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Courtesy of BMG

April 30, 2019

SIMS | Lil Dicky’s ‘Earth’ Misses the Point

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As if I needed another reason to complain about Earth Day, Lil Dicky came to the rescue with the track “Earth” just in time to virtue signal our appreciation for the foundation of our continued existence.

It’s pretty cynical, and arguably hypocritical, for me to gripe about Earth Day when the other 364 days of the year I’m griping about how complacent we are as a society about environmental and climate justice issues. Maybe I should accept Earth Day and people’s celebration of it as a good faith effort to be conscious of the human-environment relationship, but I can’t help feeling like it’s not enough.

Like the whole plastic straw hullaballoo over the past year, a lot of the Earth Day activities feel legitimately well-intentioned but lack the reflection, nuance and scale apt to address current environmental and climate concerns. And while I realize the “easy fixes” are successful, the (maybe hopelessly) optimistic part of me thinks there has to be more effective and wide-reaching things to be spending all this time on.

Lil Dicky decided his contribution was going to be a hit song about it all. With tons of featured artists, a slick CGI fantasy video and a catchy hook, and he set off to make “Earth.”

Before I get into this, I have to say that I could have lived my entire life without traveling in animation through the computer-generated anus of a baboon. But now, that’s something I’ve experienced through …  uh … art … I guess.

There’s an interesting juxtaposition between the vibrant, high-quality video and the outlandish storytelling. Line-by-line, the song moves from organism to organism without any of them really saying anything about why the Earth or our place in it might actually matter. Similar to other Earth Day disappointments, it’s diminutive to the concerns and responses to climate and environmental issues while propping up charismatic animals, just this time with an extra heap of irreverence. Of all of the actual reasons to say “We love the Earth,” I don’t think a “I’m an elephant, I got junk in my trunk” is what’s going to motivate real change.

A few almost elicited a chuckle from me, but I was more stunned by the weirdness than endeared by the humor. I assume some watchers find the nonsense and crudeness of the comments by the different animals funny, but I’m unimpressed.

What did warm up a bit to the song was taking a look around the informational website published in association with it, WeLoveTheEarth.org. Lil Dicky explains climate change, plastic waste and other environmental concerns using simple language and an engaging tone. It’s imprecise and some of the discussion is framed in ways that I’d like to critique, but I recognize that it’s strategically flippant and topical. Its intended audience is not someone whose major, job and extracurriculars revolve around climate change, and that’s unequivocally a good thing.

But, while “Earth” has over 68 million views on YouTube, the videos where Lil Dicky gives a crash course on climate change have done pitifully badly. The first video has almost 30,000 views, which doesn’t suck, but all of the others hover around 5,000 views. While “Earth” was so wide-reaching, the momentum didn’t flop over to a website that also took quite a bit of time and effort.

I’m grateful that someone put all of the time and effort into an entertaining, social and culturally relevant work that leads people to information about environmental and climate problems. But with the fumbled handoff from song to information, I’m skeptical it had a positive impact. I think it’s worth another shot, and hopefully next time there’ll be fewer ludicrous talking animals.

 

Katie Sims is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at ksims@cornellsun.com. Resident Bad Media Critic runs alternate Tuesdays this semester.