Explaining corecore, TikTok’s newest aesthetic

Endless doom-scrolling on TikTok at 2am has become a common experience for many people these days, and if you’re one of those people (myself included), you’ve probably seen a video like this before:

“Okay,” you say to yourself. “That’s kind of sad, but also certain.” You keep scrolling and then you find another one. And one more. And one more. All of these TikToks share the same qualities: amateurishly edited found media clips, an incredibly fast editing style, and depressing, melancholic music. They all share the same hashtag: #corecore.

Before you start assuming I’m just making words up, the hashtag #corecore and its cousin #nichetok have a combined 600 million views on the social media platform at the time of writing. At first glance, #corecore videos appear to be a nonsensical collage of videos that connect to a shared message. But it’s the idea of ​​corecore and what it can (or could) represent that has given birth to what some consider to be the true art form since Gen-Z.

What is corecore?

Corecore is an aesthetic trend on TikTok that derives its name from the ironic use of the suffix -core. In the modern internet age, the -core suffix is ​​used to describe shared ideas about culture, genres, or aesthetics, and lumps them all into one category—think cottagecore or goblincore (which in turn come from the hardcore music genre, and the tendency of new hardcore-related subgenres to use -core as a suffix, as in “emo-core”). So through its name, corecore sounds like the antithesis of the genre itself; its content can be anything, and its creators can use any type of medium to convey the central premise. The corecore page on Know Your Meme states that the trend “plays on the -core suffix by creating a ‘core’ out of the collective consciousness of all ‘cores’.”


Dear Spotify Wrapped, what the hell is Goblincore?

Kieran Press-Reynolds, a digital culture blogger who first wrote about corecore back in November 2022, is a trendsetter who writes extensively about niche internet micro-genres. He told Mashable that corecore is basically an anti-trend that can be loosely defined as similar and disparate visual and audio clips meant to evoke some form of emotion.

“They’re like meme-poems, full of short film clips, music and sound bites that are often a bit nostalgic, nihilistic or poignant,” Press-Reynolds told me via email. “When I wrote about the genre in late November, most of the popular clips I saw were really frenetic—they were these quick 15-second montages of surreal memes (like cute cats, alpha wolf edits) with intense music (Drain Gang and other internet rap ) that didn’t have much discernible meaning other than a pleasant burst of recognizable audiovisual material.”

While the style of short meme montages has been around since the early days of Youtube (think Youtube Poop), according to Know Your Meme, the corecore hashtag itself was first seen on Tumblr in 2020. However, corecore existed on Tumblr, and especially Twitter, solely as a toy on a literal definition of a kernel that arose out of user frustration at being oversaturated with the concept of “-kernels”.

Corecore, by the way, is not the same as nichetok, although for many users on TikTok, the terms are seemingly interchangeable. For the sake of clarity, Know Your Meme says that nichetok is an aesthetic movement made up mostly of shit that references multiple fandoms, subcultures, and genres, requiring one to have niche understanding TikTok trends.

New life on TikTok

As Chase DiBenedetto wrote for Mashable , “TikTok has pushed many Gen Z users toward romanticizing the Millennium (and Tumblr) aesthetic, from fashion to tech.” Like YouTube Poop before it, corecore is essentially a new take on an old premise. While #corecore existed on Twitter and Tumblr as a fun jab at the saturated naming convention, the aesthetic itself took on new life after being launched on TikTok.


TikTok brings new life to the old internet

Some of the first basic videos to hit TikTok were posted around January 2021, according to Press-Reynolds and Know Your Meme. These first linked found media TikToks to promote a particular message, either with an anti-capitalist or environmental bent. When done right, a creator can piece together a clip from a 30-year-old movie, an interview with an unrelated actor, and random b-roll from a house tour to create a compelling impression that suggests meaning but may be nothing more than a feeling.

“I think these videos have a kind of therapeutic quality for some people,” Press-Reynold said. “The chaotic and disorganized structure of these clips […] skillfully capturing the feelings of technological clutter and boredom that I think many young people have these days. It’s like balm for TikTok-damaged brains.”

However, the kernel modifications do not exist in the binary. Some can be incomprehensible meme dumps that are upbeat, bordering on dada-style collage, and other edits are just cat clips and Fortnite mixed together (also referred to as #pinkcore). The most common meanings of corecore edits included British football clips, Family guy, Blade Runner 2049, any clip with screaming Jake Gyllenhaal and melancholic music (usually a soft piano score or Aphex Twin).

This is what makes corecore so interesting: feelings that could not be expressed in words are instead presented through images. Whether that emotion is happiness, fear of the future, or the excitement of falling in love, corecore’s multimedia edits speak to our shared experience. It’s what one YouTube creator describes as “a beautiful art form that fits our generation so perfectly.”

Corecore represents the complete opposite of what we think of as memes. With the help of memes, a part of a movie or TV becomes separated from the source material and takes on a life of its own until you don’t even know what the original context was. In the corecore post, the individual snippets don’t make sense, but when connected, the video gives them a shared context and therefore some power. Corecore edits taken as a whole then create a stronger affinity among fans of the genre, something not Breaking Bad memes on Twitter can offer.

Press-Reynolds says she believes corecore is a true art movement, though not in the traditional sense. “The videos are simple, but they have a lot of emotional expression – or if not, it still expresses something, an absurd reality of steadfastness.”


Is the TikTok trend dead?

Wasted potential or natural development?

Hashtags for corecore and nichetok have approximately 600 million views, making them an increasingly popular trend on TikTok. But ironically, the promise of what corecore can be, both as an art form and an anti-trend, is arguably destroyed by its trendiness.

As fans and critics of corecore point out, one of the problems with any trend that becomes popular on TikTok and social media in general is that eventually the rat race to recreate content that is already trending ends up diluting the original purpose. nuclear core.

I don’t see how a culture can continue to fracture and grow more and more decentralized without reaching some kind of impasse – people can’t create cores and cores and cores forever.

– Kieran Press-Reynolds

Matt Lorence points this out in his TikTok about corecore abuse. In his video, he says that “people are taking these movements with strong political ideologies, taking them completely away from that and turning them into mindless and meaningless aesthetic trends.” He concluded that, although he does not know the reason, he believes that users do not want to engage intellectually with the art they consume.

In his video on corecore and Gen-Z’s obsession with self-pity, the YouTuber known as angle says that TikTok has become a dumping ground for “overly self-pitying forms of content” and expresses his disappointment in where the corecore trend is headed. .

“Gen-Z as a whole is constantly taking things from older ideas and modernizing them in a way that’s socially acceptable, only to get away with it and deal with the next thing in a few months,” he says in his video. “I’m more or less interested [corecore] it’s that something so unique and different, exclusive to the internet kids of our time, is wasted because of the same generation’s habit of running things into the ground for internet points.”

He goes on to state that when he comes across corecore videos now, they’re lazy attempts to describe the feeling (using the same clips and music) that usually boil down to “she left and took the kids.”

“It can start to feel like you’re just scrolling listlessly, your mind flooded with hashtags, drowning in a digital haze of media that never really affects you deeply, but kind of sweeps over you like a slack tide,” Press-Reynolds said. . “I don’t see how a culture can continue to fracture and grow more and more decentralized without reaching some kind of impasse—people can’t create cores and cores and cores forever.”

Corecore hasn’t exactly hit the mainstream yet, but there’s already a burning question of what will happen when it does: can it avoid being the next in an endless revolving door of fads and aesthetics that floats pointlessly and rather depressingly? , basic video?


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