TikTok’s ‘corecore’ is the latest iteration of absurd meme art – TechCrunch
TikTok goes a little overboard when it comes to categorizing every latest aesthetic into its own microtrend. You notice it when Spotify Wrapped calls your musical taste goblincore, or when you find yourself oddly at a charity gala in San Francisco and a tech executive asks you if he should be worried that his teenage daughter is obsessed with cottagecore ( yes, it happened to me). Take any name, add the suffix “core”, and you’re good to go.
There’s no more natural terminus to this phenomenon than “corecore,” a meta-aesthetic of “nichetok” that uses nihilistic music videos to create something so absurd and meaningless that somehow another, it comes back and makes you feel something. It delves into our impulse to mask all our emotions in twelve layers of irony, but in the process, gets so serious it might not be ironic after all.
Take a look at arguably the most popular corecore video, which has racked up 2.2 million likes. It begins with an excerpt from a pay transparency account, in which people ask strangers what they do and how much money they make. A child says that when he grows up he wants to be a doctor, and when the host asks him how much he wants to earn, he says, “I’m going to make…people feel good.” Then you’re immediately exposed to fast-cycling clips: a timelapse of a busy street; a screaming guy; elderly people playing slot machines in a casino; a TikToker talking about a chicken that lives in the metaverse; and people rushing out of a garage in crisis.
Some core videos seem like they’re from an overworked documentary that tells us some really obvious truths about how social media makes us feel lonely; others make no sense. But most of these videos are tied together by a general malaise – a worry that life has no meaning and that technology is driving us apart. In corecore, we see clips of robots at CES explaining how scared people are of them, demos of new VR headsets, and clips of Elon Musk appearing on Joe Rogan’s podcast. This lack of faith in corporate tech innovation is the exact opposite of the pervasive “day as a tech employee” trend, which is surprisingly not a top-down corporate propaganda psyop (…or is -this).
Corecore has been popular on TikTok since late 2022, but the tech-futurism-doom vibes seem particularly appropriate now, as we watch Microsoft, Google, Meta, Amazon and Salesforce carry out mass layoffs in weeks. These nichetok posters are probably not reacting to the state of tech employment, but to something bigger that encompasses it: how we’re all subject to the whims of a few billionaire tech guys who can just decide to buy Twitter or make “metaverse” a word that normal people think of. And of course there’s the added layer of irony that corecore is also part of this ecosystem – that people create TikTok accounts dedicated to making their own corecore compilations, promising things like “face reveal” once that they reach 10,000 subscribers, using an anti-capitalist, loner aesthetic to achieve social capital.
Corecore is not the first meme of its kind. At any point in internet culture, there’s usually some kind of nonsensical meme going around, whether it’s corecore, fried memes, weird facebook memes, bad anime videos, or iterations on loss.jpg. It’s because it’s completely normal, almost cliché at this point, to make absurd art in response to a world that doesn’t seem to make sense. As anyone who has taken an introductory course in art history will know, this is how Dadaist artists responded to the tragedies of World War I – and now this is how creators of contemporary memes are reacting to the gruesome realization that we’re all addicted to scrolling short videos. . And that’s how the greatest minds of the weird internet will react again, the next time the world feels a little too dystopian.
In the end, the only thing that really makes sense about corecore is the fact that it exists.