Elvis Presley: King of Rock, film star, veteran, and owner of a smooth pompadour, is still relevant today. Not just in his timeless music, but in ways that go unnoticed by the common pop culture consumer. Watching a Starburst commercial from the early 2000’s certainly wouldn’t make you think so, and neither would a TikTok trend that will cycle out sometime between the next week and the next month.
But if you examine the historical timeline from the height of Elvis’ career, through the 80’s, the 2000’s and TikTok’s parent app: Musical.ly, you’d find a shocking connection between him and one of the best TikTok trending audios: Berries and Cream, performed by the Little Lad, Jack Ferver.
Elvis’ career took off in the late 1950’s and continued well into the 60’s and 70’s before his untimely death in August of 1977. The singer gained popularity when he began to mimic similar musical styles of black artists of that time, and was later crowned the King of Rock, a title that hasn’t been challenged since.
In the post-WWII era where Elvis began, technological advancements and consumer culture were taking a turn to material value and the realization of the American dream. This culture was dubbed populuxe, and it’s directly responsible for the Nuclear family, the rapid transition from radio to television sets, and in many ways, the Cold War (but that’s an article for another time). The so-called “American dream” provided a heavy contrast to Elvis, who was a representative of sexual freedom and rebellion for teens of this era. They were driving more, dancing more, and breaking the law a lot more.
Rock and roll was so enjoyed by “rebellious” teenagers that in some places such as Santa Cruz, it was banned. The back and forth banter on the topic solidified Elvis’ presence.
Even after Elvis was gone, his influence lived on. Hippie culture in the 60’s and 70’s, which was all about drugs, peace, and anti-violence and war, flourished under the label of rebellion. Freedom of expression became a more popular idea moving on into the 80’s, and that directly paved the way for the 90’s and 2000’s era of music.
The style and appreciation of “modern” music had made a complete 180 as hip-hop and RnB became popular genres. Music became much less traditional in its sound. Society as a whole became much less traditional, and this is what causes the connection to Berries and Cream.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND COMEDY
After NSYNC had everyone in its clutches for a few years, popular consumer culture was more important than ever to the American economy and way of life. In 2007, we got our first look of the Little Lad from a Starburst commercial advertising a limited edition Berries and Cream flavor. Whatever popularity it gained fizzled out right then. In fact, it would take several cycles of social media platforms before the Little Lad would ever rise to fame.
One such platform was Vine, a video app released in 2013 that turned social media towards comedy through six second video loops. Though Vine is now considered “dead,” from its shutting down years ago, former fans can still be heard quoting the more famous ones. A few of our favorite vines are listed below, and compilations can forever be found on YouTube for our viewing enjoyment.
After the demise of Vine came Musical.ly. We don’t talk about Musical.ly.
Anyways, after it shut down, many users were crushed, and it was soon replaced with TikTok in 2016. At first, it was ridiculed by many (including this author), who hadn’t enjoyed Musical.ly. Both platforms were considered rip-offs of Vine, and in its first year of release, people only made fun of TikTok.
However, TikTok’s growing popularity couldn’t be ignored. The same ones who criticized the app at its release downloaded it. By June 2021, it was estimated that the app had approximately a billion daily users. This led to battles amongst verified creators for one thing, but more importantly, millions of teens were using the app every day.
TikTok became a trendsetter. If there was a trend created elsewhere, TikTok would know about it. The platform made it easy for videos to go viral, so every month or so a new one would pop up and take the app by storm. Berries and Cream began with the video being uploaded in January, but didn’t catch on until late August. When it did, it prompted hundreds of video to be created under the hashtag #berriesandcream. To top off the trend, Jack Ferver made a TikTok account and reached out to millions of new Berries and Cream fans.
Ferver continues to interact with their fans today, and makes new Berries and Cream and Little Lad themed videos for TikTok as well as uploading them to YouTube. The creator’s acknowledgement of the trend led to remixes of the Berries and Cream song with popular music. Some of the best ones are listed here for your enjoyment. The songs may not be good, but they’re incredibly catchy.
It’s unlikely that most people listen to Elvis on the daily, but highly likely that America’s teens will log into TikTok for the newest video from Jack Ferver. What most people won’t realize is that the two are directly connected. Without Elvis becoming the trendsetter for controversial music and free-thinking in the 60’s, we may never have evolved to appreciate comedy, or Berries and Cream, as we do today.