I have pretty mixed feelings about the first episode of Hashtags, a new Red Bull Music Academy documentary series covering music trends that’ve popped up online in the past few years. The debut clip takes a look at some of the musicians creating subversive R&B songs, but unfortunately the video is hamstrung by the focus of its hashtag-stamped title: “Don’t Call It #AltR&B.”
The Internet looms large over the nearly 12-minute doc, and most of the talking heads (such as How to Dress Well main man and Chicagoan Tom Krell) barely get the chance to talk about anything beyond how the ‘net has given people the ability to experiment with a mainstream sound and build an audience, as well as providing a space for dumb genre names like “PBR&B” and “Alt R&B” to spread like wildfire. Both are interesting points if not exactly new, and it would’ve been nice for the folks making the documentary to dig a little deeper with the interviewees, who seem eager to do just that.
Instead Red Bull keeps the conversation shallow, and undercuts the point about idiotic classifications by adding a hashtag to “AltR&B” in the episode’s title, basically bending the will of those who don’t want to be pigeonholed by such a name to suit whatever audience will immediately consume anything that pops up on Twitter with that tag. The relationship and friction between the way Red Bull is advertising its documentary and the actual content of the video are far more compelling than a large portion of the actual clip.