🐥cult-ivating the coup

...what happens on TikTok doesn’t stay on TikTok

You are cordially invited to this week’s brew of High Tea, your dispatch of 🔥internet culture served piping hot. This week: the step-chickens swoop in on the nest, we simp for Berghain on TikTok and Call Her Daddy has us crying for mom. 

Drink up 🐸☕

what we’ve been sipping on

It’s been a week on the internet – and it’s safe to say that we’re exhausted. Remember when Joe Rogan landed his $100m (y’all sure love that valuation, huh?) Spotify-exclusive deal and then TikTok hired its first CEO (ex-Disney, no less). Yeah, that was just Tuesday. Elon took a backseat in the cancel wars: podium positions for Lana first, and then Doja Cat, followed by an unsuccessful attempt to dethrone Hillary Duff (come for anyone but Lizzie McGuire, you have been warned).  

The past two months in lockdown may have felt like two years, but shit moves fast in quarantine (it’s probably all that time saved not looking for a free meeting room, right?). Now, more than ever, Things From The Internet™ are bleeding into our lives and the complicated digital landscapes they inhabit. We’re here to give you the roadmap. 

family first: mother hen rules the roost

Make no mistake, we have cults forming on TikTok. The step-chickens led by mother hen Melissa, aka @chunkysdead (1.7M followers), have been unleashing hell on the internet with support from other notable TikTokers: @thejonathanmoss (4M followers), @richblackguy (1.4M followers) and @reitergrace (1.3M followers). Hey, even the Washington Post pulled up a pew in the chicken coup. 

How does one become a step-chicken, you ask? It’s simple. You change your TikTok avatar to the pic of mother hen and her baby hairs (confusing the hell out of people in the process) and then comment on videos as a step-chicken to assert dominance on the platform. Every so often mother hen will call on the step-chickens to participate in a unique comment battle online, in which you will join the other chickens to fight to gain prominence (and clout, ofc) over rival cults, such as the Weenie fam led by Adrian Oritz. These battles are organized and calculated with an exact time and place to attack. 

After mother hen gave the first orders for a TikTok battleground on May 13 (of which they were victorious, ofc), there was trouble in paradise as the competitor cults teamed up to form JEFF; a super-cult which greatly outnumbered the step chickens in their millions. But the step-chickens dominated in the comments and last week became one of the most powerful cults online. With victory under her wing, mother hen created created her own merch (yes there are masks), and there’s even a step-chicken anthem on Spotify. Some call this absurd, we call it a booming cottage industry. 

And it doesn’t stop there. Since mother hen found out that her chickens were wanting a place to chick-chat, the step-chickens app was born. Partnering with Blink Labs to whitelist their community, the step-chickens were catapulted to an insane #15 in the Social Networking category on the app store 👀. We’re shook. 

“I think it’s funny how all these people underestimate our power and I’ll be showing just how powerful we are with a declaration of war video” - Mother Hen, praise be. 

So what’s next for the step-chickens? Well, they’re moving up in the world. As mother hen said in her latest video: “we have already completely dominated TikTok and there are no more worthy opponents here”. Naturally, she’s taking her loyal followers to a new battleground: YouTube. Hang on, there’s a method to this madness, we promise. With fresh ground to veni, vidi, vici on YouTube, @chunkysdead is partnering with the Weenies cult enemy leader, Adrian Ortiz (@adrianortiz), to create new battle zones in the comment sections. Ortiz said

“We’re building a society, for you to be a part of something…me and Melissa we’re building our platforms - and that’s great - but at the same time we’re able to share the power…we could do that [a battle zone] on a YouTuber that we both think is up and coming and not getting the recognition they deserve. This culture has never been on YouTube.” 

What does it all mean? TL;DR TikTok is powerful af, proving itself to be not only a hubbub of transient connectivity and creativity – but also the stepping stone to larger platforms, where building a community is as much about breaking bread as it is about breaking the algorithm.  

ich bin ein Berghain-er

If that wasn’t enough cultish behaviour for one week, TikTok propelled another exclusive subculture to the forefront of the zeitgeist. Enter: Berghain...kinda. For those of you in the know, Berlin’s Berghain is the epicentre of European hedonism; part nightclub, part techno-lover’s paradise – where parties span days, not hours (strictly no pics allowed ⛔️iykyk). 

If you thought The Box was a hard door, think again. Even Berliners in full Berghain uniform (all black, fishnet, sheer everything) still confess they don’t know if ‘tonight if will be the night’ that they get the approval of Sven Marquardt, the club’s infamous bouncer

That’s exactly what got Fabian, Sebastian and Vinzenz at Sansho Studio thinking: “it would be crazy if you knew beforehand or could practice.” As students, they built the Berghain Trainer in 2016: an interactive website that uses facial and speech recognition to decide if you pass the vibe check. 

