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How To Become Popular Without Your Friends Even Knowing It

July 6, 2009

People, you gotta chill!  Ever since last week’s post on how to make people like you, the email has been pouring in with further requests for social aptitude pointers.  How am I supposed to keep track of all the porn spam with you folks clogging up my internet?

Some of your emails brought up other social situations that require a level of finesse generally unavailable to the musically illiterate.  I want each of you to know that I’m having my virtual assistant in Thailand work through these emails as fast as possible and you should be getting responses soon.  If they’re in Thai, sorry there must be an online translation program somewhere, I just don’t have time to type up a bunch of stuff and put it online, I DO have a life you know.

Others wrote to thank me for saving them from further social embarrassment and to them I say:  “You’re welcome.  You owe me money, what do you think this stuff is free?  You’ll be hearing from Dhipyamongko (aforementioned Thai assistant) soon with a bill.  If the bill’s in Thai, see my previous response.”

Lest I be seen as unresponsive, we will continue our little “How to” lessons by using your musical knowledge to make you more popular.  You know, popularity is a fickle thing, but with the right tools you can be sure to make yourself the life of every party.  Two of the tools we’ll discuss today are Bright Eyes’ frontman Conor Oberst and the French pop band Phoenix.

Conor Oberst

It’s hard to judge the coolness factor of Conor Oberst.  First off, he’s without a doubt the coolest dude named “Conor” on the planet.  The hype regarding this guy has reached epic proportions, but somehow he’s not generally considered over-hyped.  Releasing his first album at the tender age of 13, Oberst went on to form the seminal band Bright Eyes with a rotating crop of musicians of whom Mike Mogis was the only stalwart.  To date, Bright Eyes has released 7 albums, the last studio album being Cassadega in 2007.  In 2008, Oberst retreated to Mexico with some talented session musicians to record his first “solo” recording, aptly titled Conor Oberst.  He dubbed the session band the Mystic Valley Band and subsequently took them on tour. After the tour ended, the band recorded and released Outer South in 2009. Most recently, Oberst has been linked to the supergroup Monsters of Folk along with Mogis, Jim James and M. Ward.  There are few more “trendy” artists in indie rock than Conor and just being able to recognize his name ups your coolness factor by 5.

The best social situations in which to use your Conor Oberst knowledge is when you have forgotten an important occasion, like a birthday, anniversary, or social engagement.  When your oversight is first brought to your attention, pretend to “check your calendar”.  This is best done on an IPhone, Blackjack or other mobile phone with a calendar function.  You then have basically three options:

  1. If the person you offended is an attractive romantic candidate that you would like to have social (or other kinds of) relations with in the future, simply admit your mistake and apologize.  Then offer to make it up to them by taking them to a Conor Oberst concert.  If they ask who Conor Oberst is, their desirability factor is basically zero.  Move to option 3.
  2. If the person you offended is a friend or family member who you have no romantic interest in, tell them that you got last minute tickets to the Conor Oberst show and that you called to invite them but got their voice mail.  Cell phones are notably unreliable and your assertion can neither be proved nor disproved.  Then tell them that once you got their voice mail, it was obvious that they had bailed on your plans anyway and you were so depressed you skipped the concert and spent the evening alone listening to Cure records in the dark.  In this way, you will perform what is called “guilt transference”, where you transfer your guilt onto another party.  Your friend/family member should feel so bad at this point that they likely offer to buy you something to make you feel better.  Let them–it’s the only decent thing to do.
  3. If the person you offended is a casual acquaintance that you have no interest in whatsoever, tell them that they remind you of the Conor Oberst classic “Let’s Not Shit Ourselves” and it’s simply time to move on.  So as to not hurt their feelings, though, make sure to send them a birthday card next year.  Don’t worry about whether you send it on their birthday or not, it’s the thought that counts.


The French band Phoenix has been quite the rage in music blog circles lately as they released their fifth album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix in May.  This album has been a break-out for Phoenix and landing them on such plum late night gigs as Saturday Night Live and The Late Show with David Letterman.  The band began their careers playing Hank Williams and Prince covers on the French club circuit and cite ’80s American pop music as a primary influence.  Recently, they were the subject of tribute videos on YouTube.  Their music is very eclectic, alternating from rock anthems to synth-pop, sometimes in the same song.  And to round out their art-rock credentials, lead singer Thomas Mars currently hooks up with film-maker, producer, and actress Sofia Coppola.  Basically, Phoenix is on the verge of blowing up in a Death Cab or Modest Mouse sort of way.

The best situations in which to utilize Phoenix is anything having to do with fashion.  For example, if you’re at work and someone compliments you on a particular article of clothing, reply that you saw the lead singer of Phoenix wearing exactly the same thing on Letterman the other night and that you just had to have it.  Then identify the article as a genuine “Insert French-designer-sounding-name here.”

Unless the person you are talking to is as cool as you are (not likely), they’ll ask you who Phoenix is.  This is a great opportunity to use what we in the biz call “targeted embarrassment.”  This technique is guaranteed to win others over by making them realize that you’re “in the know” and that they ignore you at their social peril.  Targeted embarrassment would go something like this:

The Uncool: Phoenix?  I’ve never heard of that band, who are they?

The Cool (you): You’ve never heard of Phoenix?  What, do you live under a rock?  Everyone who’s anyone’s heard of Phoenix!

The Uncool: No sorry, I haven’t heard of them.  Is their music good?

The Cool (still you): Good?  It’s great!  I can’t believe you haven’t heard of them.  Do you have like mental problems or something?

The Uncool: You don’t have to be rude about it.

The Cool: What’s rude is you not acknowledging the coolest band in the world!  You must be like the only person who doesn’t know who Phoenix is.

(The sound you hear is the Uncool person slapping your face)

The Uncool: [Serious expletive]!  Go [another expletive] yourself!

On first glance, targeted embarrassment seems to be an utter failure.  But that’s only because you’re not cool enough yet to realize that you have now established yourself as the Premier of Cool in the social circles you habitate.  Trust me on this one, after a couple of days, the Uncool will be back begging for more.  They won’t say it, but you’ll be able to read it by the look in their eyes.  My brother calls that look “utter disgust” but you and I know better, don’t we?  Hello?  Are you there?

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