By James Montgomery
It all started in December, with a 55-second video clip that featured plenty of trees, spindly, spooky appendages, and one particularly grisly live birth (or at least we think it's a live birth.) Then, in early January, there was a second clip ... a Dendrophiliac's wet dream, loaded with images of a mud-smeared woman licking a tree and some strangely sexualized sap. And owls, plenty of owls. And then, on Sunday, a third, this one a slo-mo underwater dream sequence, with a whole lot of confectionary, a murky fetus and exactly one singing whale shark.
Then there are the numbers that accompany the videos — mysterious sequences of digits that may be spelling out some coded message, or revealing a release date (or may just be numbers) — and the music, a soundtrack of chiming, slightly ominous electronic bloops and bleeps. Confused? Intrigued? Welcome to the club.
It's the ongoing saga of "Iamamiwhoami," the latest in a series of maddeningly compelling viral campaigns to seize the attention of Internet obsessives. Named for the YouTube user who began uploading the clips, the campaign has slowly become a full-blown frenzy, and the speculation has begun to run rampant about just who was behind it all.
Fans have thrown names like Lady Gaga and Goldfrapp into the ring. Resident weirdos like Bjork and the Knife have been suspected. MGMT, too. Some think Trent Reznor — who has some experience with things like this — is the mastermind. Still others believe that it's all leading up to the release of Aphex Twin's next project. But through it all, one name kept popping up with bizarre regularity: Christina Aguilera.
See, Aguilera does have a new album coming soon, an ambitious and reportedly futuristic outing she's calling Bionic. She has been known to adopt an alter-ego or two (remember Xtina?). And the repeated use of fetal imagery in the videos does lend credence to her claims that the birth of her son Max was an inspiration for the record. So, while the clips would represent a rather, uh, ambitious re-imagining of herself, it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that she was somehow involved in the campaign.
Only, it is. Because while we don't know much about the "Iamamiwhoami" series, according to her publicist, "Iamamiwhoami" is "100 percent not [Christina] ... not sure why people think it is."
So there you go. But who else could it be? Well, Reznor did recently post on NIN.com that "2010 has a number of things planned, including new material from Nine Inch Nails and something else that isn't Nine Inch Nails," so he's still in play. MGMT — whose Congratulations is due this year — could also be responsible, and a pair of e-mails sent to a spokesperson for the band about "Iamamiwhoami" have thus far gone unanswered.
The Knife, who are plenty odd, also could be behind all this madness. They're releasing a studio version of an opera based on the life of Charles Darwin, and the videos do have a rather, uh, "natural" quality to them (not to mention the fact that the music does sound like the stuff they've done in the past.) Goldfrapp has been known to use owl imagery, and while they do have an album due this year, the dank aesthetic of the YouTube clips doesn't seem to match the airbrushed cover of the thing. And as far as we know, there's no new music from Bjork coming anytime soon, and Gaga's still promoting her Fame Monster album.
So, like all great viral campaigns, we're just as stuck as you are. The mystery of "Iamamiwhoami" rolls on, and all we can do is wait for the next clue. Whoever's behind all this, we salute you: You've got us hooked!