Hopeful party-goers are asked three questions by actor Sven to see if they have what it takes, and if you answer “appropriately” you’ll be let in. The site went viral after launch in 2016 and has generated around 2M views over the past 4 years. However, in quarantine the trainer has taken on a new role. Once reserved for techno hopefuls, now the site is getting increasingly bombarded by Zs online with a new mission: a vibe checkkk

The site has gone viral on TikTok this week with 2.6M views on #berghaintrainer alone. The team at Sansho studio inform us that the average session has also increased to 4:20 mins (no, seriously) up from 1:20, and they’ve had to limit the amount of tries to just one per day due to overloaded servers. This week they received a cool 3M visits in 6 days.

So why TikTok and why now? With the breakdown between the virtual world and physical so apparent in quarantine, the resurfacing of the #berghaintrainer feels like just ‘another day in the bedroom’. But there’s something else at play here.

Just like the step-chickens cult, the emerging Berghain trend is the *chefs kiss* for the performative current that runs through TikTok – and Zs voracious appetite for participation in it. It’s less about Berghain and its legacy, and more about a new zeitgeist code to crack: did you get in? How long did it take you? What did you say?! TL;DR did you pass the vibe check? It’s even generated its own second wind YouTube: will “the Berghain challenge” become the quarantine’s answer to a viral trend for all of us stuck inside looking for escape? 

Either way, since you can’t find us in the club, bottle full of bub – we’ll be in our bedrooms bopping to Nina Kraviz, bc Kermit passes the vibe check 🐸☕️.

United States of Chromatica

Outside of the TikToksphere, another community is rising up. Their call to arms comes not from a mother hen, but mother monster. The United States of Chromatica (@ChromaticaGov) twitter account is fresh off the block, created a mere 48 hours ago and already standing at a very calm 50k followers. Chromaticans really said: 50k for a verse, no album out. 

The account comes off the back of the release of Gaga’s Rain On Me (certified cyborg bop), in anticipation of her sixth studio album ‘Chromatica’ – dropping May 29. But that’s not the tea. What’s worth writing home about is how this account leans into a very specific pop culture moment (blink and you miss it), and, in turn creates its own subculture of Gaga stans, the Very Online™ and everything in between. 

So, what happens in this utopian idyll? Iced coffee is sold by the gallon, transphobia is punishable by an eternity of drifting off into outer-space and speed walking is mandatory. And since leadership matters more than ever in these unprecedented times 🐸☕ it’s worth noting: Charli XCX is President of Agriculture, Azealia Banks is the Chromatican Secretary of Education and Princess Peach (of Nintendo’s Mario fame) is Secretary of Transportation. This might explain why covid has not yet reached Chromatica and healthcare is considered a basic human right (this is financed by a 30% heterosexual tourism tax): 

Even Starbucks (yes, Starbucks) got involved: 

See, there’s never been a more perfect time for niche community building and subscribers to this cult are as engaged in their RTs as their Chromatican civic duties. In USoC’s most recent poll, 18k votes were cast on Lana Del Rey’s “legal status on Chromatica” (similarly, Rihanna’s visa will not be processed until R9 is announced). Its current poll asks Chromaticans to vote on bringing Doja Cat to court, so watch this space. Social media managers could never. That’s the beauty of it.  

As Gaga said in her Apple Music interview with Zane Lowe, “how I make sense of things is chromatica...I can’t wait to dance with people to this music”. Same Gaga, same. Let’s hope our visa application to the states is accepted in time.

kettle’s on: ones to watch

🐦Reply to this if you want a DMC. So Twitter got an upgrade this week, and we’re kinda stoked about it. Starting with a small % of tweeps, Jack is rolling out private tweeting: a feature that lets you ‘@’ those you’d like to chat to. Except the whole world can see and can’t respond. It’s heaven for those who get serious trolling, and a great step towards making Twitter the safe space it’s crying out to be. We r9. 👏

💰Secure the (slime) bag. Slime is big. 5B views on TikTok big. And if that wasn’t enough, this week we got a glimpse of its influence when Addison Rae (41M+ followers) reviewed 15 year old Ricky Waite’s homemade slime on TikTok. He told Business Insider that shoutout alone “drove over $1,000 in slime sales”, not bad for a Z juggling school in the day time and slime-creating in the night. Oh, and did we mention this is just the beginning for TikTok’s social commerce takeover? 🐸☕️

🎙️*67 Call Her Daddy. Sofia? Alex? Dave? Is anyone there?! This week, the daddy gang were thrown into the eye of the tornado after the public falling out of the decade boiled over (h/t Taylor Lorenz). From #FreeTheFathers to Dave Portnoy (founder of Barstool Sports) calling the duo “unprofessional, disloyal and greedy”, the internet is splitsies and exploding with hot takes on daddy conspiracy theories (especially ones involving Suitman, aka HBO’s Peter Nelson). Yesterday, Alex posted her side of the story in a 30 min tell-all titled “The Truth about Call Her Daddy” (2.8M combined views and counting). There’s even merch for that – a new era: a single father. Lord, Barstool never misses a check. All we know for sure is it’s a mess and a hot one at that. Girls, the Gluck Gluck 9000 won’t be the same without you. 🍆💔

Ok you made it, now you can go back to Clubhouse.


