If you’re looking for this year’s song of summer, don’t turn to the Billboard charts; Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night” has been squatting at No. 1 for so long that flies are starting to buzz around it like roadkill. Instead, head over to TikTok, where a shiny space-age utopia is unfolding, and an unlikely champion of late summer has emerged: “Planet of the Bass,” a ’90s Eurodance parody track from comedian Kyle Gordon, in-character as “DJ Crazy Times.” It has tens of millions of views spread across TikTok and X (lol) thanks to its silly lyrics in Borat–butchered English (“Life, it never die!”) and a maddeningly catchy chorus. For over two weeks, fans just had a 50-second clip of the track, which Gordon released again and again in different (highly controversial) TikToks, featuring different influencers (Audrey Trullinger, Marais Grace, Sabrina Brier) lip-syncing to the chorus as featured artist “Biljana Electronica.”
It turns out that these weren’t even clips from the music video; they were just part of a rollout strategy to promote the single, which will be featured on Gordon’s upcoming comedy music album Kyle Gordon Is Great, dropping November 10. Gordon released the full track for “Planet of the Bass” on August 15 along with a joyfully elaborate pastiche music video that’s a bit Pixel Perfect, a bit Aqua, a bit “Celery Man.” The day before its release, Gordon chatted with Vulture about pleasing the Eurodance purists, a possible live Biljana Electronica face reveal, and why we owe this whole sensation to late ’90s Bar Mitzvahs.
A lot of people, especially on TikTok, have been calling this the Song of Summer. What’s your reaction to this song — which isn’t even fully out yet, and which is mostly a joke — getting as big as this?
I feel really good about it. This is just one song on a whole album with each song on the album being a different genre parody. I picked it as the first single knowing that I was really happy about it. I was not anticipating it.
You’ve released different styles of musical parody on TikTok before, and usually, like with DJ Crazy Times, you have different characters singing these songs.
Yeah, it’s all completely different characters and genres. I believe everything that’s going to be on the album I have posted in some form online, and I think they’ll fit really well in the album format and as full songs. This is the ’90s Eurodance character I’ve done for a while, but I also have an early 2000s Shania Twain-ish pop song, a ’60s bossa nova, a pop-punk emo one. They really run the gamut.
Tell me how DJ Crazy Times began, and what it is about this Eurodance genre that speaks to you?
Funnily enough, out of all my characters, it’s one of the oldest, if not the oldest. I was doing it for fun in college. And actually, I was in a college a capella group, and on a CD from like 201, there’s a recording of me introducing the little crappy CD we made as DJ Crazy Time. It’s always been something I found interesting and funny. It started out as a more generic European DJ, David Guetta–type thing, but as I listened to more music and as this particular Eurodance become more nostalgic for me … I’m 30, so some of my earliest musical memories are being at an older sibling of a friend’s bar or bat mitzvah. This was in the late ’90s, and that’s really the only time you’d ever hear Eurodance like that because most of it was not really on the radio. You’d get some peeking through, like “I’m Blue,” “Barbie Girl,” “What Is Love,” things like that. But it was not something as an American you would hear all the time. I just remember it sounding, like, from another planet. So I think as I got older, I revisited it and had more nostalgia for it.
I was going to ask if you were a raver in your past, but of course, it was all about dancing to “Everytime We Touch” at Bar Mitzvahs. That was the thing.
I am the opposite of a raver.
As with anything on TikTok, a lot of fans of “Planet of the Bass” are getting curious about its lore. The video just opens up a million questions about who these people are. Does DJ Crazy Times have lore?
I think the lore might be unfolding. We haven’t done DJ Crazy Times’s Behind the Music yet. But there are some general elements, like, he’s definitely Eastern European. If I were to nail it down, he’s probably from somewhere in the Balkans. But I deliberately haven’t nailed down his precise birthplace. Everything else, as of right now, is on the page.
Well, he’s brought up Bratislava a bunch.
I think it’s fun to say. It sounds like, if you were to come up with a generic Eastern European city name, you couldn’t do much better than that. In other videos, I say Sarajevo, Ljubljana, but Bratislava does have a particular ring to it.
Have you had feedback from any artists from this era of music?
The best was when Aqua commented on my TikTok. I actually was an idiot, because they said, “Wait, is this play about us???” a meme that I didn’t understand. It’s from Euphoria. I’m an idiot. I am genuinely a massive Aqua fan. Not to sound like such a snobby nerd, but even beyond “Barbie Girl” they have so many incredible songs in the genre. I saw them live in New York a month and a half ago. So when they commented that, I was like, Oh yes, this is the best.
Are you a fan of “Dr. Jones?” To me, that’s the most elite Aqua track.
“Dr. Jones” is amazing. “Roses Are Red” is probably my favorite one. “Candyman,” “Lollipop” are great bubblegum dance songs.
We need to talk about a hot-button issue, which is, Biljana Electronica, and the many women who have stepped in in the clips you’ve released of your video. People are heated!
I was not expecting such passion, but that was my plan all along. The first clip that I released, with Audrey [Trullinger] at the Oculus, I posted that on July 28, but I had finished recording and editing all three of them a week or two before that. They were all done and in the can. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I was trying to think of creative, fun ways to promote the song between initially posting that and the release two or three weeks after that. I thought of it as an homage to a common trope in the genre, especially in the early ’90s, which was: You get a singer to record the track and then, if it blows up, you get a random model to lip-sync in the music video. It’s insane, and it’s a relic of this genre, and I just thought it was so funny. But it’s kind of amazing how invested people are.
Can you tell me about the real Biljana who laid down the track?
