Reacting to "Reaction" Videos

Okay, I finally kinda get it.

A few years ago, I’d sometimes give my teen-aged son some grief for spending so much time watching online videos of strangers playing video games.

“Huh?” you might be thinking.

Believe me, the pastime confused me too. My son wasn’t watching these videos to pick up tips for honing his own video-game skills (like learning where to find treasure or how to get into a secret room). It was just a leisure activity that he enjoyed. Something about peering over someone’s shoulder at their screen, while he or she worked a controller, appealed to him.

“I don’t get it,” I confessed to him one day. “How is that entertaining?”

His response gave me pause. “How is it any different than you watching someone play a sport on television?”

Some immediate distinctions bounced around in my head, but I didn’t voice them because they felt surprisingly insignificant. I couldn’t say, “They’re competing in an activity,” because gamers are doing that too. I couldn’t say, “They’re not athletes,” because a number of people who play professional sports aren’t really athletes either (golfers, bowlers, race-car drivers, etc.)

I ended up just nodding my head and saying, “Well played.”

I still don’t understand the appeal (in part because I don’t like video games), but it no longer feels weird to me. I’ve recently gone through a similar evolution of sorts, in regard to another online genre: “reaction” videos.

If you’re not familiar with the term, reaction videos are basically videos that people take and post of themselves “reacting” to an entertainment product they’re watching or hearing (often for the first time). These videos exist for all kinds of things, including movie trailers, sports plays, television scenes, comedians doing stand-up, awards shows, etc. The reactive emotions range from laughing, to sobbing, to shouting in joy (or fear).

For years, whenever such videos would be suggested to me by YouTube’s algorithms, I’d ask myself, “Why on earth would I care what these people (who I don’t know) think, and why on earth would I want to see what they think?”

But… I’ve changed my mind a bit on this, specifically in one area: music appreciation.

Last year, a video of two kids sampling Phil Collins’ classic, “In the Air Tonight”, went viral… and it was easy to understand why. Beyond it being an iconic and uniquely cool tune, lots of people my age grew up listening to it in regular radio rotation. We know the lyrics, drumbeats, and guitar riffs, and they hold a special, nostalgia-flamed place in our hearts.

Plus, music touches a lot of us on a personal level. It’s part of our identity. So, we want others to like what we like, and it’s inherently satisfying to watch people — particularly from a younger generation, who weren’t part of the (far superior) music era we grew up in — experience that music for the first time… and be blown away by it.

Now, to be clear, and I don’t hang out on YouTube seeking out such videos. Heck, I don’t spend much time on YouTube at all, unless it’s for citing something in my writing, or maybe when I’m up late, not very tired, and suffering from boredom.

But every now and then, I’ll be dragged back into music-appreciation “reaction” clips. And the other day, I found a new one that I absolutely loved.

As I mentioned in a recent newsletter, I’m a huge fan of the band, Tool. The depth and energy of their music’s been pulling on my soul-strings for almost 30 years now. So, when I saw that there was a “best of” reactions video to their fantastic (and criminally underrated) song, “The Pot,” I couldn’t help but give it click. I sure am glad I did.

The Pot isn’t what I’d call your quintessential Tool song. While most of the band’s music relies heavily on tight instrumentals, this one begins with a swirling solo by front-man James Maynard Keenan, and feeds off his unique, soulful vocals for the next six minutes.

“Tool Fans Being Born” reads the YouTube description, and it was a hoot watching newbies marvel at the song’s mechanics.

The top comments under the video pretty much summed up my sentiments:

“Those guys are so lucky to get to hear Tool for the first time.”

“The unfettered stank face of people listening to Tool for the first time never fails to make me smile.”

“Everyone is a Tool fan, some people just don't know it.... yet.”

Of course, that last comment isn’t true (since a lot of people have bad taste 😉), but I’m pretty sure that every time Tool’s music finds new ears, an angel gets his wings. And if that’s not the case, at least the reactions are still pretty great.


Which of your favorite music do you think would be loved by the younger masses, if only they had an opportunity to hear it? I’d love to read your answer in an email or the comment section below.

The Hullabaloo

Last week, I met with the Riverside Readers at the Riverside Library and Cultural Center in Evans, Colorado. They had read my first book, From a Dead Sleep, and invited me on over to discuss it (along with other things about writing). I had a great time.

Also, last week, I began seeing evidence that the ARCs of “Restitution” I’ve been sending out (for early reviews and blurbs) are making their mark.

A Fountain of Industrial Youth

Music recommendation! A great new song — as the kids say — “dropped” last week. It’s called “I Am Nothing,” and it’s by one of my all-time favorite bands, Stabbing Westward.

For those unfamiliar with Stabbing Westward, they had some big industrial-rock hits in the mid 90s, including “What Do I Have to Do?”, “Shame”, and “Save Yourself.”

They broke up in 2002, but to the surprise of everyone (or at least me), they reunited in 2017 and began working on new material. In early 2020, they released their first studio recordings in 18 years with a 5-track EP titled “Dead on Gone.”

I interviewed lead singer Christopher Hall at the time, and he promised the release of two more EPs by the end of the year. The pandemic set things back a bit, but “I Am Nothing” is EP number three (and there might even be a fourth on the way). Each have been accompanied by some great cover art by David Seidman, and all are great and very much worth your time (if you’re into that type of music).

Random Thought

Obligatory Dog Shot


Obligatory Dragon Shot

Orange you glad it’s November?

Obligatory Colorado Fall Shot

Foggy morning from the backyard.

Less foggy afternoon.

Featured Vinyl

Speaking of cool album art, check out this beauty. It’s the Death Wish II soundtrack from 1982.

Confession: I’ve never seen this movie, and I haven’t even gotten around to listening to the album by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page (for more than a minute or two anyway). But when I came upon it at a used record store a while back, I thought the vintage cover art was great — so great that I picked it up.

I have no idea who the artist is, but my hat’s off.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.

Want to drop me a line? You can email me at, and also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you haven’t subscribed to this newsletter yet, please click on the “Subscribe now” button below. Doing so will get these posts emailed directly to you.

Also, if you’re not caught up on my Sean Coleman Thrillers, you can pick the entire series up at a great price on Amazon. And if you’re interested in signed, personalized copies of my books, you can order them directly from my website.

Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!