Alice & Faye

🎶you can call me on my cell phone

late night when I’m in Clubhouse

You are cordially invited to this week’s brew of High Tea, your dispatch of 🔥internet culture served piping hot. This week: the nature of celebrity during quarantine, TikTok brings the house(party) down and podcasts enter another dimension. 

Drink up 🐸☕

WE’RE BACK AND THEY MAD. Did you miss us?

what we’ve been sipping on:

Whether you’re scuuuum gang or not, this week belonged to 6ix9ine and 6ix9ine only. First came ‘GOOBA’, breaking the record for a 24-hour debut on YouTube, with 43 million views (exceeding Eminem’s record by a healthy 5M 👀). The animoji-heavy aesthetic was a hit for Zs, who comprise a substantial portion of his fanbase, featuring 3D visuals from Alex Solis, adding fuel to the fire of his self-serving trolling. 🐀

Stop playin wit me .... who made this?
May 11, 2020

But the hype didn’t stop there: arriving on the same day was another milestone for the troubled rapper - this time breaking the Instagram Live record with 2M views, 750K of which came in the first 15 seconds 🤯. 15 minutes of fame? 6ix9ine said: this the remix. Former IG record holder, Torey Lanez and his Quarantine Radio (ft. Drake, no less) didn’t stand a chance with their 310k views. 

6ix9ine’s pre-quarantine (and err...jail) anthem ‘STOOPID’ was an instant hit with Zs on TikTok, with 1.4M videos set to the song’s ubiquitous “Bozo, bitch are you dumb-d-dumb-dumb-dumb-d-dumb-dumb-dumb? (stupid)”. Four of the top ten videos to the track feature Charli D’Amelio (yes, there’s a dance to that), with her 56M followers and counting, cementing the earworm into the TikTok zeitgeist. 🐸☕prediction: GOOBA is set to follow in its footsteps - and fast. 

In The House, fame is anyone’s game:

During lockdown, Houseparty has fed the appetite of “company starved” millennials and Zs. Yawn, we been knowing this already. What’s worth writing home about is their ‘In the House’ spectacle - a 3-day festival hosted in-app this weekend, with a vast swathe of millennial and Gen Z celebrity names. Sandwiched between the likes of Alicia Keys, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Zooey Deschanel, you can also find the cherry picked Zoomers of the zeitgeist. Enter: Addison Rae and Gabi Butler.  

We have to hand it to the folks at Epic Games, this is noteworthy.

It’s no accident that these breakout stars, firmly embedded in the teenage lexicon but lesser known to mainstream celebrity culture, are on the bill alongside fame staples for the Gen Z diet: Doja Cat and DaBaby. Houseparty’s hook comes with the anticipated migration of loyal fan bases built elsewhere (we’re 👀 at Addison’s very calm 40.8M TikTok followers and the success of viral hits like Say So, TOES and VIBEZ), that show willing for digital escapism while stuck indoors. We’ll take the bait, Houseparty. We’ll take it!  

The buck doesn’t stop there. Houseparty also partnered with several high profile TikTokers (ex-Hype House Dixie D’Amelio and Sway House members, Josh Richards and Taylor Holder) for sponcon vids under #InTheHouseparty (1.7B views). Houseparty didn’t miss a beat by soundtracking the obviously-sponsored vids to a Curtis Roach (TikTok and quarantine royalty, fyi) ‘bored in the house’ remix. Co-watching of live events represents a new frontier for the app and rumors in the twittersphere are already reporting that Addison’s feature drew in the largest crowd to date. See, that’s the thing: everyone wants to learn how to dance like Addison Rae but not everyone wants to do a workout with Alicia Keys 🤷‍♀️. Sorry bout it. 

Spotify, but make it better.

Spotify even wants in on the 📹 action, testing video podcasts to 50% of the app’s listeners, which feels like an important development for Spotify’s poddy clout - following acquisitions of The Ringer and Gimlet Media in recent years. Spotify’s decision to launch with Zane and Heath: Unfiltered, hosted by two prominent members of the Vlog Squad (6.2M combined subscribers) is not an accident. Their podcast channel, on which they began uploading 8 months ago, has gathered 29M views for filmed episodes of their podcast. This proves yet again how Zs are the most powerful and pivotal audience you can engage online to test effectiveness and affinity. We say: Zs lurking on YouTube will be tempted to flirt with this Spotify experiment, lured in by the option to keep video playing - even if listeners lock their phones.  🐸☕

Now time for the $100M question: where does that leave Clubhouse? 

it was a big week for video, but an even bigger one for audio: 

Will we ever get over *that* $100M valuation? Probs not, but the show must go on. Since its April beta launch, Clubhouse has been ruling the social media roost with secret convos with Jared Leto about washing his vegetables with soap (eek), Kevin Hart giving us the gift of a spontaneous TED talk (emotional resilience👋), and Tiffany Haddish dishing out quarantine tips (praise be 🙏). It’s been a ride, and it ain’t stopping anytime soon. What has quarantine taught us about the nature of celebrity and our relationship to them? It’s getting a shake up. Listen up? Nah, listen in. 

