Chocolate rain storms U campus

Bahner believes ‘Chocolate’s’ popularity is due to its catchy beat.

by Allison Wickler

University graduate student Adam Bahner can attest to the Internet’s power of communication.

Bahner, 25, known in his YouTube video fame as Tay Zonday, has received national recognition for his original song, “Chocolate Rain,” which he recorded and posted on the video Web site in April.

on the web

To view the video “Chocolate Rain” by Tay Zonday go to Chocolate Rain on YouTube.

The name “Tay Zonday” didn’t come from anywhere in particular. In fact, Bahner said he simply Googled catchy-sounding names until one returned zero results.

Since word of his video spread, Bahner has appeared in numerous media reports and was invited to perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live, on which America got a taste of the deep voice that deceives Bahner’s boyish looks.

Director of graduate studies for the Department of American Studies Elaine Tyler May said word spread quickly through the department about Bahner’s video.

May, who taught Bahner in a graduate seminar at the University, said he showed a lot of intelligence and creativity in her class.

“He’s very much an original thinker,” she said.

Many have construed the song’s lyrics, which include lines such as “Chocolate rain/Made me cross the street the other day/Chocolate rain/Made you turn your head the other way,” to have a deep underlying message; Bahner said he prefers to let listeners interpret the lyrics themselves.

He said the catchy beat, rather than the lyrics, probably popularized the song over his others, which are also posted on YouTube.

“People have found ways to appropriate ‘Chocolate Rain’ in all types of different meanings,” he said, “many of them humorous or satirical in ways that have taken a life of their own beyond the original song.”

The YouTube Phenomenon

John Rash, media expert and senior vice president and director of media negotiations for the Campbell Mithun advertising agency, said YouTube ultimately attracts more people to the Internet.

As peoples’ consumption of mainstream media decreases, those sources have to change their business models to compete.

“It makes the cultural landscape more cluttered, but more democratized as well,” he said, “because it removes the traditional filters that would impede some messages from getting to the marketplace.”

Though YouTube has already become an integral part of pop culture, Rash said it’s “just the beginning” of the opportunities it could provide.

He said Internet consumers realize the potential for gaining recognition by posting a YouTube video, but still few actually expect to become Internet sensations.

Even if he doesn’t spend his life serenading audiences, Bahner will get the opportunity to perform his music as one of the opening acts for the band Girl Talk’s show Oct. 5 at First Avenue – as Tay Zonday, of course.

“Would I like to believe that it makes peoples’ days a little better, a little funnier, a little brighter?” he said. “Sure, but again, that’s not up to me.”

Bahner said he would like to bring Tay Zonday’s artistic passion to his scholarly work, but it is difficult to be emotionally invested in his undergraduate teaching at the University.

For now, his life has remained normal, he said, and he hasn’t received much attention on campus.

“I’m in the same apartment,” he said. “I haven’t retired to a penthouse.”