The New Yorker ran a story yesterday about the emotional experience of listening to a tinny version of Toto’s “Africa” on YouTube. The popular video simulates the sound of hearing the pop song echoing through an empty shopping centre.
Screenshot: Cecil Robert
The piece nails the song’s effect:
In my 3 a.m. mood, the YouTube edit, uploaded by a user named Cecil Robert, was almost too affecting to bear; it sounded like longing and consolation together, extended into emptiness, a shot of warmth coming out of a void.
Lifehacker‘s EIC Melissa Kirsch already has a name for this: The Han Solo feeling.
The Han Solo feeling is an emotionally ambiguous form of nostalgia triggered by surprising stimuli. The Unsolved Mysteries theme could evoke the smell of a friend’s living room carpet, or holding a cold enamel pin could remind you of waiting for your mum to pick you up from youth group. The person who coined the term associated a lot of feelings with an old poster of Han Solo.
The “Africa” edit, per The New Yorker, is part of a growing genre of lonely nostalgic music popular on YouTube and SoundCloud. (You won’t find these edits on a more tightly controlled platform such as Spotify.) It’s also similar to the least silly of the many YouTube edits of Childish Gambino’s “Redbone”. You can listen to 51 examples in Lifehacker‘s new YouTube playlist, “The Han Solo Feeling” – mostly nostalgic, a little contemporary, all made by someone who wanted to swim inside a feeling.
There are shopping centre edits of songs such as “Kids” by MGMT and “Heroes” by David Bowie; “another room” edits of Mazzy Star and Lana Del Ray; “driving in the rain” edits of Arcade Fire and Frank Ocean. There’s some vaporwave of ABBA and Michael Jackson, and a few lo-fi video game edits at the end. (Weirdly, no one’s made a “Mario Kart being played in the other room” edit, which would give me a raging case of the Han Solos.)
What song gives you this sense of lonely nostalgia, and what “effects” do you add to it in your mind?