ICYMI: for those of you unfamiliar with the app, Clubhouse is an audio-only social space, where users can participate in different “rooms” of conversation: from shooting the shit, to back of the bus antics and discussions on speciality topics, the app (though still in beta) is rife with curious minds ready to chomp at the bit. 

For now, as testing continues in its early days, it’s a close knit community - mostly populated by an SF stronghold who are eager to exchange notes with an audience of willing participants. But, this peep into the future of the audio-only platform gives us a lens into the kind of social network we can expect to see a whole lot more of - and one that we’re giving the High Tea stamp of approval to 🐸☕️.

It’s clear that the appetite for intimacy and connectivity, despite the lack of in-person cahoots, is larger than ever during lockdown. The commodification of scandal and the celebrity world that it orbits is one thing, but for the rest of us, the chance to access and escape to these worlds of aspiration and entertainment is thrilling. Each network shapes and, in turn, is shaped by its own definition of celebrity. But while blue ticks and brand deals have dominated our social media of late, Clubhouse is a welcome reprieve from all that jazz: authentic and inspiring in equal parts. 

How will it scale? This is the question of the hour. But we see huge potential for Clubhouse to bring niche communities together in real time, with rooms for different subcultures and specialities. Mark our words, you’ll want to secure your handle sharpish. 🏃‍♀️

💦 Waterc00ler: Fun first, work optional [launching Monday!] 

It’s been a minute since remote-work became the norm, and it’s safe to say we’ve all got a serious case of the zoom fatigue. Slack is working overdrive, bubble chats are popping up left, right and center and, let’s face it, we’re missing the office bantz. With companies willing to test new productivity tools for remote teams (Discord, hi how are ya?) and Clubhouse giving everyone serious FOMO, we think y’all need to add waterc00ler to your list. The brain child of Robin Raszka and Russ D’Sa, waterc00ler is the new way to revive the office vibez, while at home. Audio-first (ofc, what else), the app focuses on remote office fun first (yes, you heard) with voice changers and games incorporated into a company group chat context. Launching tomorrow, you can DM for early access

Sneak peek of the app ^

kettle’s on: ones to watch

🏠WFH, forever. Jack announced this week that Twitter employees can work from home permanently. Yes, permanently. What an incredible move by one of the biggest tech giants. What will this mean for Silicon Valley as we know it? Is a mass exodus on the cards? We’re not so sure. Although we’ve heard twitter whispers, it seems many are still committed to returning to the traditional office structure. Maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch...🐸☕️

✈️Future gives us some blue sky thinking. If you want to see a serious marketing campaign in action, look no further than this morning in LA. To promote his newly released album: High Off Life, Future commissioned a large skywriting project which was seen by thousands. David Dobrik shared his view on Insta, and we have to say, mega props to Future for reading the room and capitalizing on our undivided attention atm. Mask on.

📸Hold the front page. Emma Chamberlain is truly the people’s influencer. As one of the biggest YouTube stars to have successfully transitioned to TikTok (no mean feat), launched her own coffee brand, and graced the front row of Paris Fashion Week, Emma is a burgeoning businesswomen and a huge deal. This week, she featured on the front cover of Allure for their June/July 2020 edition and it’s safe to say we lost our heads. Her journey from reviewing dollar store purchases at 16 years old, to now doing brand deals with Epic Games [no less] and reaching the mainstream, is something we’ll be exploring in a later exposé...🐸☕️stay tuned!

🎉Group sharing on spotify. It feels like we’ve been waiting for this for a while, but finally, Spotify launches Group Sessions: a chance to listen along in real time with your quarantining pals and families. You’re welcome. 

Okay, you made it. We’ll see you again next Sunday for your weekly dose of the strong stuff.


Alice & Faye

tired: add to cart

wired: I shop therefore I am

You are cordially invited to this week’s brew of High Tea, your dispatch of 🔥internet culture served piping hot. This week: shopping goes local, drive-thru strippers give us Big Pandemic Energy and QVC makes a comeback...kinda. 

Drink up 🐸☕

Untitled (I shop therefore I am), Barbara Kruger x High Tea

We’ve always supported the underdogs on High Tea and now is no different. With lockdowns hitting our beloved independents the hardest [just 30 percent of them believe they will be able to survive beyond four months], this week we’d like to give credit where it’s due, to the initiatives that are lifting up our locals and also, you know, changing the face of ecommerce as they go, NBD.

get in loser, we’re going shopping

It’s been a busy week for Shopify.

