Tribute To The Little Guys: 4 Great YouTube Editorial Channels with Under 100,000 Subs
The vast majority of YouTube channels are for entertainment or to kill time when you’re bored. There is, however, the occasional YouTube gem channel, which can actually teach you a thing or two.
To be a critic of any kind is an increasingly harder with time. It feels like everyday there are 10 new sites pop up with a bunch of click-bait writers clogging the system. Even more diﬃcult is carving out any kind of unique identity of your own. So instead of trying to prove that I’m smarter than the average bear, I wanted to take some time to shout out to some of the unknown YouTube critics that do a great job and create interesting content. These are some critics who not only deserve more attention, but also have earned more attention for their work lately.
Youtube has become a site with its own class system. There are the heavy hitters, the middle of the row pack and, even as hard as it may be to believe, an ‘Indi' section.
Whether we like it or not this is the state of the internet now, and today we’re throwing some love to those who could be called the D-list of Youtube. Channels that feature what I’d like to call charm. This breaks down the editing mistakes, student film quality audio, soft focus on the camera, bare bones shoestring green screens, and filler top of lists (like this one). In other words, as low budget DIY as you can possibly get.
Something else you’ll also get with these channels is an honest critical commentary on subjects that these creators are passionate about. They are the kind of people I can imagine finding in an empty cafe or a dark pub having a three or four hour conversations about what they love. They are the types who do not care about outside interests; a noble trait to maintain considering the current state of Youtube and monetization.
I write this as a tribute to the underdogs who are fighting the good fight. These are channels that I not only think you should be watching but also deserve much more support than what they are currently getting.
Let's get to it.
Todd in the Shadows
Main Content: Music (and movies sometimes)
Todd in the Shadows is most likely the longest serving YouTuber on this list. His shtick is just what his handle suggests: he has managed to never show his face on camera by always doing reviews in the dark. Todd covers a wide range of music, from country to rap to the top 100 songs to forgotten one-hit wonders. What he's gained from his years of experience is a great grasp for the format. Todd is able to be very straight forward in his reviews while also being able to inject a good amount of humour into his videos.
The main segment on the channel is the straight forward "Pop Song Review" where Todd reviews a hit on the billboard charts. A strange comparison I can make is to the classic Much Music character ‘Ed The Sock’. Canadians who grew up watching Much Music in the ‘90s may remember the salty Ed The Sock with a large cigar in mouth tarring apart all the most popular videos of the past year. Todd is nowhere as surly or crude as old Ed, but when it comes to ripping a bad song to pieces, Todd In the Shadows is the heir apparent.
That being said Todd is not a critic who can be described as overtly positive. The vast majority of his reviews are going to be about music, and the occasional film, that he does not enjoy. But, rest assured, he is not biased against pop music. He may not enjoy the bulk of Taylor Swift songs, but if Taylor pumps out a song he likes, he will not pretend to hate it.
One Hit Wonder Land is the other main, recurring segment. Oftentimes this will consist of a career retrospective of an artist whom you’ve not only forgotten about but also who usually has a forgotten history worthy of their own VH1 Behind The Music special.
Check him out if you wanna have a laugh at some pop songs you think deserve a proper shelling.
Renegade Cut (no relation to Renegade Scholars)
Main Content: Film
Leon Thomas oﬀers what I would describe as "essay videos". He presents a thesis and oﬀers thorough justification for his case. As simple an approach as you could get, yet some of the insight he oﬀers on film is really something special. Probably the best thing about this channel is that all essential cinephile picks as well as blockbusters are covered equally. There are no a basis on what is covered. It is new and old and "art house" and mainstream alike.
Another aspect of this channel is that it is not just a bunch empty interpretations. You won’t find any intentionally provocative statements made to simply provoke the comment section. Leon looks at the technical form and themes alike, and to give you an idea about what he covers, he recently made a pie chart to break down he topics covered on Renegade Cut. The breakdown was simple enough, Jesus, Feminism, and Symbolism all with 33% and 1% to other. So you kinda get an idea of what he breaks down in any given analysis.
