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Lessons For Today From The Lonely Island's 2013 Prophecy, 'YOLO'

By Dan Hamamura | TV | March 27, 2020 |

By Dan Hamamura | TV | March 27, 2020 |


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You’ve no doubt by now seen the lessons that can be gleaned from cultural pandemic touchstones, such as Contagion, but recently I’ve found myself feverishly obsessively studying a different text, in the hopes of absorbing all the helpful hints.

I refer, of course, to the shockingly prescient anthem “YOLO,” by The Lonely Island, featuring Adam Levine & Kendrick Lamar. Let us now examine this document from 2013, and see what warnings they got right:

“Never go to loud clubs ‘cause it’s bad for your ears”

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While the warning here in Jorma Taccone’s first verse is theoretically about protecting your hearing, the song’s underlying message is clearly a predictive reference to social distancing. If you’re still not convinced, Taccone demonstrates the proper use of personal protective equipment (in this case, earmuffs), another important lesson that we have since learned.

“And stay the hell away from drugs ‘cause they not legal”

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Another layered message, as this one is, in theory, about illicit substances, but no doubt also serves as a warning to not trust unproven cures suggested by loud, oafish characters who believe their own bluster - signified, of course, by the brilliant casting of Danny McBride in this sequence.

“And never travel by car or bus, boat or by rail / And don’t travel by plane, and don’t travel at all”

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I mean, this one is pretty self-explanatory. Is anyone else marveling at how much they’ve gotten right so far?

“Build a bomb shelter basement with titanium walls”

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Here, the song shifts from the layered messaging to a more hyperbolic tone, reminding us that yes, while some of the distancing measures may seem excessive, preparation and minimizing the amount of time spent in direct contact with others is key in winning this fight.

“And wear titanium suits in case pianos fall on you”

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Another use of hyperbolic tone to highlight, this time, the importance of protecting yourself when you do have to go out in public.

“You know that we are still young / So hold off on the fun”

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The visual is the key in this part of the song, as Adam Levine demonstrates how to prevent innocent people from accidentally exchanging respiratory droplets.

“There’s no such thing as too much Purell”

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While I can’t condone unreasonable hoarding of supplies, Andy Samberg’s line here serves as another direct reminder of the importance of being able to sanitize and keep your hands clean, even when soap and water are not available to you.

“And always wear a straitjacket so you’re safe from yourself”

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Obviously, this is a reference to that vital advice we’ve all heard, that we must refrain from touching our faces in these trying times.

“Isolate yourself and just roll solo, be careful-o”

Perhaps the most important advice from the group, and now making the earlier subtext of the song into plain text, just in case the message hasn’t yet gone through.

“Burn the prints off your thumbs”

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Wait, what?

This isn’t relevant, nor does it seem to fit as a metaphor for any other reasonable advice…

“Then pull out all your teeth / So you can’t bite your tongue”

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Oh no. Was… was I wrong to look for some kind of deeper advice in this song?

“So don’t go outside, cause you don’t want to die, die”

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Ahh, back on message.

You know what? I think I get it. The earlier, insane lines were simply a reminder to make sure to verify your sources, important in today’s world of misinformation. By providing clear pieces of bad advice, the verse was an opportunity for us to take stock and question whether or not their message as a whole was valid, before then pivoting back to the central (and very real) message of stay the hell inside. Brilliant!

I don’t know about you, but I feel much better equipped.

Now if only I can get this song to stop playing on repeat in my head…



Dan is a Staff Contributor. You can listen to him scream into the void on Twitter, or listen to him host the weekly TV podcast Podjiba.


Header Image Source: Youtube (thelonelyisland)


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