So busy in fact, that you might have missed the launch of Shop - a new app to enhance DTC product discovery. Well, when we say new, allow us a little artistic license here: the ultimate hack of Shop is, in part, the fact that it was built off the back of Shopify’s existing Arrival customer base (all 16M of them), which certainly makes for a convenient head start when it comes to launching an app in the middle of a disrupted ecommerce landscape. But is Shop worth adding to the High Tea cart? We find out. 

show me what you workin with

Built on the foundations of its parent app, Arrive, a package tracking service launched in 2017, Shop includes the same capabilities, but extends its consumer offering to a digital shopping assistant - allowing consumers to browse a feed of recommended products and discover merchants local to them. Shopify says this “marks a significant step forward in closing the distance between buyer and seller”, while minimising the journey from discovery to delivery. 

The user experience of browsing Shop’s inventory feels as familiar as scrolling through online menu items - a win for securing new customers and retaining old ones. Shop’s carbon tracking feature [for community and personal] , which shows low impact and ethically sourced products, is another highlight which taps into consumer interests du jour

shop local hits home 

They say: “One way Shop helps small businesses is by showing customers if your business is nearby and if you offer in-store or curbside pick up”.

We say: if the pandemic has shown us one thing for sure, it’s that people are motivated more than ever to care about local retailers. After all, retail outlets with fewer than ten employees are the most vulnerable to closure, as a result of the covid acceleration of existing high street decimation. Hopefully this timely moment will be catapulted into an emerging, more permanent trend of supporting independent, locally based retailers. But is Shop poised to take the W on this? 

“The app seems most useful for digitally native brands that have a robust online presence” - Elizabeth Sergan, Fast Company. 

While the app charges no additional fee or sales commission to its 1 million existing Shopify merchants, it is unclear how many mom-and-pop businesses are already on the platform 🐸☕. And that isn’t the only question hanging over Shop’s head, with criticism emerging on product thinking around discovery:

reading the the room (and the tea leaves)

The extension of Shopify into an SaaS based marketplace represents a development worth exploring for the third-party moving from a preferred destination for merchants, to attempting to create the best buying experience for consumers. More so than an instant lockdown hit, Shop represents the first iteration of Shopify’s expansion into local ecommerce. As Web Smith said, “this is eCom in 2020, the job is to iterate as fast as humanly possible because things are changing by the day.”

Only time will tell if Shopify can turn Shop’s brand recognition from delivery tracker to localized shopping platform.  We’ll certainly be keeping our eyes peeled for 2.0. 

TikTok sets up shop

You might remember when TikTok hinted it was exploring the shopping cart back in 2019 [which we covered here], but it’s been real quiet on the #fyp - until now. This week, we got a taster of the final results of a TikTok influencer campaign with Levis: one of the initial partnerships the social app is exploring. 

With Sensor Tower reporting TikTok hitting 2B downloads, it’s no surprise that the campaign led to results to write home about. As well as reporting a significantly higher watch-time than the in-app average, Levis also reported product views to Levi.com’s “Future Finish” pages more than doubled for every product included in the experience. ICYMI: bleaching clothes is a quarantine vibe, everyone who’s anyone is doing it. By partnering with the likes of abstract artist  Callen Schaub and lifestyle sensation Cosette, to create their own custom designs, both Levi and TikTok are jumping on the bandwagon with impeccable timing and prowess.

The new ad format is also noteworthy. Rather than ‘link in bio’, the call-to-action is a prominent button in their videos, linking advertisers and influencers. As such TikTok is **splitting** the ad revenue between itself and the influencer. Instagram, take note: TikTok is building an in house influencer advertising platform that actually pays! 

QVC, but cool

You thought live streaming was *just* for gamers, well, think again. Enter: Popshop a mobile-first, mash-up between QVC x Snapchat where individuals can create and host their own shopping channel. 

With the affinity for lifestyle-streaming accelerated as the world warms up to virtual communities and staying connected while apart, we think Popshop is a product-zeitgeist fit for several reasons: (1) eCommerce is crying out for an ‘add to cart’ shake up, as online brands seek out new ways to increase visibility and cement loyalty with customers (2) raw personality is the self-declared king (TikTok > Quibi) and (3) live-streaming commerce is inherently monetizable. Popshop amalgamates these ideas and more to influence ecommerce with the cult of personality. 

Not only will viewers be actively engaged while entering (by invite-only), the nature of the platform almost guarantees conversions. Viewers are buying from a person they follow and relate to, not just a brand or a distributor, and that shit sells. Shopping online is now a social experience for the consumer: a niche community of highly engaged individuals with $$ to burn and temptations to tickle. 

