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why tay zonday?
the success of chocolate rain examined
by jeffrey d. walker
pop culture

If you weren't one of the over five million (and counting) people who viewed his video on YouTube, and if you missed him on Jimmy Kimmel, and if you didn't hear him on Opie and Anthony, and if you weren't alerted to it after John Mayer did a Nelly Furtado inspired cover of it, or if you didn't hear about Tre Cool of Green Day's cover of it, then please let me be the first to introduce you to the sensation known as Tay Zonday, with his number entitled, "Chocolate Rain."

No really, if you haven't seen it, watch it now. Heck, watch it again even if you have seen it already. Check out the responses. Read the lyrics. Study and consider Chocolate Rain.

And ask yourself the question I've been pondering: "What does this Chocolate Rain all mean"?

When asked by Anthony of the O&A crew what the song meant, Zonday admitted to "undertones of racism" in the lyrics. He then went on to refer to the piece as "cheesy," and something he threw up on YouTube, expecting to garner only a few views.

Instead, Tay is now surfing on a wave of "Chocolate Rain" fame.

The question begged is, why did this happen?

E! online posted a story about Tay's "Chocolate Reign", mentioning how "YouTube has been deluged with 'Chocolate Rain' parodies, remixes and remakes" since first being posted in April. Of course, this phenomenon isn't unheard of. (Writer's note: just like there is a Family Guy Walk it Out, but also a Family Guy Ollie Williams / Chocolate Rain parody). Nonetheless, this sort of attention is not typically garnered by the Internet posting of an unknown. If it were, Tay Zonday wouldn't be the topic of this, or anyone else's article.

Why Tay Zonday?

A Google search of this question provided me no answer. (In the future, such an internet search will inevitably lead someone to this piece. In you are one of those searchers, congratulations! I'm not sure you'll find a satisfactory answer.)

Why Chocolate Rain?

The song has no distinguishable chorus, though the lyrics page purports there is one. The same riff repeats throughout the entire piece, without any change in tempo, cadence, or anything, defying all logical understanding of a chorus as far as I know.

Tay's voice, though distinct for its low register, is not particularly good. The most remarked on aspect of his singing is not how he sounds, but on how he moves away from the microphone to breathe in while singing.

Tay's presentation is flat, both in the video and the live appearance on Kimmel. Tay sings with little to no facial expression at all, prompting one YouTuber to parody Zonday as the ventriloquist dummy Lester in a 1980's McDonald's advertisement mashup (which is hilarious).

The only other shot edited into the video appears twice, and is of someone (I suppose Tay himself) playing the piano riff that comprises the song. These shots are inexplicably turned upside down.

Why Tay Zonday?

Is it the same reason people stop to look at car accidents? Is it like when you stare intently at a ceiling, such that everyone else who sees you also starts staring at the ceiling in order to try to figure out what you're looking at?

Though many have messaged to Tay they "love" his songs on his myspace, I can't help but feel that Tay Zonday is not to be the next big thing on the radio.

Why Chocolate Rain?

The only answer I can imagine is how the enigmatic phrase "Chocolate Rain" is repeated after every line, for a total of about thirty-eight Chocolate Rains in under five minutes. Perhaps this is the part that makes people love it; in less than half a minute, anyone can sing the end of every line in unison with the singer.

The true explanation to Chocolate Rain's success likely will never be known. But whatever force it is that propelled Tay Zonday from unknown grad-student to an internet-legend is something many, your writer included, aspire to each and every time they post their art on the Internet for people to see.

Though likely even Tay can't explain what precisely triggered his 15 minutes of fame, his success proves that, every now and again, something "hits", though no one is really sure why. And it is this chance of racking up hits like these that keeps us posting our stuff for others to see.

I do know one thing for sure about Chocolate Rain: After the multiple covers and parodies I've written of this song over the past weekend, (including such hits as, "Pants got Stained"), my wife wishes I'd never heard of Tay Zonday.


A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

more about jeffrey d. walker


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daniel castro
8.13.07 @ 12:06p

Hah, I was gonna mention the McDonald's ad.

I'll admit to think his videos were hilarious upon first seeing them and now they're just annoying. I'm sure the appearance on Kimmel will give him even more time on the spotlight. Which, by the way, is even more hilarious when you notice how he is sitting and how he stares at the lovely Ms. Bell.

jeffrey walker
8.13.07 @ 12:17p

in fairness to Mr. Zonday, I think both you or I would be staring at Ms. Bell.

alex b
8.13.07 @ 2:11p

Jeez, I can't fathom why he's a hit. But since he's a hit on the perverse basis of being annoying and weird, I may sneak up on people and mimic him to see if they jump.

jeffrey walker
8.13.07 @ 2:22p

so then, are "others" going to "feel the pain" of your "chocolate rain"?

jason gilmore
8.13.07 @ 3:40p

His "success" is, in fact, for the same reason that people want to see car accidents.

*pauses and steps away from keyboard to take breath*

But between him and the astonishing Filipino prison "Thriller" rendition, I'm reevaluting the way I've been approaching seeking fame through the internet.

jeffrey walker
8.13.07 @ 3:44p

...astonishing Filipino prison "Thriller" rendition...

I just took a look at this. I have questions...

Jason, if you come to a new plan of action on seeking internet fame, I'd love to hear what it is.

jason gilmore
8.13.07 @ 9:17p

It's too embryonic to even mention, it's more about shifting the way I think in general.

On a side note, I just got hip to the Happy Slip girl today. But at least her popularity is understandable: she's hot and a goofball and even sings and plays the piano. I can't compete with that.... and won't even try.

alex b
8.14.07 @ 9:40a

Jeffrey, anyone who annoys me will peel the fain of my chocolate rain. Especially since I am from a people that mounts Thriller renditions in prison!

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