Pants on the Ground: A viral moment crafted by “American Idol”

Almost from the moment “General” Larry Pratt opened his mouth last night on “American Idol,” I knew.

Pratt’s rap “Pants on the Ground” was an absolute riot. My wife, three kids, and I all howled with laughter as he bounced and preached his message: Pants on the ground, pants on the ground, lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground. And when his age (62) was disclosed, we were all agog.

I turned to my wife and said, “That’s going to go nuts on YouTube.”

By noon today, “Pants on the Ground” was a trending topic on Twitter and versions of the video had received tens of thousands of views on YouTube.

It had several qualities similar to the Susan Boyle phenomenon that captivated the world last year. The video of the modest British woman wowing television crowds with her voice has received more than 80 million views on YouTube, and she has become a worldwide name.

Pratt does not have Boyle’s talent. But he has a number of other qualities that inspires mass appeal.

  • He is a courageous underdog. Part of the appeal of “American Idol” stems from the fact that these competitors are unknowns, plucked from everyday life. No one expects a 62-year-old military veteran to bounce around and boldly rap his frustration in front of Simon Cowell & Co.
  • He taps into a universal frustration. Many people (including myself) are sick of the low-pants fashion trend, and his simple rap reaches all people, regardless of background.
  • He is funny. Most of us love to share a laugh, especially one that is relatively clean and nonthreatening.

My guess is the producers saw the viral gold in Pratt. As Simon noted, there is an age limit for contestants. Wouldn’t the initial application process have weeded out Pratt and prevented him from ever stepping before the judges?

Watch Simon closely when he hears Pratt’s age. It appears that sense of surprise is quite manufactured.


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