For those who grow up in today’s society, people pick and choose their own specialty of culture and entertainment mediums to plant a flag of expertise on. Popular music was never really mine. I stayed on the fringes of it for the most of my life. Just enough to educate myself in the quality hits and blunders of decades past, rarely ever checking out tunes from the current billboard charts, with the exception of artists like Daft Punk, Beck and Justin Timberlake. If you looked exclusively at my music taste you’d be like “That kid’s a hipster!” and I’d say “Hey, I read Pitchfork! I listen to Depeche Mode! Maybe you’re right!?” In fact, my favorite artist in middle school was Weird Al Yankovic. In high school, that interest went to The Lonely Island, to the degree that I was the guy at Senior Prom requesting half the tracks on Incredibad to the DJ.
This prelude isn’t a defense of my music taste, but it’s an explanation that I understand the music industry enough, without being too deeply invested in it, to objectively see when contemporary music, despite being immensely popular, can be viewed as overproduced garbage. I see the irony in the over-calculated marketing tool that the industry actually is, and have no interest in 3rd grade level lyrics in music unless it’s intended as a joke. Evidently, the same goes for Berkeley College graduates and SNL veterans, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone, as they take their ludicrous tracks featured as Saturday Night Live digital shorts that made them famous, and conjoin it with the mockumentary essence of This Is Spinal Tap. It truly is a modern equivalent to Rob Reiner and Christopher Guest’s cult classic comedy. They even go as far as inserting the film’s heliocentric popstar character, Conner4Real, as a personality implanted into 2016’s music industry, and including talking head moments with existing artists like Questlove, Akon and DJ Kahled to name a few. Samberg took this even further by recording collaborative performances with P!nk, Adam Levine, and a surreal showcase of Seal.
Aside from the winks and nods to the music industry, there isn’t a single scene where you aren’t surprised to see comic personalities filling out major and minor roles throughout the film. Comedians of the last ten years are dispersed throughout the film, the broadest example including the likes of Eric Andre and Chelsea Peretti working for Will Arnett in a recurring parody of TMZ, and a very well hidden, and appropriately underused, cameo by Justin Timberlake.
The storytelling here is nothing we haven’t seen in movies about being a musician before. We bear witness to the ways the band was so great together in the old days, main characters having their own rise and fall of success on solo adventures, and overcoming embarrassing problems in the press, and of their own egos. The plot has no surprises to offer, but Samberg and company just happen to come up with a selection of inane and zany music to gel the narrative together. These songs are the kind that are so unconsciously, borderline offensive and unaware of modern society that the joke of the entire film is “is this guy for real?” You’d assume so, because he changed his name to Connor4Real. Sadly for the people in his life, he’s just that much of an idiot. So much so that someone literally has to say about one of Conner’s first featured solo tracks “Equal Rights,” that it doesn’t even matter because gay marriage is legal now. There’s no debate his song is helping to settle other than how straight he is.
At it’s core, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is as insanely stupid as its title suggests, and I can guarantee you it’s as stupid as anything that Andy Samberg has ever created. That being said, the film’s cast creates awe inspiring stupidity while also knowing how to create music, which has always been the success of The Lonely Island in the first place. Then again, maybe I’m more forgiving of Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer than most folks considering Hot Rod was one of my personal favorite stupid comedies of the last decade. That ought to provide a little perspective.