The hype train: it’s the entertainment industry’s best and worst tool in helping generate buzz for a new product. Whether it’s films, music, television, novels, games, etc. – we’ve all enjoyed a ride on it at one point or another. The excitement. The anticipation. The buildup. The moment where high hopes and resolute thoughts of what we think we should be experiencing as opposed to what the artists truly want us to experience becomes as incidental as the weather.
But the hype always starts small, the train only carries a handful of passengers here and there, dropping off a few and adding others to its ranks as it gains speed, totally unnoticeable to the people on board. It moves at a steady clip at first, abiding by any known rules and regulations of the rails, but as its hollow insides are filled up with more and more passengers, the stations begin to fly by with barely a moment in between to notice. Eventually, as the train settles into its groove, it takes on less passengers, stops going so damn fast until the worst part of the trip rears its ugly head: the waiting.
It’s here where the word hype truly comes in and takes hold, slowly distorting and changing our outlook towards whatever it is that got us onto this speeding bullet of a train to begin with, for better or worse. It gives us dangerous amounts of time to think about what we’re heading towards, to build up the excitement and expectation to unhealthy levels in our mind and keep it there for as long as possible. Months and sometimes years go by sitting on that train, mulling over what we expect and want to experience, and then suddenly, before we know what’s even happening, we’re on the home stretch, the final destination is only a few stops away. More excitement trickles in, more people get on board and soon the speed is starting to get unwieldy again. The feeling, if it hasn’t already consumed the train you sit on soon spreads, saturating everything and everyone around it in a giddy, nervous glow. Two stops left to go and a little more anticipation is added to the mix, a slight dash of tension, a few more theories as to what we’ll be getting once we arrive; what we’ve been patiently waiting for all this time. The ride takes on a mind of its own, a pressure mounting to levels that could spell pure perfection or terrible disappointment once we get to our destination, that feeling of hype that is both amazing and dreadful at the same time washing over everyone in turn.
And then its here, the last moment before you can bear witness to whatever it is this hype train has been hurtling towards is literally right around the corner. One last stretch of waiting and things have finally hit that fever pitch, that moment where you couldn’t turn back from the hype even if you wanted to. All rational thoughts go out the window and every small glimpse and snippet of this new, exciting, whatever it is has you thinking about it all day and all night until it’s the only thing on your mind. Then the questions start popping in as the hype train’s engine hits critical mass. Can what we’re waiting for be as good as we hoped? Better than that? Impossible! How could it beat what came before? How can it capture lighting in a bottle twice, let alone a third time? There’s no way it’ll be good, no way this ride has been worth it, but then again…
The hype continues this way until the very nanosecond before the glory of whatever movie, book, album, video game – art – we’ve been waiting this entire time for is finally revealed. The train coasts into the station. Its doors hiss open. People spill out from every available exit and tumble onto the platform – the train has made it safely to our destination, and it’s everything we ever hoped it’d be! It’s all come true and there is literally nothing better than what we’re experiencing right now, right at this very moment…or maybe that’s not what happens. Maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe the hype didn’t pay off at all and that train you were so comfortable on as it barreled faster and faster down the tracks bypasses its station. Doesn’t even try to slow down as it smashes head first into the dead end of the tracks. The hype train has derailed and all that excitement and anticipation dissipates into something not even you could recognize.
And then, after all of that waiting and debating, it’s over, the moment you’ve been pining for this entire time has come and passed with varying results. You’ve consumed and experienced what you’ve been looking forward to this entire time. Watched it. Listened to it. Observed it. Put it on repeat. Dissected it until you’ve either loved it and every part of it or can’t stand the idea of it at all. You’ve thought of it, basically, inside and out as much as possible for as long as possible and now its over. At this point you fold that experience into yourself and chalk it up as a win, or you get frustrated and swear that it was a fluke and that next time it’ll be better, because there always is a next time, there’s always another ride. Whether it be another sequel, a new single or concert, a final chapter, a new collection, or a return to something you’ve always wanted back, there’s always going to be that pull that’ll bring you to the doors of that train again. And it’s there, at that very moment where the hype train begins to fire up its engines, where you resign yourself to sitting on yet another trip, waiting for yet another experience that might thrill or disappoint. We know better, of course we do, but the feelings of excitement and anticipation are just too good to pass up. For many of us this is a constant occurrence in our daily consumption of entertainment, a necessary event that most of us can’t stop, let alone refrain from partaking in. Or maybe you just don’t buy into the hype at all. Maybe you’re one of the good ones that can stay away from the temptation of taking that one-way journey down the tracks and into a world where the hype is real. Either way, the train is pulling out of the station right on time as usual, the only question is, are you on it?