Ali Spagnola and Charles Cornell
Ali Spagnola and Charles Cornell are creating original content out of original songs, but with comedic and educational twists. (Illustration by Amelia Fins, Montclair State University)
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Ali Spagnola and Charles Cornell

These two YouTubers are creating something new out of the familiar.

Have you ever wondered what your favorite song would sound like if it was sung by a different artist or in a different style? Perhaps you have also asked yourself what your favorite Vine or meme would be like if it was set to music. If you have ever pondered either of these questions, might I introduce to you Ali Spagnola and Charles Cornell?

Spagnola joined YouTube in 2006, releasing unique content and original songs. The creator also covered hits from Kesha, Haim and Meghan Trainor. Spagnola capitalized on all of her musical talent by creating a series called “One Woman Band,” where she covered popular hits, like “Shape of You” and “Havana.”

It wasn’t until June of this year that Spagnola released her first “What if” video. The series started out with a bang, as Spagnola mixed alt-pop favorite Billie Eilish’s dark and vampy “Bad Guy” with the stylings of bright, bubblegum pop princess Meghan Trainor.

Spagnola documents the process of transforming the hit songs from start to finish in a way that both music composition buffs and individuals that can’t read sheet music for the life of them will enjoy. Her eye err… ear for finding specific details in music and her ability to pick and piece them together is quite astonishing and very interesting to watch.

At the end of every “What if” video, Spagnola debuts a music video for the final product of the transformed song, which makes for a comical couple of minutes and acts as a reward for both Spagnola’s hard work and her audience’s determination to continue watching the whole “What if” video.

The series was a mega success, as seen in the roughly 4 million views of the first video. The creator has made several other videos in the series, such as “What if ‘Old Town Road’ was by Miley Cyrus?,” ” What if Katy Perry made a Nickelback song… good?”  and “What if ‘Baby Shark’ was by Lady Gaga?”

However, it is Spagnola’s latest video in the series, “What if Lizzo’s ‘Truth Hurts’ was by Mumford & Sons,” that is currently bringing in new viewers to the channel. The video takes summer anthem “Truth Hurts” from self-confidence queen Lizzo and makes it folksy a la Mumford & Sons, primarily through the use of a keyboard. The video has currently raked in about 700,000 views and has become heavily recommended on YouTube.

Musical fiend Charles Cornell launched his channel in 2014 with aesthetic, drone-filled videos and later with original songs, such as “Rise.” In May of this year, Cornell began his series “Trump Tweet Songs” where, you guessed it, he puts one of the many POTUS tweets to music.

The first installment of the series was met with some positive responses and views. It continued to grow into a successful and popular series for some time until Cornell found his calling mashing other pop culture phenomenon with melodies.

First up on his repertoire of pop culture mashups was rap star Cardi B and a video she uploaded to her Instagram professing her admiration for a pair of “exclusive Swisher Sweet Uggs” that she had been gifted by the company. Cornell paired the sing songy video with a perfect piano part and a masterpiece was born.

The video was met with over a million views (and that is just counting the upload available on YouTube) and many reposts, including one from Snoop Dogg, as well as one from the the inspiration for the video herself, Miss Cardi B. After being met with viral fame practically overnight, Cornell uploaded a video discussing the process and musical theory behind creating his videos.

Cornell continued with making his musical meme masterpieces, and has had many other highly celebrated videos, like his piano cover of the infamous Jasmine Masters meme, “And I Oop.” By mixing the original video with sassy facial expressions and killer piano playing, the musician makes the accidental hit meme even more humorous. Cornell has also taken the now famous Comedy Central clip of Bill Nye and reinvented it.

Cornell studied at the conservatory of music at SUNY Purchase and has made a career out of giving music lessons and working as a jazz musician. While playing piano and singing to memes and Instagram videos was not his intentional career path, Cornell has said that he enjoys aspects of his current work and the joy he brings through his well-executed content.

The concept of taking familiar songs and turning them on their heads to become new creations separate from their originals is not novel to the world of YouTube. The channel Postmodern Jukebox has been around since 2008 and has revolved around the premise of taking old favorites, like “Don’t Stop Believin,” and new bops, like “Sucker,” and revamping them by arranging them in different styles, like tango and big band. The channel has been a major success since its launch and has resulted in the release of several albums and tours around the country.

While it might seem like Ali Spagnola and Charles Cornell are following the path of channels like Postmodern Jukebox, if you look closely you will see how comparing them is like comparing apples and oranges. Postmodern Jukebox has a rotating catalog of singers and styles and has live musicians playing instruments, while Spagnola uses a software that allows her to play a variety of instruments with just her keyboard and laptop and Cornell uses memes and vines.

Ali Spagnola and Charles Cornell hold their own amongst music-themed channels on YouTube as they both bring something unique to the video platform. The two draw viewers in with relatable pop culture-based videos, Cornell with internet culture and Spagnola with current songs and artists.

Both creators provide more than just entertainment for viewers, as they also offer an educational aspect with videos about music theory. Viewers have been so intrigued that Cornell has begun to offer lessons through Skype for $75. Both musicians provide something special to the platform and give viewers of YouTube some hope that the internet is not such a scary or useless place after all.

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