Two Dollar Dances (Dollar Stories Book 5)

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I was not giving TikTok my attention because I wanted to keep up with the news, or because I was trying to soothe and irritate myself by looking at photos of my friends on vacation. I was giving TikTok my attention because it was serving me what would retain my attention, and it could do that because it had been designed to perform algorithmic pyrotechnics that were capable of making a half hour pass before I remembered to look away. We have been inadvertently preparing for this experience for years.

On YouTube and Twitter and Instagram, recommendation algorithms have been making us feel individually catered to while bending our selfhood into profitable shapes. The platform then adjusts its predilections based on the closed loop of data that it has created. This pattern seems relatively trivial when the underlying material concerns shaving cream and Crocs, but it could determine much of our cultural future.

The algorithm gives us whatever pleases us, and we, in turn, give the algorithm whatever pleases it. As the circle tightens, we become less and less able to separate algorithmic interests from our own. In , an executive at an ad agency focussed on social media told the Times that Musical. The F. TikTok handled this in a blunt, makeshift fashion: it added an age gate that asked for your birthday but which defaulted to the current date, meaning that users who failed to enter their age were instantly kicked off the app, and their videos were deleted. TikTok did not seem terribly worried about the complaints that followed these deletions.

It was now big enough not to care. A few months after TikTok arrived in the U. Hill, who goes by the stage name Lil Nas X, had spent much of his teens attempting to go viral on Twitter and elsewhere. There is a sweetness to his self-presentation, which seems optimized for digital interaction; he wears ten-gallon hats and fringe and glitter, a laugh-crying-cowboy emoji come to life.

The song went to No. Certain musical elements serve as TikTok catnip: bass-heavy transitions that can be used as punch lines; rap songs that are easy to lip-synch or include a narrative-friendly call and response. A twenty-six-year-old Australian producer named Adam Friedman, half of the duo Cookie Cutters, told me that he was now concentrating on lyrics that you could act out with your hands.

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TikTok employs an artist-relations team that contacts musicians whose songs are going viral and coaches them on how to use the platform. Some videos include links to Apple Music, which pays artists per stream, though not very much. Virality can thus pay off elsewhere, relieving the pressure for TikTok to compensate artists directly. If you are one of those people, TikTok can be a godsend.

TikTok also offers artists the uniquely moving experience of watching total strangers freely and enthusiastically produce music videos for them. ByteDance is developing a music-streaming service—which will likely launch first in emerging markets, such as India—and it is currently negotiating the renewal of old Musical. ByteDance also has acquired a London-based startup called Jukedeck, which has been developing A.

Incorporating such technology into TikTok could give ByteDance total ownership of content created within the app. But the app could begin to influence composition in other ways. Digital platforms and digital attention spans may make hit songs shorter, for instance.


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Adam Friedman has begun producing music directly for influencers, and engineering it for maximum TikTok success. I suggested that some people might think there was a kind of artistic integrity missing from this process. I visited the office twice this summer, after an extensive e-mail correspondence with a company spokesperson.

The first person TikTok offered for an on-the-record chat was a twenty-year-old TikToker named Ben De Almeida, who lives in Alberta and, on the app, goes by benoftheweek. De Almeida wore red striped pants and a yellow shirt and was accompanied by a handler; he radiated good-natured charisma.

When I extended my hand, he immediately went in for a hug. De Almeida was in L. He used to post videos on Snapchat, but he got on TikTok in November and now has two million followers. In conversation, De Almeida, like other TikTok teens I talked to, mixed the ecstatically strange dialect of people who love memes—a language in which every word sets off a chain of incomprehensible referents—with the sort of anodyne corporate jargon I associate with marketing professionals.

Pace wore a charcoal T-shirt and had the erratic energy of a champion sled dog on break. Pace has fifteen employees working under him to make TikToks, some of which serve as back-end marketing for record labels that have paid Flighthouse to promote particular songs.


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  • He was about to travel to New York to present to ad agencies. Many of the people whose professional lives are dependent on or tied to TikTok were eager to talk to me, but that eagerness was not shared by people who actually work for the company. I asked multiple TikTok employees whether the company did anything to insure that this mood prevailed in the videos that the app served its users. Would you put something else in its place? TikTok employees in Los Angeles declined to talk in any detail about their relationship to ByteDance headquarters, in Beijing, and everyone I spoke to emphasized that the U.

    Douyin is headquartered in Shanghai, and ByteDance says that it has more than five hundred million monthly active users. Zhou Rongrong, a twenty-nine-year-old Ph. Though it remains broadly similar to TikTok, Douyin has become more advanced than its global counterpart, particularly with respect to e-commerce. So far, TikTok has concentrated more on expanding its user base than on offering opportunities for e-commerce.

    If TikTok wants to keep growing, it will need to attract more people who are no longer in their teens, and it will need to hold their attention. Bern thinks that TikTok content will soon become more mature, as has already happened with Douyin, which now contains micro-vlogs, life-style content, business advice, and videos from local police.

    Selected users on Douyin can upload videos as long as five minutes.

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    Fictional mini-dramas have begun to appear. Zhang, who rarely gives interviews, was raised in Fujian Province, the son of a civil servant and a nurse, and attended university in the northern port city of Tianjin.

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    He briefly worked at Microsoft in China, and bounced between startups for a while. He then pitched Chinese investors on the idea of a news-aggregation app that would use machine learning to provide people with whatever they wished to read. The app, called Jinri Toutiao, was launched within the year.


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    • Like TikTok, Toutiao starts feeding you content as soon as you open it, and it adjusts the mix by tracking and analyzing your scrolling behavior, the time of day, and your location. It can deduce how its users read while commuting, and what they like to look at before bed.

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      It reportedly has around a hundred and twenty million daily active users, most of whom are under thirty. On average, they read their tailored feeds for more than an hour each day. Monique helps Lane prepare for the race, which he ultimately wins despite losing one ski and being pursued by Johnny. Beth rushes to embrace Lane at the finish line, but he rejects her and, after besting Ricky who attempts to keep Lane from rescuing Monique from the restraints of his mother in a ski-pole swordfight, drives off with Monique in his Camaro.

      Lane and Monique are last seen kissing at home plate at Dodger Stadium , with Johnny bicycling towards them, while in a mid-credit scene Badger demolishes his house by launching a home-made space shuttle from his room. Parts of the film were shot in Alta , Brighton , and Snowbird in Utah. At one point, romantic foreshadowing is accomplished by a " clay-mation " sequence featuring cheeseburgers in love.

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      At another, a lovesick teen draws a cartoon picture of his faithless girlfriend, and the drawing tells him to get lost. According to Savage Steve Holland, Cusack did not like the film and walked out of a screening, later confronting Holland, saying Better Off Dead "was the worst thing I have ever seen. I will never trust you as a director ever again, so don't speak to me. I have nothing against the film Glad people love it still.

      The site's consensus reads: " Better Off Dead is an anarchic mix of black humor and surreal comedy anchored by John Cusack's winsome, charming performance. The film's soundtrack was produced primarily by Rupert Hine. Hine had previously worked with Curnin and West-Oram, and also contributed vocals to the song. Hine produced the song and was reportedly under consideration to produce an album for Berlin. West-Oram also provided guitar work to this song, as well as the instrumental "The Falcon Beat". Daily, sang lead vocals on both songs and also performed them in the film during the high school dance scene.

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