A 24-year-old is pinballing round a very empty and plain white room, holding an unplugged microphone and wearing a white towel on his head, his version of long blonde hair. This is Watson D. Hirschfield and he’s imitating every move, crouch, screech and finger-point of Ellie Goulding’s now-infamous, mile-a-minute performance of On My Mind at Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball in 2016.
The short video is lo-fi, high-camp brilliance and it’s had 1.3 million views on TikTok, helping make the Londoner one of the platform’s freshest new stars.
Before he became a super-charged social-media phenom, Hirschfield’s trajectory into the creative industry was pretty straightforward. He graduated from Newcastle University in 2019 with a degree in journalism, before taking on a content creation job in South London. After a couple of years of trying to suss out Instagram’s algorithm, last week he accepted a more hands-on graphic design job.
Oh, and on the side, the 24-year-old boasts over half a million followers on TikTok – a number which is going up in droves, as we speak.
The appeal of Hirschfield’s videos lies in their simplicity. He takes quickfire shots of himself satirising popular, old school music videos, tapping into their cheesiness to bring out a whole new level of entertainment. Whether he’s taking the piss out of Enrique Iglesias’ dulcet tones or recreating those 2010 dance moves from Justin Bieber’s Somebody To Love Remix featuring Usher, no one is off-limits from Hirschfield’s larger-than life-imitations.
Like many other TikTok creators, Hirschfield pretty much tripped and fell into virality on the platform.
“I’ve been making these videos on and off for a year,” he says from his home in Westminster, central London. “I’m a person that likes to go out and do things – I never thought I’d download TikTok, ever. But then, oops! Hello! I did. I didn’t want to go viral, I just wanted to make videos for the sake of it, then the Ellie Goulding one blew up. Since then, I’ve been posting every single day.”
After imitating Goulding’s performance in private to one of his good friends, they encouraged Hirschfield to make a video out of it for the world to enjoy. He didn’t hold back, and the rest is virality.
“The more stupid something is, the more I’m going to like it,” he continues. “The Ellie Goulding TikTok just galvanised the whole thing – it’s such a silly video in itself. Timesing that by 10 just raises the bar a little.”
Realistically, too, many of these songs and dance moves are ones we’ve probably mimicked at one point or another throughout our teenage (or adult) years, hairbrush mic in hand. That freedom in embracing the ridiculousness of the music videos we grew up with is still powerful, but Hirschfield is one of the first to admit they don’t make them like they used to anymore.
“I think what makes a great music video is when there’s a lot of stuff going on at the same time. Someone knee-sliding outside in the rain, people cheating on each other, all that stuff. That’s what I miss. Nowadays, you’ve just got someone sitting on a stool.”
What also makes Hirschfield’s videos so hilarious is their lo-fi production values. Before going to sleep, he picks a video on YouTube and lets it simmer in his mind overnight. Then, before work, he’ll spend 30 minutes putting his singing and competitive dance skills to use, and schedule the video to be uploaded.
“It’s a very weird way of doing things,” he acknowledges with a laugh. “I’m living the Hannah Montana life!”
For now, Hirschfield just plans to continue having fun on TikTok – and the fact that his videos bring people joy and escapism is simply an added bonus. “I don’t get any bad comments, like, ever. People telling me they watch my content and it makes them happy? That’s everything. I’m literally just here for the ride.