I was in the 212

Calling all New Yorkers! With NYC home to some of our favorite DTC brands, digital asset manager platform Air, has blessed us with a beautifully designed map, detailing the many independents that make up the multi-layered, diverse fabric of the city. Go on, have a browse as you would normally do on a Sunday: window shopping in Manhattan while sipping on your hot cup of joe (we sure do miss those anthora cups). 

kettle’s on: ones to watch

😷I’m in love with a (drive-thru) stripper. Blade Runner called, it wants it’s holograms back. In the most 2020 move of 2020 yet, we did a dystopian double take at the adaption of the business model at Lucky Devil Lounge- a strip club in Portland, Oregon (where else?!). Partnering with a local event company to create a new experience in the club’s parking lot (to enforce strict social distancing measures, ofc), the dancers - wearing gloves and face masks - perform for the duration of a song while customers wait for their order. The club even throws in a free roll of toilet paper, which is just *chefs kiss* to quarantine culture at this stage. The club’s owner, Shon Boulden said, “the dancers are happy to be working and labeled as essential workers”. We couldn’t agree more. 

🐎Savage, Classy, Bougie, Yoncé. Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Savage’ cemented itself into the internet lexicon by the powers that be (it’s...TikTok’s account), appearing in a staggering 19.7M videos on the platform, popularised by choreography from Keara Wilson (@keke.janajah). We didn’t think this bop could get any better, but let’s just say Yoncé sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker. With Bey referencing TikTok, the strip clubs of Instagram and OnlyFans in a single breath, it’s no surprise that the remix secured the #1 spot on Apple Music and even had OnlyFans reaching out to the queen 🐝 herself. If that wasn’t enough, all proceeds from the certified banger will go to Bread of Life Inc, a disaster relief organization from their hometown, Houston. What’s not to love? 

Okay, you made it. We’ve loved having you these past 30 dispatches, and this is a quick note to say that next week we’ll be on our virtual holibobs from our respective sofas [wish you were here 😌]. We’ll be back on May 17th!


Alice & Faye

what do you meme?

media and mischief in times of crisis

You are cordially invited to this week’s brew of High Tea, your dispatch of 🔥internet culture served piping hot. This week: mapping lockdown through memes, virtual reality and live-ish music. 

Drink up...just make sure it’s not bleach 🐸☕️

the meme is the message

It’s all been a (-$37.63) barrel of laughs this week, hasn’t it? 

45 told us to pull up to the Zoom BYOB with a Clorox daiquiri (he’s not a doctor, he’s just got a very, very large brain), stateside immigration was taken off the (green) cards and oil hit rock bottom. As per usual, the online world (are we still pretending there’s a difference between online and offline these days?) has responded to the cascading chaos of crisis with, you guessed it, memes. 

This Is Fine, KC Green

Understanding the language of the internet through memes is a well trodden track; self-medicating using a lil comedy during the Dark Times™ is nothing new (remember Disaster Girl?). Sure, you can even study memes at Cambridge these days. 

But now, these leitmotifs of a new, emerging age are providing the connective cultural tissue, in real time, between Zs, Millennials and Boomers alike, as we all grapple to translate collective suffering on a global scale.  

and in the beginning, there were TikToks

Coping with news of the unknown and the downright depressing has provided a public opportunity for performative unease for many, and Gen Z have risen to the occasion. 

@iamcardib lettin' y'all know sh!t real out here 😩. Y'all know I had to get ignant 😎🚀 • {BEAT/REMIXED BY ME‼️ - FULL SONG LINK'S IN MY BIO‼️} • {Swipe Left For Original Video}
#iMarkkeyz #coronavirus #shitisreal
March 13, 2020

‘Coronavirus’ by iMarkkeyz has been used in 967k+ TikTok videos & streamed more than 3M times on Spotify 

If you can hear ‘coronavirus’ without thinking “shit is getting real”, then we have to ask: which rock have you been quarantined under...okurrr?! For those of us on the other side of the tracks, TikTok lurking (hey, it’s research) has offered a fascinating insight into the shared psyche of Zs and their rich digital tapestry of life under lockdown. 

But now, as the gravity of the global pandemic continues to unfold, teens on TikTok have graduated from #boomerremover (1.8M views) and #coronaviruschallenge (2.2B views) - in this first wave of quarantine - to trends such as Charli D’Amelio’s #distancedance (13.7B views), paving the way for a new type of lockdown content. 

@jeremycohen’s rooftop love story (65M views at the time of writing) raises questions about the future of dating and love in a post-pandemic world. Curtis Roach’s Bored In The House viral anthem (which got its own Tyga remix) illustrates the potential for industry and underdog to meet in the middle. TikTok Prom (featuring the likes of Diplo and Dillon Francis) is a blueprint for all social apps to follow, as we move into increasingly virtual spaces.

In a world where connections are now forged online, IRL (In Real Life) has become Internet Real Life: where wires are increasingly crossed between the consumption and regurgitation of digital media.  

