, his song, despite the cheesy drum machine and the pre-smart-phone video work, actually talks about some relevant stuff. I don’t want to get into a whole thing about how racial minorities, specifically Black people, have been and are treated in this world, but a lot of those lyrics would have been equally relevant in 2022 or 1860. Hell, notoriously political Phish has even covered the song, so you know it’s #WokeAF.
In case you’re wondering, Tay Zonday continues to make music on occasion and has dabbled in acting as well. In fact, he really seems like a great dude, especially considering “Chocolate Rain” has been viewed over 130 MILLION times. Anyhow, enough from me. Here’s the video:
Happy Wednesday, everyone!