After weeks of speculation, some keen eyes over at the Oh No They Didn't blog point to a possible source for the viral "iamamiwhoami" video campaign that mysteriously began appearing in late January. Although the original ONTD thread now appears to be blocked, a series of Live Journal posts suggested that the mystery woman is Swedish singer Jonna Lee. The post was accompanied by video and photographic evidence compiled by the bloggers linking clues from the keyboard she plays to the men who appear in the most recent video.
For those who haven't been following along, here is a recap of what you've missed:
1. Seven videos in total have been released, ranging from quirky to creepy to downright gross. Backed by eerie electronic music, they generally depict wood-spirit themes and are often shot from a warped or fisheye perspective.
2. In the early videos, there was a prevalence of black dogs, strawberries, dirt, a lot of tree-hugging and a disturbing amount of licking going on.
3. Rampant speculation ensued that Christina Aguilera was the artist behind the cryptic clips, though her management denied any involvement in two separate statements.
4. The video titles contain strings of numbers that at least partially translate to letters of the alphabet with videos 4 and 5 spelling out "mandragora officinarum" (the scientific name for a parsnip-shaped root called a mandrake which has purported magical powers) and the title of sixth video spelling "welcome home." (The mandrake plant appears in this video after sprouting from a small house). The seventh video is an exception as the first not to take place outdoors and is titled simply "b."
5. In the latest clip, our nymph-like heroine appears at a keyboard looking a bit cleaner but even having rinsed the tar from her face and the kinks from her platinum locks her identity is masked by a layer of packing tape. Her eyes also appear as brilliant blue for the first time, previously seen as dark brown.
6. Every video contains an illustrated depiction of an animal. Here is the sequence so far:
Goat + Owl + Whale + Bee + Llama + Monkey = ?
Confused? We were too. But we took close look at the latest iamamiwhoami video and, while the music bares only a passable similarity to the singer's previous work, the physical resemblance to Jonna Lee is indeed striking. But we all may be wrong -- Lee's management claims to have no knowledge of the videos and, though Lee is reportedly working on a new album, her label has declined to comment.
With growing interest in the story, photos are now circulating the web and a recent youtube video pieces some of the evidence together. We're pretty convinced the mystery is solved, once and for all.
Or who knows. Maybe Xtina really is pulling off one of the biggest promo tricks in pop history.
A mysterious clip posted on the internet possibly by a disguised celebrity is the latest way to get a new song heard
Milky sap trickles from a tree, a dog barks, a blonde figure covered in muck floats in an amniotic sac, licks some bark and releases strawberries from beneath her arms. No, this isn’t a deleted scene from Avatar but one of several musical virals from a shadowy figure known as iamamiwhoami, who may be an A-list musician in disguise. Whoever it is, the clips offer clues as to how the ailing music industry might save itself.
Diminishing sales, illegal downloads and a communication breakdown between labels and artists have reduced the music business to a relatively meagre enterprise. The days of Lear Jets, exotic recording locations and drugs on tap have gone. Meanwhile blogs and social networking sites have rendered television and the press less important. Promotion has become intricate and covert in a risky attempt to engage a newly savvy audience. Bands such as Monarchy, Silver Columns and Summer Camp have launched their careers with enigmatic online presences, and iamamiwhoami’s has become the biggest covert campaign yet.
It began when a 55-second YouTube clip was e-mailed to several music websites and blogs. It featured innocent woodland shots overlaid by gentle synth music. But, seconds in, the music had gone Wicker Man weird, the trees had sprung legs and there was a close-up of a blonde-haired woman covered in what looked like tar and encased in a huge foetal sac. More clips followed. With almost 100,000 hits to date, everyone is asking who it can be.
The music in the virals is dreamy cinematic electro, while the visuals echo David Lynch with their mix of the surreal and banal. Yet the artist’s identity remains a mystery. The big budget rules out an art-school student or indie band. Some suspect Knife or Goldfrapp, while others point the finger at the Swedish singer Jonna Lee, who certainly resembles the mystery blonde. Lee’s management has denied any involvement.
Which leaves the most tantalising suspect of all: Christina Aguilera, who has a forthcoming album, Bionic, made with such leftfield collaborators as M.I.A. and Le Tigre, and who has a taste for reinvention. If it is Aguilera (her representative would not confirm), it will be the biggest revelation since Paul McCartney hid behind the pseudonym of the Fireman to make dance music. It will also serve as a triumph for a singer who was losing ground to a whippersnapper called Gaga “It’s very difficult to rise above your peers and get major coverage,” says Chris Binns, of the marketing company Mediacom. “The ‘iam’ marketing strategy has ensured that when the artist is revealed they will be written about by both the niche and mass media.”
