Social change through silly songs: Taylor Ferrera strikes a chord on YouTube
Taylor Ferrera is an aspiring actress with dreams of performing on the biggest stages and the brightest screens. But for now, the 24-year-old Astoria, Queens, resident has taken quite a liking to YouTube, where she's beginning to pave her way as one of the preeminent songwriting critics covering the country's current events, most recently with her viral hit "Legitimate Rape."
"My character on YouTube isn't exactly myself," Ferrera told the Daily Dot. "She can be very naive and trusting. It's coming from a perspective of innocence."
Ferrera began writing songs for her YouTube channel in February, about the same time that she started to take her guitar out to open mics and casual gigs around New York City. Her first songs were laidback ditties, songs with titles like "I Like You" and "Betty White Still Survives."
They came punctuated by her cheerful smile and whimsical presentation, and each video would pick up between 1,000 and 2,000 views—making them mere drops of rain in the vast sea of YouTube's ocean.
But Ferrera's presence changed in the middle of April, when Arizona lawmakers passed a new piece of state legislation that defined pregnancy as starting two weeks before the act of conception. Inspired, angered, and amused, Ferrera wrote "I'm Moving to Arizona," a song that mocked the legislation by singing about all the great things she could do now that she was "pregnant without actually being pregnant."
"That one struck a chord and got 45,000 views, which is way more than any other song I'd had," she said. “That indicated to me that there's a niche that I could fall into. Since, I've been doing more topical stories that have a bit more of a universal appeal than the MTA song, which only appeals to the people in New York who are my friends and ride the subway."
Since, Ferrera's channel has turned decidedly political. She's focused her songs on "mischievous, hubris, repugnant" conservatives, her distaste for Bank of America, and the evils of corporate enterprise. She laid out her disdain for Chick-fil-A after CEO Dan Cathy's comments against gay marriage earlier this month, calling it a "betrayal of trust" from a chain she once loved so much.
She racked up nearly 50,000 views in three months, and then Rep. Todd Akin made the mistake of saying, "If it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Ferrera immediately sprung into action, grabbing her guitar and writing "Legitimate Rape," a bubbly, playful campfire jam that takes a wraparound look at just how outrageous the Missouri state representative’s statement actually was.
Posted onto YouTube Tuesday, Ferrera's "Legitimate Rape" has since racked up 250,000 views and firmly pitted her in the mold of modern satirist.
A certain degree of the song's success can be attributed to its relevancy and the Internet's penchant for chewing up anything that creatively mocks stupid human behavior, but there's also Ferrera's style of songwriting to take into account. She's taking a polarizing, national issue and turning it into a good time at Akin's expense.
"The music tends to contrast the theme," she said. "That's something that happens a lot in my songs: the music and the messages are always the opposites of what they should be. My song about rape is poppy and has a happy-go-lucky beat. My song about having a crush on Tim Lincecum is in the minor key and dramatic and full of melancholy.
"In cases, like 'Legitimate Rape,' that helps the songs not sound arrogant or judgmental or alienating, which is absolutely the opposite of what I want to do."
Rather, she wants to play the role of YouTube's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert: political analysts who use humor and mockery to drive home their points.
"I just want to be silly," she said. "If people would calm down for just a second and see how silly everyone's being, we could maybe actually all get along."
Photo via YouTube