The real singer’s name is Chrissi Poland, and she’s amazing. She knocked it out of the park. She mostly sings jazz; she’s a very accomplished jazz vocalist. She definitely was out of my league, so it was awesome that I got her to sing on this track. And it was produced by Brooks Allison; he’s a writer on The Tonight Show, and he’s also a really talented musician. So he produced the song, and he improved the demo. It was also co-produced by Jamie Siegel, who produced by whole album and connected me with Chrissi. I’ve actually never met Chrissi in person.
Will there ever be a live performance with Chrissi?
I really, really want that to happen, so I think absolutely, I want to do something fun and creative, and want to perform with Chrissi.
How did your first live performance of the song at Mood Ring go?
It was amazing! It was so different. I do my music in comedy shows. It’s usually just me and my guitar. But this was not a comedy audience. The DJ who hosted that party, Moistbreezy, hit me up like, “I host this Eurodance party — would you want to perform your song?” It was a fun mix of people who were there to see the song, but also just fans of the genre, who I think might have even been a little skeptical of me, like, Oh, this guy’s going to come and make a joke out of our Eurodance night. But I kept the energy up, and just the fact that everyone knew the words! I think the clip had been out for a week at that point; it was completely bonkers.
Tell me about filming in the Oculus. What is it about the Oculus that captures the vibe of “Planet of the Bass” so well?
It’s such a unique and strange building. It’s like a spaceship, and outer space was sort of an obsession of the Eurodance genre. I think a lot of the music videos and certain lyrical tropes are referencing space and technology. But it also seemed like somewhere they would film, like, The Bourne Identity or something, like a European movie of that exact time, like 2001 or 2002.
I can’t tell if that vest you wear is high fashion or just a life jacket.
It’s a $25,000 custom piece. [laughs] It was from an army costume that I got, and it went over a camo piece.
Presumably, if a jealous competitor tried to assassinate DJ Crazy Times it would act as a bulletproof vest.
Exactly. When I got it as part of the army costume there were grenades in each pocket.
On August 3, you tweeted “Dear god I’ve created the new Milli Vanilli.” Where does a comedy or meme song and a genuine novelty song begin? What has been your reaction to this expanding beyond the context you’re used to releasing things in?
For one, I am a big fan of novelty songs generally because the nature of a novelty song is it sounds so different from everything else in pop radio. To make it a novelty, it has to come from outer space and be totally random in the context of everything else in the United States. And as for it expanding beyond my normal audience, I consider this the ultimate success, insofar as my goal was to make it really specific and for it to be appreciated by people who are knowledgeable of the genre, but then also accessible to an audience that only maybe had an ambient sense of it. So the fact that it expanded beyond that is mission accomplished.
Tell me more about the writing process. Who were your influences from the real genre?
I went in with Brooks, and we sculpted the sounds together, like, “It should have the same rhythm as this Real McCoy song.” Or, “It has to have the same lead synth as this Captain Hollywood Project song,” and lyrically I turned it up to 11 with the grammatical errors. I’m also a big fan of ’80s Italo disco, and they are the absolute best and worst when it comes to how they will just sing in English and not even care about what they are saying or whether it makes any sense. That was more of the lyrical inspiration.
Can you give fans a playlist of the specific songs that inspired the track?
“Runaway” by Real McCoy, “More and More” by Captain Hollywood Project. I have an allusion to “Sex on the Phone” by E-Rotic on the phone call part. 2 Brothers on the 4th Floor is a band that is pure Eurodance, and their music video for “Fly” inspired the full music video.
Why do you think the song has hit so big in this moment? What is it about Y2K that people are responding to so strongly?
I have been doing this character for a long time, and it’s been on TikTok, and there’s been an audience for it for at least three years now. I posted the first DJ Crazy Times video in December 2020. But nostalgia for that era when this music would have been popular — maybe the early ’90s to 2005, to give it the biggest possible timeframe — is maybe at its peak. And it’s totally a coincidence that it came out right after Barbie. And it’s just a hunch, but I wonder with Barbie being so popular, that makes “Barbie Girl” so popular, and if you go out one more layer from that, there’s an appetite for more of that pure Europop. It’s in the Zeitgeist right now.
What’s going on with DJ Crazy Times’s hair?
It’s literally called Hair Paint, and I got it for $10 on Amazon. It’s great because it’s really solid, and then you can wash it out at the end of the night.
Have any DJs or producers reached out about a “Planet of the Bass” remix or DJ Crazy Times collab?
I’ve had a few people reach out about remixes and collabs but nothing official yet. Maybe I’ll just put it out in the air, but I would love a remix with Aqua or Vengaboys. There should be one remix with an actual group from that era. That’s my dream.
Before the “Planet of the Bass” rollout, you were releasing character comedy on TikTok every few days. Now that you have this new audience, is the pressure on for what you’re going to post next, outside of DJ Crazy Times?
As crazy as the past few weeks have been, it is kind of a nice break from the grind of posting. I started posting videos on TikTok and Instagram in November 2020, and I’d always try to post something new every day, Monday through Friday. So now with the focus being on this, it’s good to give my brain a rest from the churn of that. So for the immediate future, I’m just focused on putting out videos related to the album. I think it’ll be nice — after the whole album cycle is done, I think I’ll be excited to get back into posting stuff just for fun.
Do you have a single favorite line or lyric from the song?
“Cyber system overload” is great. “Cyber” is such a weird, anachronistic word. I remember Trump used to say it all the time, and it made him sound so old. And, “There is nothing to be sad.” I was proud of that one.