Tim Williams contorted his face to figure out where Phil Collins was going with his mega-popular debut single, “In the Air Tonight.”
“This is like a WWE ring entrance or something,” Williams said, patting his chest for approval of the song’s moody intro.
“It looks like he’s staring in my soul,” added his twin brother, Fred Williams, while staring at Collins’ haunting face on the album cover. “I can’t look at him, man.”
Inside the makeshift studio in the bedroom of their home in the Aetna section of Gary, the 22-year-old twins were recording another music review for their YouTube channel, TwinsthenewTrend. They take song requests from their 400,000-plus subscribers, then listen to it for the first time while recording their often dramatic reactions.
“He says he’s been waiting for this moment all of his life,” Fred told viewers in this video.
At TwinsthenewTrend, it’s all about the twins’ reactions to popular songs that most viewers have likely heard dozens of times, probably more. Through the twins’ ears, eyes and enthusiasm, we get to hear those songs for what feels like the first time.
With “In the Air Tonight,” longtime fans anticipate the song’s climax each time it plays — a pounding drum solo that I’ve been emulating in the air since 1981. Seconds after the staccato drumbeat kicks in, the twins’ eyes lit up in unison. They stared at each other in disbelief. They started dancing in their seats. Fred pounds his chest in excitement.
“That was cold how he did that,” Tim told viewers. “Phil, you got me on that.”
Fred agreed: “I ain’t never seen nobody drop a beat three minutes in a song. He killed it!”
Tim kept singing the song after it ended even though he had never heard it before. Their video review had 5 million hits by Wednesday, when I spoke with Tim from his home.
“Yeah, I still can’t believe Phil dropped that beat so late in his song,” he told me with a laugh.
At 22, the twins dropped their beat on the world earlier than Tim expected.
“I knew if I stayed committed, it would come. I just never figured it would come so fast,” he said. “It’s amazing that this all blew up with so many people watching us now. I think it’s because how young we are and we love and appreciate the older music, giving it a chain reaction.”
One year ago this week, Tim got down to business about becoming a YouTube star.
“I always wanted to be a YouTuber, so I finally took it serious after I dropped out of college,” he said.
After graduating from high school at Roosevelt College and Career Academy in Gary, both twins attended Indiana State University in Terre Haute. Tim lasted six months.
“It wasn’t for me,” he said. “I always told my mom I want to be my own boss, and now I am. Now it’s time to get out of the ‘hood.”
The twins and their mother are moving to Indianapolis later this month. Tim put in his two-week notice at his job at Edgewater Health Systems in Gary, where his mother works.
“With everything going on these days — the pandemic, the protests, the anger — my boys’ YouTube channel is a good way to connect people again,” said Tiffany King, the twins’ mother. “As Tim always says, there’s no color lines in music.”
King, who has an easy laugh and stern house rules, is overwhelmed by her sons’ viral fame. “They kept their grades up. They stayed out of trouble. Tim wanted to follow his heart and pursue his dream. He keeps telling me now, ‘You see, mama, I told you.’ My insides are doing flips. It’s a blessing.”
Earlier this week, the twins signed a contract for an entertainment agent and manager.
“So we don’t get no bad deals or nothing,” Tim explained.
Like most people his age, he’s been watching YouTube since childhood. It’s become integral not only to his daily entertainment, but his life. He’s viewed thousands of videos, learning on his own to create music review videos to share with the world. After leaving ISU, Tim began posting several video reviews a day for months.
“And it worked,” he said.
With this niche in mind, he began accepting requests from subscribers for fresh songs, new music, and a billboard of classics. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen (he initially called lead singer “Freddie Mercy”), “Dream On” by Aerosmith (his first rock song), and “Jolene” by Dolly Parton (a female fan favorite with more than 10,000 comments).
“I love the storytelling behind it,” Tim told viewers in the video.
When the twins first listened to “Hey Ya” by OutKast, they couldn’t keep still.
“You got to get up and do something to this song,” Fred told viewers.
Tim told me his favorite new song is “Creep” by Radiohead, though he called it “Radiohead” by Creep, which I loved. “It’s a song about… just do you,” he said. “We’ll always react to the songs the fans want.”
The twins began by accepting requests from subscribers for fresh songs, new music and a billboard of classics. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen (he initially called lead singer “Freddie Mercy”), “Dream On” by Aerosmith (his first rock song), and “Jolene” by Dolly Parton (a female fan favorite with more than 10,000 comments).
As the twins say in their videos, “Here’s another banger, another reaction.” The viewers’ reactions to the twins’ reactions has caused a chain reaction of musical connectedness.
“Growing up, we only listened to gospel and rap. Everything else was new to me. So I began listening to it,” Tim said.
His advice for other hopeful YouTubers: don’t do what everybody else is doing.
“We did something different although even some of our own friends laughed at us because we were into all this older music,” he said. “But it worked out. So just be yourself about whatever dream you have. It can come true.”
“Tim found his passion in life at a young age, thanks to God,” his mother said.
He’s been waiting for this moment for all of his life. Oh Lord.
(Article written by Jerry Davich)