Similarly, a clutch of newer bands have benefitted from a cloak of mystery. The synth-pop outfit Monarchy turned out to be a rebranded version of the group Milke, while Silver Columns and Summer Camp used clandestine internet guises before revealing their real identities. One half of the electro duo Silver Columns was actually the folk artist Adem, while the melodic pop of Summer Camp turned out to be the London singer-songwriter Jeremy Warmsley and the journalist Elizabeth Sankey.
“It was quite stressful to keep our identity hidden,” Sankey admits. Warmsley adds: “We were never going to have a big reveal and jump out of a cake. But it sort of unravelled.” Pretending that they were Swedish proved fatal: “People would send us messages in Swedish to our MySpace page .”
So were they just marketing ruses? Adem says not. “It wasn’t about ‘creating a buzz’, it was more about the music. That’s why we released it on a white label. We didn’t want any associations with anyone. “ James Sandom, manager of the Kaiser Chiefs and White Lies, sees it as a reaction against information overload: “These days before you know about an artist’s music you know what they’ve had for breakfast. It’s important to hold some things back. If you reveal too much you take away people’s imaginations and that’s key to them getting excited about music.”
iamamiwhoami is an electronic music and multimedia cooperative consisting of six artists and headlined by Swedish singer-songwriter Jonna Lee. Videos released from the co-op's YouTube channel have spread virally.
The first clip was uploaded on December 4, 2009, and was forwarded to a number of music journalists and blogs. Another two short videos followed. Chris Cantalini and MTV writer James Montgomery reported about iamamiwhoami, fueling speculation online.
The project currently consists of three series of music videos and a feature length concert video. The number series, highly stylized teaser videos, set the tone of the project, established several mysteries, and served to foreshadow the projects' complete songs. The letter series is the equivalent of a studio album containing fully realized singles. (Released on iTunes and Amazon.com, each single also bears the phrase "To Whom It May Concern." Several official remixes of the letter songs have also been released.) The letter series serves as the core of the project, and were reiterated as setpieces in the concert. The final set of videos, the date series (their titles correspond to the date on which they were released), set up the webcast concert on November 16, 2010 and had fans elect one of their own to attend the concert. On November 16 at 12:15 CET the concert was webcast; it was removed approximately 4 hours later.
iamamiwhoami is notable not only for its artistic multimedia output, but also the creators' leveraging of social technology (YouTube) and phenomena (viral videos, crowdsourcing) to disseminate their music and music videos. Italian Vogue quotes one of iamamiwhoami's contributors as saying: "The project has nothing new about it. It's the means, the spaces in which it takes place and the relationship it has built with the audience that are new".
iamamiwhoami just released their 3rd single 'good worker' yesterday. I have been following them since they began and I'm very impressed with how much they have evolved artistically since 09. I can't wait for their new album.. Surreal stuff
The concept, the way they promoted themselves, the symbolism they use, all represent a very emerging artform that is multi-dimensional and speaks to audiences across all races without being popular culture. It's a beautiful evolution of the art of stimulating the senses.
Iamamiwhoami is the coolest viral marketing campaign you’ve never heard of.
Since late 2009, the act has been releasing mysterious videos to YouTube in the form of six one-minute teasers followed by seven full-length songs. Over two years later, the band has yet to reveal its members’ identities (although it’s obvious that Swedish singer Jonna Lee is the frontwoman) and has launched a new project that invokes the same out-of-this-world imagery that gave us toilet paper beds, cardboard box castles and foil-wrapped cars in past videos.
“Kin,” the band’s first full-length album, was announced in February for a June 11 release. Fans need not wait that long to enjoy it, however, because unlike a traditional album, “Kin” will be released in chapters on Iamamiwhoami’s YouTube channel, with a new song and an accompanying video every two weeks.
Three songs have been released so far, and each has been excellent in its own right. “Sever,” a haunting ballad with a gothic feel, began the series, followed by the fast-paced electro thump of “Drops” and the catchy “Good Worker,” which sounds like Kate Bush doing disco.
All the while, the videos have told the story of a woman terrorized by strange monsters made of hair in her apartment. The woman drops through the floors of her apartment building to the parking garage, only to be captured by six of the monsters and dragged to the forest, which is where “Good Worker” leaves us.
The next single “Play” has been confirmed for release on March 28, and the same pattern of a new song and video every two weeks will presumably continue until June. Theories abound about what is to come, but much of the excitement of this project is its complete lack of predictability. Although the release dates have become routine, Iamamiwhoami still manages to build incredible suspense through the slowly-unfolding story.
Iamamiwhoami is one of the most innovative and captivating projects to come along in recent years, and the recent videos only reinforce that. If “Kin” upholds the standard set by the first three singles, it is well on its way to becoming album of the year. ★