I’d call these ‘video essays’ because they aren't just reviews, yet the videos are still very accessible. These aren’t editorials that will alienate most people. Any film lover would be doing themselves a favour by checking him out.
If you want to hear a straight shooter review go check out Renegade Cut.
Main Content: Film
Kyle Kallgren, also known as Oancitizen, is not what anyone would call a blue collar reviewer. The main segment on the channel is called Brows Held High, but make no mistake, this isn’t any kind of elitist, high-brow commentary.
Once upon a time, I spent two years doing a major in Film Studies in a Montreal University. With that in experience I can honestly say that if you’re thinking of ever studying film, I highly recommend watching Oancitizen's videos. A film grad himself, he draws on many of the work that is covered in film school (the bookshelf in the background of his videos pretty much contained my entire book list).
Luckily for Kallgren and his ambitions of being an internet critic, he is a lot more interesting than most film teachers. Out of all the people on this list, I’d say Kallgren is the most charismatic and comfortable in front of a camera. He oﬀers a lot more comedy than Renegade Cut and has the quick wit of Todd in the Shadows.
If Renegade Cut delivers "video essays" then Brows Held High could be described as short video lectures. Brows Held High is usually a review of a single film. Something you’ll notice is, unlike Renegade Cut which explores all the themes of a film, Brows Held High is a thesis on a single topic while still being a review of a single film. The BHH reviews are usually presented as a structured story with the highest production value of anyone on this list. Sometimes Kallgren will take on an unpopular topic, such as CGI not being the devil and dish out a very convincing argument that will get you to question your biases.
The other recurring segment on the channel is called Between the Lines. Here Kallgren, not surprisingly, unpacks the meaning behind the meaning, usually covering a series or moments instead of a single film. Topics ranging from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo to the Fallout video game series are covered as Kallgren digs into how the given subject fits in history (in the case of Honey Boo Boo the relation to voyeuristic history is especially interesting to watch).
Content: Pop Music
Do you want to hear about annual music retrospectives? TheDoubleAgent specializes in ‘top of blank’ lists, kinda like this article, on the best and worst of any given year, season, or genre. As the youngest critic on this list, TheDoubleAgent only covers pop music, so he is much more consistent with his content than the other reviewers mentioned here.
This channel has only been active for about a year, but TheDobuleAgent has been growing as a critic on the site for at least three years. He’s still finding his style. There are standard web-video tropes and there are a lot of editing similarities to Todd In the Shadows, but this kid knows his music.
Also like Todd in the Shadows, TheDoubleAgent is able to sneak humour into music critiques seamlessly. He also has quick-wittted and self deprecating humour delivered with a dry Bill Murray-like style. A surprising trait for someone born in ’99.
Often with any kind of YouTube channel, podcast, or even TV show, which have a comedic element to them, there is a forced injection of humour that completely derails from the topic. This tends to be annoying when there is actually something interesting being discussed and a pointless joke comes out of nowhere to ruin the flow and distract the viewers from the original point. This usually results in all the energy being sucked out of the conversation. This happens most often in late night, usually political, talk shows and it was the real cause behind the downfall of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (try watching Bill Nye have a discussion with Ricky Velez and Michelle Buteau seated at the same table to see my point). Even the likes of Philip De Franco and John Oliver are guilty of this from time to time. TheDoubleAgent has a future on Youtube, or wherever he ends up, thanks to his ability to make you laugh without getting totally oﬀ track.
TheDoubleAgent's top ten lists are not as arbitrary as the majority found of similar lists on Youtube, despite his self-description saying he makes "a lot of frivolous Top 10 lists”. Every "best, or worst, of" list seems to be a very well thought-out breakdown of any given subject. He does not rush to judgements on anything. Plus there is a great addition of technical musical knowledge, which he manages to work in without sounding like a music snob.
‘Summer 2016 Billboard Top 20 Ranked: Worst to Best’ & ‘Worst of 2009 Part 1 and Part 2’
Written by Matthew Turnbull