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Julia Nunes: “Please don’t be creeped out by me.”

posted Jan 28, 2010, 11:21 AM by Vu Nguyen

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[2008] I Wrote These
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Julia Nunes
Last on my list is a very young and energetic ukulele musician called Julia Nunes. She's quite fa...

Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis 1.18.10 / YouTube, the Internet, 365 days a year

Julia Nunes looks normal enough but she also plays the ukulele (probably unironically!).  As YouTube’s newest sensation, Nunes has accomplished what most 21-year-olds only blog about.  She sings and tells jokes and tours with Ben Folds, no biggie.  She somehow booked a $15 all ages show at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, which is not a school auditorium nor is it the coffee shop at a Barnes & Noble Bookstore.  No sweat, right?  Totally, totally cool that a teenager* who wrote a song called “Grown a Pair” may be more successful than you and your stupid college degree.  It’s actually your fault for not being born in 1993 and thus not a part of the YouTube “vlogging” generation.  By the way, even grandpa has a YouTube vlog, so what’s your excuse, you productive member of society?  Too busy “working” at your “job” to create a 10-minute visual homage to Edward Cullen?

As far as I can tell, Nunes owes her popularity to Tila Tequila.  Once upon a time, social networking was the geek equivalent of mouth herpes:  humiliating, highly contagious, and necessary to “cover up.”  No one needed/wanted to know that you spent an entire Saturday night scrutinizing your ex-boyfriend’s Facebook photos for evidence of his infidelity.  As Morrissey once said:  “shame makes the world go ‘round.”  Indeed.  Then Tequila came along and confidently shook her ta-tas for virtual friends and actual money.  She was all “hey kids, look at me!  No, really, look at me!  Watch me take random, unplanned photos of myself!  Listen as I describe what I ate for breakfast while wearing a strapless leather corset that I always wear when I’m just chillin’ with my peeps!  Care about me because I care about YOU, my less-attractive admirers!”  Shortly thereafter, every teen with an allowance went out and bought a webcam and THAT is why you never talk to strangers.

Nunes may not bare all on camera, but she certainly approaches celebrity in a similar fashion, by treating her fans as if they matter.  In return, the fans act as her very own army of unpaid publicists, spreading the good word as fast as their little fingers can Tweet.  With nearly every seat filled at the Cedar Monday night, I stopped wondering if every American high school had a lead problem, and instead entertained a horrific thought:  maybe it’s me.  Case in point:  a mother and her two daughters wore matching sweatshirts bearing Julia’s insignia in puff paint AND NOBODY POINTED AND LAUGHED; Julia orchestrated a sing-a-long and PEOPLE SANG ALONG. TO SONGS THAT ONLY EXIST ON YOUTUBE; Julia performed a cover of *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” despite the unlikelihood that any one audience member was old enough to remember JT’s Jheri curl.  It was weird, and intimate, and painfully genuine. 

Still, when it comes to understanding Nunes’s appeal, I’m hopelessly (and maybe demographically) stuck.  She’s not edgy enough to attract the hipsters; she’s too clever and self-aware to be labeled “novelty” and, by default, attract the hipsters.  Her songwriting, while charming, is peppered with youthful observations that will undoubtedly alienate the cynics.  She writes about love and heartbreak but it’s obvious her experience with the subject is limited; those of us with dismal, emotionally defunct relationship histories are not going to find comfort in lyrics like I’d rather plead the fifth than talk about the girl you’re still in love with (“Maybe I Will”).  She’s goofy and it’s difficult for adults to embrace goofy girls, unless the goofiness is accompanied by batshit craziness (see: Juliette Lewis**).  Basically, by the end of the night, I came to the following non-revelatory conclusion:  it’s appropriate that teens dig Julia.  Appropriate yet unsatisfying.  Does this explain Jaaaaaaa’s 140,000+ YouTube subscribers?  Sure (the Internet is designed for the young and spry).  Then again, what explains grandpa?  Does (YouTube) life have meaning or is it purely random?  Perhaps the phenomenon is best described by Kate as “this is what happens when your loud, spazzy friend learns to play the guitar.”  We all have/had that friend or are/were that friend.  We all know Julia Nunes even if she doesn’t know we know her (except she does know; 140,000 of us watch her every move on YouTube).

If you are still reading by this point, thank you.  Check out homegirl’s YouTube videos here, and/or visit the official website, where you can advance purchase a signed copy of her
EP, I Think You Know (release date: February 2, 2010).


*Technically Julia is in college and technically she’s no longer a teenager. I say, until you’re paying off your student loans, shopping in the produce aisle, and being audited by the IRS, you are, for all intents and purposes, a teenager.

**Although, to be fair, very few adults embrace Juliette Lewis.

 01/23/2010 04:29:48  lara (/