By: Big Data
Tracks: “Snowed In,” “The Glow”
What does Catfishing, WebMD, and Edward Snowden have in common? They’re all subjects of 2.0, Brooklyn-based one man show Big Data’s finest release since their formation in 2012.
With the imminent release of 3.0, the newest album set to release in March, I spoke with Alan Wilkis, the man behind the music.
“Every major company is collecting our data against our will and certainly without compensating us for it,” said Wilkis by text. “They will use that data to a) replace us, b) enslave us, or c) kill us—as long as they can keep turning a profit. And our government is playing catch-up at best, and completely corrupt and complicit at worst.”
I asked Wilkis if his music was more proactive or reactive in spreading the knowledge or reflecting on the issues at hand.
“A little of both,” he told me. “Spreading the word when I feel hopeful, and reflection when I don’t.”
To this day, 2.0 remains the epitome of every programming playlist I create. With its pounding beats and cutting synths, motivation is maxed. Yeah, I just debugged that entire slew of code in the 41-minute span of this album. I also felt cool doing it. What gives?
Alan Wilkis gives. Remember “Dangerous,” that über-catchy single featuring Joywave that streamed over every popular radio station back in 2014? The single that topped Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart before the album was even released a year later? Imagine nine more songs just as catchy and powerful, all jam-packed onto one album.
Wilkis describes Big Data as “a paranoid electronic music project from the Internet, formed out of a general distrust for technology and The Cloud (despite a growing dependence on them).” That’s obvious when unpacking and laying out the lyrics of each song. Half of the experience is an 80s-style “this song is really catchy but unsettling, I don’t know if I should dance to it or feel uncomfortable.” The other half is a stern warning from Big Brother’s associates.
My personal favorites on the album are “Snowed In,” a play on Snowden’s name which explores the true meaning behind his actions; “Clean,” the way we portray only the best
tidbits on our social media profiles; and “Perfect Holiday,” narrating the joy and importance of unplugging from tech.
If we think of the album as a story, the narrative begins with “The Business of Emotion,” focusing on the mood experiments conducted by Facebook back in 2012. (Would users post topics more related to posts they were shown?)
“[Facebook] can pretty much do whatever they want with you,” said Wilkins in an interview about the song’s meaning with Smashing Interviews Magazine. “That’s pretty messed up.”
The album’s narrative spirals downward from there. Things get dark in “The Glow” about an anonymous online organization that blackmails followers into doing as they say in order to “fall [in] with the masses.” They claim that they know where the listener lives, sending chills down my spine. It reminds me to check if I’m still connected to my VPN.
“Big Dater,” the sixth song on the album, lists the ways we become something we aren’t online:
“I’ll share a story I want you to know/It’s better than the real thing/I took my time retouching myself/To enhance my personality.”
The final song on the album, my favorite, is “Perfect Holiday.” It illustrates how the narrator breaks free from the grip of technology for the better, finding happiness through the pain:
“Then I will take the reins/And lead us through the pains/And the joys of being erased.”
This marks the end of the 2.0 narrative with what, perhaps, Big Data might see as the eventual future for tech. Will we need to cut ourselves off in order to become human again? With 3.0’s focus on AI I’m sure we’ll find out.