Upbeat upvotes: How Christopher Gonzalez turns Reddit into song
Christopher Gonzalez doesn’t just contribute to Reddit. He turns casual comments on the social news site into memorable pop songs.
Better known as SenorZorro2000—his signature online handle—Gonzalez first gained upvotes as the voice of “Hey There, Keanu,” a hilarious spoof, written by fellow user Azured, of the Plain Whites Ts hit “Hey There, Delilah.”
If you’ve seen the meme based on a photo of Keanu Reeves sitting on a bench by himself eating a sandwich, you can picture the making of Gonzalez and Azured’s hit.
Posted in June 2010, the parody is perhaps Reddit’s ultimate meme anthem, with lyrics that reference the site’s most insidery corners, like r/circlejerk, and an accompanying YouTube video comprised of the most creative Photoshops of Sad Keanu: in the Last Judgment, at the bar in Cheers, and randomly inserted into Star Wars, to name three of the more memorable scenes.
“I’ve never actually met Azured,” revealed Gonzalez, 25, over Skype from his dorm room at Sonoma State University in California, where he’s seeking certification to become a middle-school algebra teacher.
“I saw another song that he did ("Simple Kid") and we started chatting a little bit,” said Gonzalez. “Then I saw that Cheer Up Keanu Day was coming up and really wanted to something for it. I really struggle with lyrics, so I asked if he wanted to write something.”
The collaboration proved a smash success, not only on Reddit but also Digg and Funny or Die—a trifecta of virality that resulted in more than 742,000 views. It’s since become the most popular song of all time on Radio Reddit, a user-run music discovery station that operates with points and voting system similar to Reddit’s.
Gonzalez isn’t a one-hit wonder, though.
Inspired by the unintentional lyricism found in Reddit’s instantaneous conversations, the self-taught guitarist started turning comments into songs. An active moderator for r/30daysit, a subreddit—or section—devoted to daily meditation, Gonzalez began the songwriting process back in March 2010, with “Ode to a Rough Day,” a tribute to jotate’s image of a broken coffee mug.
“I had a sense then that people would remember and enjoy things beyond that afternoon,” offered Gonzalez, who is also an aspiring voice-over actor. Over Skype, he beamed with eager confidence.
“I think Reddit has responded well because they know I’m not trying to get famous or make a bunch of money off of these people.”
In fact, Gonzalez makes it a point to only post the recordings on Reddit as responses to their respective threads. He also adds links to the original threads, along with the lyrics, on his accompanying YouTube channel.
Given the fleeting shelf life of individual Reddit threads, time is always of the essence. Most of the songs are written, recorded, and posted in a matter of hours.
“After that point, it’s difficult to get anyone to see it,” Gonzalez said.
Over the past year, he has since recorded songs for star-crossed redditors (“Mario Love”), a tribute to rage comics in “Eye of the Rage Maker,” and “Good Friday,” each with lyrics culled directly from Reddit threads—the latter from Peejeep’s revision of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” for Reddit’s atheism community.
The highlight of his 18-song collection, however, is “I’ll Never Regret (Loving You).” That track originated with a post by redditor FaithlessValor, whose grandparents wrote two songs on sheet music. After discovering them, FaithlessValor hoped to hear them performed.
Gonzalez responded in kind. His upbeat recording bears a passing resemblance to Buddy Holly’s apartment tapes, with a rough sincerity and touches of 1950s pop.
“I would pay money for a high quality version of this song,” wrote YouTuber chinmokuchibi in the top comment. “Good work!”
For Gonzalez, that sort of feedback and lasting impact makes the effort worthwhile.
“Reddit really provided me with peers,” he said of the site, which now plays host to 35 million unique visitors a month. “At the time I joined, I was working at an elementary school where there wasn’t really anyone my own for me to connect to. That’s when I started getting active on the site. I already enjoyed music, but Reddit gave me an outlet.”