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Dhinchak Pooja’s eventual fall from the stratosphere of the inexplicably internet famous into the mass grave of fleeting pop culture phenomena is a case study in what happens when self-promotion has no limits. Poulomi Das goes over the cringe pop singer’s brief oeuvre to pinpoint the reasons her 15 minutes ended almost as soon as they began

“Given a choice between suicide and listening (to) her, I would prefer suicide” reads the top review of Selfie Maine Le Li Aaj on Amazon Music, where the two-yearold song is available for $0.99. Thirteen people found this unnecessarily severe equivalence “helpful”; a few chimed in with additional insults — one person called it “cancer”, and the other claimed that it made his “ears bleed”. The song in question is by Pooja Jain, an Indian cringe-pop sensation whose alter ego on the internet is “Dhinchak Pooja” — her unchecked popularity counts as one of the pressing mysteries of the decade. After all, in the four years since she burst into the public consciousness, one thing has been clear: you don’t listen to a Dhinchak Pooja song; you are subjected to it. Selfie Maine Le Li Aaj boasts of the usual Dhinchak-isms: lyrics willed out of repetitive non-sequiturs and an out-of-tune nasal screech, and the accompanying music video’s parody-style production quality is characterised by mismatched lip-syncing, exaggerated hand gestures, a touch of gaudiness and an unabashed mockery of logic.

The degree of hyperbole in those unfavourable reactions might be an accurate indicator of the song’s ascendancy. While Selfie Maine Le Li Aaj can best be described as a daylight robbery of mental sanity, headache-inducing in a way that resembles the merciless clatter of construction, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who isn’t acquainted with Dhinchak Pooja. Much in the same way that it’s unlikely to chance upon someone who’d miss an opportunity to tell the world why they are personally offended by the song’s very existence. As it stands, these unanimously condescending slants on the quality and value of songs such as Selfie Maine Le Li Aaj are also the prime reason behind their inescapable virality. The tenets of cringe-pop, after all, thrive on this brand of reluctant-yet-obsessive participation through which a song that has no business existing, ends up acquiring cultural currency solely because of the endless chatter around its abject awfulness.

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December 2019 - January 2020