Imagine becoming, overnight, the most-successful-ever YouTube musical artist in a 24-hour period. We're talking releasing a video that blew past accomplishments by Taylor Swift, BTS, and Blackpink out of the water and into the middle of the Indian Ocean.
And then imagine not only getting called on it, but being held up as a shining example of everything that's wrong with the world of pop music in 2019.
That's what's happened to Aditya Prateek Singh Sisodia, who's better known to the suits of Sony Music India as Badshah.
On July 10, the rapper and composer released a video called "Paagal". Immediately it went supernova-viral, piling up over 75 million views, something that no other artist has achieved in a one-day window.
How it managed such a feat is where the controversy starts. Fans of ancient history might remember how, back in the day, "payola" was the dirtiest word in the American radio industry. Basically it involved music-biz insiders and labels illegally paying radio programmers money in return for airplay, and it led to a Congressional Payola Investigation in 1959.
No one's suggesting what Badshah and his team has done is illegal, but his sudden rocket ride to international fame has raised questions about how videos become mega-hits in 2019.
Ads were purchased by Sony and Badshah that embedded "Paagal" in other clips. If viewers spent enough time watching those ad-bought embeds, that's where the viewing numbers went. Or to clarify, if you managed to tear yourself away from 10 minutes of Arkansas hillbillies punching each other in the testicles long enough to sit through the ad for "Paagal", that viewing was clocked by Badshah's clip.
This isn't entirely unusual—it's been done by other artists with deep pockets and major-label money behind them. What's unusual is how fast Badshah hit the 75 million mark, the speculation being that bots might also have been invited to the party. YouTube has so far not commented on whether the views were the result of actual views or some clever manipulation. It also chose not to make a big deal about the accomplishment, with Badshah now saying that's because he's an artist of Indian descent.
And even if they were bought, it's not like Badshah gives a shit. Suddenly he's one of the biggest stars on the planet, partly because everyone's talking about the fact that "Paagal" now has an impossible 115 million views as of this writing.
The rapper described the clip as a depiction of India that the west doesn't often see.
"We worked hard for this, promoted it worldwide,” he said on Instagram. “I don’t want people abroad to see India like it’s shown in a film like ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ We are at par with the world. And it’s our time to shine.”
In other words, rest assured that you won't see a small child plummeting into an lake of liquid crap through the floor of an open-air shitter.
If this is the real India, it might be time to book a couple of airline tickets. Who knew that every second person wears shiny PVC wear, and that's the weather is mild enough that no one leaves the house at night without a long-sleeve coat.