Everyone told me the photo was nothing, but I knew the photo was nothing – people love it, there is a perfect kismet between the song [“Plastic Love”] and the photo. YouTube is like a thumbnail operation. Everyone is questioning the algorithm, but I have a feeling people looked at the photo and saw something of it. I think it’s a great photo, and I’m not saying that about all of my photos.
My lawyer told me to just delete the YouTube video and see if anyone would care. I thought they would just replace the photo. Nothing happened for months and then one day I got an email saying the video had been hit. I clicked on the link, and it appeared on a large page that said “Struck by Alan Levenson”. Immediately, insane amounts of hate mail started pouring in – tons of anti-Semitic stuff that I have never experienced in my life.
Plastic Lover, how did you react after removing your video?
PL: When I got the message that this had been removed by Alan, I thought it was a mistake or that he was a troll, because I couldn’t find any information about him on YouTube. I expected something from Warner Music Group or Alfa Moon Records [Mariya’s label before it was acquired]. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. People started downloading the song again, this time giving it the title of photographer.
I re-downloaded the song with a different image, and it didn’t work. This video is now private, but it may have been viewed 30,000 times, which is very small compared to the 20 million it previously had. It was there that I realized that the song and the picture had been pretty much a combined experience.
Alan and I were pretty much in contact with each other through other people – that’s where Stevem came in. We started negotiating to get the video back on the air, but people were sending so many hate messages that he was not very willing to negotiate. Everyone left, and I thought that was it. Months later he got in touch with me and told me he wanted to restore the video.
Alan, what prompted the change of mind?
AL: I found out that Plastic Lover wasn’t making any money and people were upset. Finally, I said, “What the hell. I do not care. Just put my name on it and I’ll withdraw the strike. “We were happy to see it restored to exactly the point with all comments intact.
What happened after the video was restored?
PL: The number of daily views had dropped considerably, and Internet users were mainly opting for different downloads. Coming out of nowhere, it is once again the most popular download. I don’t know why, but I think it has to do with the pinned comment, a love story about meeting a girl in Japan and marrying her decades later.
And what’s it like to be so influential in popularizing urban pop?
PL: It’s weird to be a part of something so big, but I don’t see myself as some kind of leader. “Plastic Love” has been uploaded and removed from YouTube several times. No one even knows where the eight-minute version of the song came from, or who first combined the picture with the audio. It really is a mystery, but my video seemed to last the longest. I was so careful, I only really downloaded songs from VARIETY, the album “Plastic Love” is launched, with one exception. Sometimes people get over-excited and download songs from different artists and labels when it’s not the best idea if you want to keep a specific video – as soon as the labels find out, they delete everything. As for city pop, I don’t want to risk dismantling “Plastic Love” again.
I think it’s really cool to have been able to see this up close, though. People started to create fan art, memes, mashups, covers and remixes which increased the popularity of the song – to this day I still get comments from people sharing their work. The song even has a brand new one Musical clip, after so many years! I’m happy for Mariya Takeuchi, Tatsuro Yamashita and all the other artists who are exploding right now because of the popularity of urban pop. Most of them were already popular in their home countries, but they have now reached a much larger audience – and they absolutely deserve it.