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This article was published on January 12, 2022

How Bo Burnham’s Jeff Bezos song became a Gen Z anthem about disaster capitalism

The track united generations in disgust

How Bo Burnham’s Jeff Bezos song became a Gen Z anthem about disaster capitalism

January 12th is one of the most important days of the year. That’s right, it’s the birthday of Jeff Bezos.

While ingrates mark the milestone by insolently asking the entrepreneur to stop union-busting, we want to celebrate the joyous occasion with a song: Bo Burnham’s “Bezos I.”

The lyrics tell the touching tale of Jeffrey’s selfless mission to become a tech oligarch. The track was a highlight of Burnham’s Netflix special, Inside, but its legacy didn’t end there.

In the months after the show’s release, the tender tribute to Bezos was reappropriated on TikTok as an ode to disaster capitalism.

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The second life of “Besoz I” was a product of timing.

It emerged as countless workers were suffering from layoffs, pay cuts, and health problems. At the same time, Bezos was becoming the richest person of all time and taking ego trips to space. After his maiden joyride, he thanked Amazon staff and customers for having “paid for all of this.”

TikTokers quickly tapped into this economic chasm.

They used Burnham’s song to soundtrack Amazon drivers braving natural disasters, warehouse workers getting whipped, and Bezos monitoring his “sheep.”

Many of the videos went viral. One TikTok of an Amazon truck driving through floods got more than 10 million views in under a month, while another of an Amazon Go store attracted over 7 million views in a day.

@plantmami5 When Detroit floods but u still gotta deliver those prime packages #detroit #amazon #boburnham #jeffbezos #fyp ♬ Bezos I – Bo Burnham

Not every interpolation of the track was critical of capitalism. Some creators used the tune to sincerely praise Amazon or celebrate their own success stories. The song was also recontextualized in TikTok’s tedious “three moods” trend.

In the social media age, an artist can’t determine the meaning of their masterpiece.

The Bezos generation

The 30-year-old Burnham is an archetypal millennial, but his song became a hit among Gen Z. (Full disclosure: I am also a millennial, although I dislike my generation even more than those that flank it.)

At under a minute long and infectiously energetic, the track is tailor-made for TikTok-addled brains. Yet that wasn’t the only reason why Burnham’s Netflix special connected with Gen-Z.

The melancholy musical comedy perfectly captures the pandemic life that supercharged TikTok’s popularity.

The show was filmed within the confines of a single room, depicts depression, and explores our fraught relationships with tech. It’s unsurprising that it resonates with a generation that spends so much time online and has high rates of mental health struggles.

Such issues don’t appear to be affecting Bezos. Indeed, the 58-year-old can look forward to countless future generations celebrating his birthday. Like every other horror story antagonist, he knows that true evil never dies.

In the words of Burnham:

Come on Jeff, get ’em! ….. *SCREAMS*…

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