Articles

Hi Ren

Hi Ren, by Ren (YouTube channel)

When you are so moved by art that you feel compelled to talk about it, but so overpowered by it that words fail when you try, you wind up getting something like this post.

Earlier this week a friend of mine posted a link to a YouTube video I didn’t recognize, with the comment “Not the common light-hearted fare that we often embrace in this chat, but wow!” I clicked it not knowing what I’d see. What I saw was the video I’ve linked to above.

I can’t get it out of my head.

It’s not that I’ve never been affected by art before, moved by art before, inspired by art before, but it’s a matter of degree: I’ve read stories about specific works of art or performances inspiring riots and ecstasies, but I can only recall two times in my life where art knocked me down, ripped off all my scabs, and left all the most hidden parts of myself painfully exposed to the world.

Hi Ren, by Ren, is the second time it happened.

And this is where art gets weird: I’m writing this article because I want more people to know about this song. It’s that simple. It should be the focus of your attention, and you should watch it and love it (I mean I can’t make or demand that you actually love anything, I’m just saying that JUSTICE DEMANDS IT, YOU MONSTERS) and celebrate the sheer audacity and fearlessness and terror and stark despair and unending hope that went into it. But I’m also writing this article because of the effect the song had on me. I wouldn’t be making this effort, however feeble it might be, if I’d listened to the song, liked it, and that was the end of it. It provoked a reaction in me that made it hard for me to function for the rest of the day. It has consumed cycles of my brain. It has stood over me and cast its shadow over everything I’ve done since, while also illuminating everything I’ve done since, specter and beacon both in the same breath. It haunts me and inspires me in equal measure. While I’m not someone who suffers from the primal theme of the song, it has skillfully reshaped itself and slid into my psyche in a way that it highlights and provides commentary on struggles I do have, and torments I have experienced. It dredged up a whole lot of me me me me me and it’s tempting, oh so very tempting, to make that the focus of the rest of this piece. In fact, my plan was to write this very paragraph and then decide which way the article would go from there. And here I am, at the end of the paragraph. Now I must decide.

OK, I’ve decided.

I think the best that I can do is to leave it at that. I am writing this to expose you to something you might have already seen, but probably not, so the important thing, I think, is to let you discover what I’m talking about. Let the paragraph above be a content warning, or an exultation and celebration, or — perhaps most accurately — both. Maybe it will have the same effect on you that it did on me. Maybe it won’t.

The link is above. See, listen, and decide.

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4 comments

Marie Stark 27 January 2023 at 12:33 PM

I was up until 1 am this morning watching ‘reaction’ videos on YouTube, just so I could watch people watch it for the first time. EVERYone was blown away. I found you and this post because I was compelled to see who was talking about this. You sum up really well the power of this piece of art and the compulsion to share it. So, thank you for sharing because I have been at a loss for words to describe its inpact.

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ysth 29 January 2023 at 2:11 AM

Thanks for posting this.

Impressive how it steps up the game not just once but repeatedly. I watched a lot of reactions too.

Not topically the same, but it has some resonance with my favorite Chapin song, There Only Was One Choice.

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ysth 29 January 2023 at 2:57 PM

Trying to avoid spoilers, but a couple subtle things: at 2:14 there’s a glance at the audience, telling me that the voice is being somewhat performative (or fake it to make it?) and gauging reaction, flavoring (err, flavouring) how I read that part. And the second, almost celebratory vocalization part seems to me to foreshadow “dance”.

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C. B. Wright 29 January 2023 at 5:13 PM

I hadn’t noticed that one. I did see the one he did between 3:08 and 3:09 (it’s easy to miss because the camera zooms back real far for a second, and it happens there).

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