YouTube superstar Todrick Hall (a.k.a. Toddy Rockstar, a.k.a. Quinn Toddy) is as meta as they come, a love child of pop culture and the American dream; both of which he inverts and gloriously mutates into something entirely new.
His massively popular videos (the views for many average in the millions) are splendid Technicolor musical mash-ups involving, as he says, “song and dance and costumes — and a whole lot of wigs.” Their content is satirical, nostalgic, and surreal in a way that feels fresh, with Hall channeling the wry, knowing humour of the hashtag generation.
Hall worships at the altar of mass media while constantly poking his tongue out at it. His work is both punk parody and reverent homage: Disney icons translated into queer-kitsch mascots (e.g., Cinderoncé, Mickey Minaj); films like Bridesmaids and The Hunger Games recast as statements on gender, race, and feminism.
Yet his cheaply produced, high-concept pieces always have a heart. In the musical spoof ‘Mean Gurlz’, the narrative of Mean Girls is tweaked so that the heroine is a white girl in a black school. The clip is stocked with jokes about sluts, nerds, fat kids, and hair weaves, but the ribbing is always gentle and goofy. The acting is freewheeling, the tunes catchy, the writing sharp, the wigs terrible. It’s all just too silly to offend. If Todrick were a court jester, he’d be forgiven for sticking his tongue out at anyone — even the king.
Now 30, the star has hit his stride. Hall’s been signed by Justin Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, and recently made Business Insider’s list of the ‘Hottest YouTube Stars Alive’ and Forbes’s ‘30 under 30′ in entertainment. He’s also landed his own MTV reality series, Todrick (which premiered on 31st August in the U.S), which follows him and his crew behind the scenes as they shoot their prop-heavy, costume-filled videos, all on a dime-store budget. The result is like being backstage at a secondary school musical: full of tension, disappointment, and the rush of taking risks and failing.
After releasing his massive new video for a Peter Pan themed video set to the soundtrack of Katy Perry, The Edge decided to take a look at some of his most iconic videos and just why we still love them.
2011 was the year Todrick Hall shot to fame on Youtube with ‘I Wanna Be On Glee.’ What became an iconic expression of every musical theatre kid’s dream took on Rachel’s dream-like musical solos with costume changes, Artie’s iconic rap cut-aways and even slushies. Beginning with an Eminem-esque ‘Stan’ intro everything builds of course to a gospel sale choir.
Hall shows an adept ability to mix pop culture with hip-hop, rap and even broadway while never straying into the extreme and feeling like everything has an effortless continuity. The American Idol star may not have won the show but certainly became on of it’s biggest sensations. Unfortunately, he never actually showed up on Glee.
In 2012, Hall took on Disney again with an LGBT twist in ‘Cinderfella’. Originally taking on the iconic ‘A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes’ the singing sensation moves into an adaptation of Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ all about smell when meeting his fairy godmother and later an updated ‘Bibbity Bobbity Boo’. Breaking into another adaption – this time Rihanna’s ‘Where Have You Been’ – Hall proves he’s more than a one trick pony. And he can crank out a great dance tune.
What makes this video? Mean Girls quotes, lesbian Alice in Wonderland singing ‘I Kissed a Girl’, and several cameos from celebrities like Janice Dickinson, Shangela and Willam from RuPaul’s Drag Race, Lance Bass and Daniel Franzese, in classic fairy tale roles. Hall’s pro-gay take on Disney show a desperate need for diversification within children’s moral tales.
2013 was the year Hall took on another iconic franchise other than Disney, The Hunger Games. Hall here takes a stab at the franchise with his ‘Hungry Games’ showing the young star doesn’t simply sing but he can create comedy trailers too.
The Hunger Games was steeped in controversy when accused of white-washing characters. As you may know, Katniss, the main character in the book and film, was described as having “straight black hair” and “olive skin.” It’s a post-apocalyptic world, so she could be a mix of races, but many fans pictured a Native American. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jennifer Lawrence won the part and dyed her hair dark.
Here however, Toddy (as he often affectionately refers to himself) switches around the races and creates a satire with a mostly black cast. Though at times the stereotypes may seem push to extremes, Todd makes a valid argument for better diverse representation in the film industry.
In 2014 Todrick Hall took on many new projects including adapting broadway. ‘All That Ass’ was the 21sh century child of John Krader’s Chicago including various booty jokes, stretch marks and and fabulous prohibition fashion. Never one to objectify just women, you’ll see multiple male dancers drop a wiggle and Toddy Rockstar drop an even better rap about them.
His shining moment however, was undoubtedly his collaboration with Dance Moms.The video features Maddie, Nia, Kendall, Mackenzie, and Payton. All five girls, along with Abby, Melissa, Jill, Holly, and Todrick himself starred in the Disney-themed music video about being different. Apparently, it’s ok!
Earlier this year Todrick took on our favourite music queen, Beyonce. Combining many of her greatest and some lesser known hits into one cohesive four minute video shows an educated understanding of melody that even some number one singers lack. Starting off with some of her faster hits including ‘Baby Boy’, ‘Crazy in Love’ and ‘Run the World (Girls)’ going into ‘Pretty Hurts’, ‘Beautiful Liar’ and of course ‘Single Ladies’.
Including all five of her albums, over 70 songs Todrick however finds that he’s including Beyonce’s favourite number everywhere, 4. “This took four single take performances of memorising four different sets of lyrics & choreography (ironically this was filmed in four hours) and is exactly four minutes in length because of Beyoncé’s connection to the number 4,” Hall writes in the video’s description. Todrick would of course to go on to compete 4 Taylor, 4 Rihanna and now even 4 Gaga showing again, this man’s talent is limitless.
Hall then followed this epic task with a Wizard of Oz themed single ‘Low’. Oz-inspired ‘Low’, is an infectious blend of hip-hop and dance similar to a structure you’d expect from a Guetta/Minaj collaboration. As Dorothy makes her way down the yellow brick boulevard to the Emerald City, meeting a gay Scarecrow, a Tin Man with “buns of steel” and a Mufasa look-alike King of the Jungle along the way, a sick beatdrop makes up a chorus worthy of many sweaty nights on the club floor.
The single was an amazingly clever release that stays true to Hall’s roots and inspiration. Fast paced verses, perfect for a bedtime story, showcase the artist’s narrative songwriting abilities and strong vocal performance. “Turn upside down like an hourglass, like somebody made it rain tryin’ to milk that ass,” he sings on the track’s best line.
If ‘Low’ didn’t slay in audio form alone, Hall outdid himself once again by releasing an accompanying music video that may just one of his best visuals to date. While Hall plays Glenda The Good Witch of the North, The Wicked Witch of the West and The Wizard, the rest of the cast is shown getting down to the music and showing off their delectable cakes in the process, even Andrew Christian models join in on the fun.
Although in recent years Toddy Rockstar has moved on to making singles, the American Idol contestant always deals with the bigger issues whether it’s race, gender, sexuality or even just being a little different. It helps that he always does this with a slight Disney, Broadway, or pop-culture edge.
Todrick proves his understanding of what appeals. It seems Simon Cowell certainly missed out when Lee DyWze won the ninth season of American Idol. Hall has had the laugh however, going on to produce a Youtube series, Pop Star High, and landing his own docuseries, Todrick and working with fellow entertainers such as Shoshana Bean and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.