Mapping pandemic memes across the internet is like an archaeological deep dive; an excavation of online communities and their transient participants. But it’s not just about “internet culture”. Rather, we have a bird's eye view to the zeitgeist playing chameleon to the ‘new normal’: aka holding a mirror up to society at large. Or, at least the parts of it that we want to see.

kettle’s on: ones to watch

👾We got goosebumps (everytime). As we’re all bored-in-the-house-and-we’re-in-the-house -bored, trust Epic Games to come thru with the goods. We’re barely over the first ever Fornite concert with Marshmello in Feb 2019 which at the time was the game’s biggest event ever. But enter sicko mode, as this week Travis Scott x Fortnite collab brought in - wait for it - over 12M views breaking the previous record of 10M. ICYMI, check out the show on YT and spare a thought for all the incredible artists and devs that pulled this off while quarantining! It’s lit 🔥

🤑Facebooked and busy. These past weeks Facebook announced the launch of its coronavirus worldwide tracking project + FB Gaming + FB Virtual Dating + FB Video Chat (with no FB login). It feels definitely like it’s all or nothing with Zuck: the kind where you wait patiently for one bus and 4 come along at once. But seriously, this is pretty neat and no mean feat for a remote team, plus taking on the likes of Houseparty + Zoom, has definitely been a long time coming. Pew pew pew.  

🎤Live stream roundup: (1) 🤛🖐✌️MrBeast’s Rock Paper Scissors Tournament, another demonstration of his philanthropic personal brand we know and love, this week saw YouTube stars such as Tana Mongeau, David Dobrik and general dote Jack Black himself, battle it out to win $250,000 for their chosen charities. (2) 100 gecs took to Minecraft in their virtual festival experience titled: Square Garden (lol). The line up featured the likes of BNOC Charli XCX, + had donations go to ‘Feeding America’ 🙌 (3) Post Malone’s Nirvana Tribute also brought in the “crowds” this week (6.2M views and counting) with his livestream gig (complete with Travis Barker) raising $3M for The UN’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. 💸

👟Yeezy Peezy. Exsqueeze me? Forbes (finally) announced that Kanye West is now worth a hefty $1.3bn (and *that’s on Adidas and their 15%*). You bet that he wants you to know all about it - although, staying on brand til the very last word, Kanye had something to say about their valuation: “It’s not a billion,” West texted us [Forbes] last night. “It’s $3.3 billion since no one at Forbes knows how to count”. Ye, maybe it’s time to take that crash course in being CEO of your own net worth. 🙃

Okay, you made it. Send quaranmemes - DMs open!


Alice & Faye

🐧 join the club

they've got jackets

You are cordially invited to this week’s brew of High Tea, your dispatch of 🔥internet culture served piping hot. This week: losing ourselves to virtual nostalgia, Club Penguin enjoys its renaissance and “Pornhub” cleans up its act. 

Drink up 🐸☕️

what we’ve been sipping on:

#RocNationBrunch twitter has been out in full force since the start of this crisis, drawing parallels between the Bubonic Plague (naturally) and the subsequent emergence of the Renaissance, an explosion of boundless innovation and social change, which rose from the ashes of a culturally decimated Europe. 

We’ve been enjoying a rebirth of our own here at High Tea: Zoom BYOBs in our pyjamas, unpicking the Hype House drama one *here’s what REALLY happened* tell-all at a time and watching the Barbz and Bardis of the internet unite for Uncle Bernie

It was a cultural reset...it was a cultural reset. 

It’s been a week — let’s dig in.

in club penguin, the drinks are free

Following a whole heap of Twitch whispers, we can confirm: the *officially unofficial* Club Penguin is back [in the zeitgeist]. This may pull at some of the flippers of our avid readers, who, like many, spent hours waddling about the pixelated virtual world, chatting BS to others penguins and earning coins to adopt puffles in 2005. Well, it’s cool again — and you can thank quarantine for that.

Both Club Penguin Online and Club Penguin: Rewritten, two private gaming servers, not affiliated with the official Disney version shutdown in 2017, are experiencing an overload of users, which forced its developers to add new servers ready for the influx in mid March. 7 million registered users later, and Club Penguin Online is close to its maximum quarantini capacity. 

So, who’s in the club? It’s mainly Zs and college students, with a couple of millennials peppered through. 3 weeks into quarantine and we’ve seen everything: from IRS stimulus check info to virtual proms.

But the biiiiig Club Penguin tea this week was Soccer Mommy’s listening party Friday night in Rewritten: 

The virtual event saw hundreds of waddlers across all servers bopping along to the new album with Sophia and her band [who were ofc, cute penguins themselves], plus a chance to do Q&A “backstage”. Worth noting again: this Club Penguin we’re blessed with is *still* the unofficial version, hacked together using SWF files from the game's old website. Little help over here Disney! Where ya at? 

With over 30,000 new players joining everyday and with group therapy sessions on the rise, [heart-to-hearts in decked out igloos], Club Penguin provides a smack of good-time nostalgia plus real lasting connection in times of social separation. We can confidently say: Club Penguin is not *just* a game [and arguably never has been]: it’s a community 👏

in animal crossing, let out that artidote 

So if Club Penguin has the Zs and young millennials wrapped up, what about everyone else? Enter: Animal Crossing, New Horizons, aka “an island of peace among stormy seas”. We’re sure it isn’t news to you. Twitter has been hot hot hot since the latest launch last month. But we’re starting to see some incredible interactions in-game that are too good not to highlight. 

