Most of the time, when I have YouTube in the background, I’m playing a lot of classical or ambient music because it’s both soothing and not too distracting. But lately, YouTube has been recommending these things called “dark academia playlists” which don’t make much sense to me. I’ve listened to some of them, but they’re mostly like mixtapes of well-known classical pieces in the romantic or impressionistic genres with the occasional annoying Russian waltz thrown in here or there.
What I find fascinating is that there’s a whole fandom around these YouTube channels that make these sorts of playlists. There are people who write fanfiction based on the mood that these playlists invoke as soon as these playlists are posted. I mean, I understand why people would like to write fanfiction, but why write it in the YouTube comments section specifically? Why not post it on a dedicated fanfiction site like AO3 instead?
Another question I had was, “What is dark academia?” Well, it turns out that the explanation for dark academia is on Wikipedia. Even the New York Times covered the phenomenon last summer. And you know, if the New York Times has covered it, the fad is probably seven-eighths already out the door if not already completely out of the building. Apparently this started on TikTok and Tumblr, both of which I do not pay any attention to, so no wonder I am out of the loop.
Dark academia is not a unique phenomenon, however. It is part of a series of related aesthetics that seem to have sprung up while I was not looking. You could probably get lost on the Aesthetics Wiki just reading about all of them. But if you want to boil it down to something simple: they’re themes that people use to evoke a mood or decorate or enhance a lifestyle. It’s more of a state of mind than any statement about who people really are. And I guess they’re popular now because everyone’s desperate for a different state of mind after being trapped at home for nearly a year.