Big Data’s “Paranoid Pop Music” Debut Album

The band’s catchy songs look at the complicated relationship between people and technology

Alan Wilkis, via Twitter

Big data, the concept of both unstructured and structured data used by companies, has been around since about 2001. However, a new musician and producer of the same name is looking to challenge his namesake. Alan Wilkis, who goes by the stage name Big Data, is releasing his debut album, 2.0, in late March, which examines the complicated, tenuous relationship between people and technology.

“With each song on 2.0, I set out to explore a specific issue or moment in technology,” Wilkis told Wired. “And lyrically they are often voiced from the perspective of the ‘bad guy’ in the narrative.”

The album starts off this narrative with the song, “Business of Emotion,” featuring the vocals of White Sea (from M83). The song, according to Big Data’s YouTube video description, was inspired by the 2012 Facebook mood experiment that became public in the summer of 2014. The experiment, run by Facebook, manipulated the newsfeeds displayed to 689,003 Facebook users, showing that it could directly influence what type of content users posted to Facebook themselves. If a user was presented with a negatively skewed newsfeed, they were more likely to post negative statuses, while primarily positive newsfeeds lead to more positive statuses from users.

This news isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, considering that Facebook has to use an algorithm anyway to decide what shows up in a user’s newsfeed. However, it does cause one to pause and consider how our perception of online “reality” is controlled by “big data” and how the reality presented to us can directly impact our mood, most notably and distressingly by causing us to feel more lonely.

“Feel good, make you feel good, I'm looking for emotion. So I know just what to show you, I can see you, see your answers. This business of emotion, yeah I know just what to show you, baby,” White Sea sings amongst heavy bass and techno beats.

There’s a fair chance you’ve already heard of Big Data; their first single, “Dangerous,” featuring Joywave, hit number one on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in August 2014. It’s a pretty good introduction to Big Data: Big Brother lyrics in conjunction with an ominous and playful bass riff that showcased the band’s “paranoid electronic pop” sound.

“It would be a huge missed opportunity if I didn’t use synthetic sounds. Because it is all man and machine. And that’s what I like about having the guitar being such a part of it. It’s that line between the human and that tech element. That ties to Big Data, the concept. A lot of it is really trying to decipher trends in human behavior and human experience using data. It’s really, really effective at that in a lot of ways,” Wilkis told the Wall Street Journal.

White Sea is one member of the impressive roster of collaborators Wilkis assembled for the album. Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Twin Shadow, and Kimbra also make appearances on their own tracks, to name a few.

“I had the immense privilege of collaborating with a host of incredible vocalists on 2.0,” Wilkis told Wired, “and at the end of the day I just hope these songs make you smile, dance, and think a bit.”

The album will drop on March 24th, and in the meantime you can listen to selected tracks on Spotify, or the Soundcloud playlist on Wired.

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