We chatted with friend of High Tea Jerry Lu at Advancit Capital, and this was his 🔥 take: 

What's interesting to me is really the ability to create an identity that’s separate from one’s real-world self. People want to adopt a personality that’s different from who they are. That’s where the freedom of expression and creativity kicks. This ability to create your own identity digitally is why I’m so amazed by the creativity that comes out of places like Animal Crossing.

He ain’t wrong: we’re seeing fashion design and artistry getting a real virtual boost.

‘cause she a fashion killa

Fashion is blowing up on Animal Crossing as gamers, as well as established retailers, create virtual designer garments to use in-game, pixel by pixel. This is painstakingly arduous, but the results are 🔥. We’re talking Chanel to Dior, Supreme to 100 Thieves, and not unlike IRL, for some it’ll cost you. As it’s still relatively early days, the majority of creators are giving up their QR coded outfits for free, but we don’t anticipate it staying this way for long. We’re already seeing some users already finding ingenious hacks to monetize their designs: 

Fashion retailer Net-A-Porter has also swooped in on this opportunity, by working with multiple Chinese fashion designers to create avatar skins from their spring/summer collections. Users can mix the virtual with the IRL by buying the digital skins plus the actual physical garment itself at the checkout. Trippy. 

The creativity itself is truly unmatched, with fashion editorials and Instagram accounts solely dedicated to showcasing the campaigns, quickly picking up clout. Tip of the hat to creator Kara Chung for spearheading the trend. Check out her hypebeast editorial: 

@hypebeast editorial
editor: @lord_edwin
virtual photographer: @kara__chung
virtual models & clothing creators: @jasonroberto @selinadg @isaiaraneta @babyikea69 @nicconcepcion @carloleezy @raalfonsoo
April 1, 2020

hey, must be the monet

Fancy a Cézanne on your kitchen wall (next to the soup dumplings, ofc)? Say less: there’s QR code for that too. Yes, Lorde…Hang it in the Louvre. 

This is all thanks to the (temporarily closed) LA-based Getty Museum and its art generator tool, which allows players to import more than 79,000 real artworks into their virtual worlds, all via QR code. Because...what’s weathering a global pandemic without a lil Van Gogh and Rembrandt to get you through. *Ariana voice* I want it? I got it. Cop the tutorial here. 

Next stop: QR codes for our sourdough starters because you already know we need our own Bon Appétit kitchen. Can someone pls tell Claire Saffitz that we miss her? 😩

mi casa, su casa

Building penthouses to host our extensive VR art collection is not the only piece of pandemic tourism that leans into our fascination with dystopian escapism. Enter: virtual Frank Lloyd Wright house tours. We’re seasoned fans of the prolific 20th century architect at High Tea (read all about it), so we were chomping at the bit to take a peep at 12 FLW-designed houses that have opened their doors to virtual tours. If you’re bored in the house and you’re in the house bored...at least escape to someone else’s.

Wright's works bring people together in harmony with the natural world, reminding us that we are all connected, even when we're apart.

If you’re more of a city fly on the wall, don’t miss a virtual tour of The Guggenheim (nyc edition) on Google Arts & Culture, using...none other than Google street view. 👀

kettle’s on: ones to watch

🛁ScrubHub is born. Feeling...dirty? Well, here’s something for ya. Director and conceptual artist, Ani Acopian [also the Founder of Amazon Dating] has given us yet another great project to write home about. Meet ScrubHub: it’s PornHub, but for hand washing. In times like these, when we get excited over hand soap and TP, ScrubHub is a welcome addition. Oh and did we mention the partnership is official? PornHub getting involved is *chefs kiss*. 

🎤You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Or...maybe you can? Celebrities and their quarantine offerings have been hit and miss as the world sobers up to the new realities of 2020, unfolding in real time. So, whether you love or loathe the instagram lives coming in thick and fast from the Hollywood Hills, we’ve got to admit, One World: Together At Home, hit the right spot. The charity gig raised $127.9 million for coronavirus relief efforts. Our faves: Billie and Finneas (who else) covering Bobby Hebb and, ofc, the Stones. We simply love to see it. 

🏠Clubhouse. That’s the tweet. Our names are on the list! We swear! We got all this way without mentioning the club that VC Twitter went nuts for yday. A voice chat app, where participants can hop into voice chat rooms with each other, sounds too good to be true right now. Who needs calendar invites anyways? To confirm folks: it’s still in beta, unless you are one of the lucky ones to get your mitts on the link you’ll have to sit with severe FOMO.

Okay, you made it. Now you can get back to your year of rest and relaxation


Alice & Faye

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