Why Lil Dicky's "Earth" is important.
Lil Dicky’s song “Earth” has everything: holocaust jokes, Shawn Mendes saying “horny,” anthropomorphized HPV, and an animated recreation of Leo aboard the Titanic. Even your mom likes it— the cute animation offsets the more vulgar lyrics. Most importantly, “Earth” is sincere.
The music video looks like Lil Dicky transposed into the Disney movie Zootopia. It has a lion cub voiced by Halsey feasting on a zebra voiced by Ariana Grande. It alludes to Russian election tampering. It features dancing vultures and Snoop Dogg as a marijuana plant. Lil Jon is a clam and Lil Yachty is the aforementioned HPV cell. At the end of the video, Leonardo DiCaprio makes an appearance and Lil Dicky announces that the proceeds of the song are being donated to save the Earth. The song is more than just a fun Pixar schtick. In fact, the message and delivery demonstrate a break from predominant cultural trends.
“Earth” was trending at #1 on YouTube and has amassed 44 million views because it adopts a positive spin on typically mean internet humor. “Earth” is unselfconsciously feel-good while internet humor is deeply sarcastic, often absurdist, and heavy-handedly nihilistic. In a world where shitposting is an actual thing, “Earth” is subversive. In not giving into self-hating internet humor, “Earth” takes the huge risk of saying something meaningful.
Think about the average meme. It’s usually clever and pithy. It frequently incorporates dark humor. It’s not necessarily cruel (maybe self-mocking or self-loathing), but it comes from a place of derision and is almost always ironic. The ironic mentality— and its pervasiveness— is pernicious because it validates resignation and endorses an indifferent attitude toward ugly and difficult challenges of all scales. If you feel indifferent to whether or not you will personally wake up tomorrow, then you will certainly be indifferent to whether or not carbon emissions are reduced in the next twenty years. Lil Dicky writes off apathy. He wants you to care— that’s the entire premise of “Earth.” He wants you to eschew the popular aloof disposition and replace it with something extremely rare: sincerity and action.
Lil Dicky - Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
“Earth” is adorable without the self-deprecating ‘how dumb am I for liking this cute thing?’ preface that serves as a preemptive defense for most good-clean-fun type-content. It’s unabashed in its desire to inspire good and simply be enjoyable and entertaining. By no means am I the first one to make this diagnosis, but it deserves to be repeated: insincerity is poisonous. “Earth” expresses an innocence and clear-eyed-ness that provides encouraging proof that there is demand for non-sardonic, non-tongue in cheek content.
It’s especially endearing to see an artist like Lil Dicky venture into sincere territory. Lil Dicky is a master of spoof and frivolity with songs like “Lemme Freak” and “Classic Male Pregame.” His subject matter is typically lighthearted and crass, but relatable and undeniably clever. Given that Lil Dicky has made his name doing satire and parody, “Earth” is a serious departure from his comfort zone. In an interview with Zane Lowe, Lil Dicky commented that “Earth” didn’t begin as a cause related song. It was only after he researched climate change that the song evolved into something designed to do more than simply amuse. Lil Dicky’s willingness to go off script is as commendable as his conscientiousness.
The song itself is catchy and simple. The cameos make it engaging and the lyrics are on brand— sophomoric Lil Dicky at his best. But the video is what gives “Earth” its viral power. Lil Dicky has always excelled in the music video arena. He goes high-concept and uses the medium to create a spectacle that elevates the song above pablum. “Save Dat Money” has 119 million views and follows Lil Dicky as he trawls Beverly Hills for a mansion owner willing to let him shoot in-residence for fifteen minutes. We get to see Lil Dicky negotiate with a nightclub bouncer and a suit at a Lamborghini dealership. The behind the scenes footage adds layers to the video and makes it more than just a visual iteration of the song.
“Earth” is not Lil Dicky’s first foray into animation. “Professional Rapper” features Snoop Dogg and has 142 million views. Unlike the Pixar-esque style of animation in “Earth,” “Professional Rapper” uses a 2-D style reminiscent of a for-adult-viewers cartoon. The choice to go 3-D in “Earth” is the right one based on the tone and the content of the song. In the video, a loincloth-ed Lil Dicky takes you on a global tour while famous pop stars sing lines, disguised as animals. “Earth” looks like a kids movie because (despite a few R-rated lyrics) it ultimately taps into a childlike integrity.
“Earth” is a modern-day “We Are the World” that uses a successful formula and applies a modern twist. People critiquing the musical merits of “Earth” are missing the point— the entire objective of the star power, visuals, and silly lyrics is to go viral so it can raise money. Instead of relying on gravitas and songwriting it leverages celebrity. Lil Dicky is not attempting to guilt you with eleventh hour urgency— "Earth” is no ASPCA x Sarah McLachlan collab. “Earth” celebrates a new breed of positivity that intertwines humor with altruism and compels us to remember that sarcasm is not the only form of self-expression.