When I was in Kindergarten, my teacher, Mrs. Washington, would read aloud to the class. This is fairly common as far as Kindergarten classes go, but seated behind me was a friend—whose name I don’t remember—who would busy themselves by drawing shapes with their finger across my back. The dulcet sounds of my portly teacher’s voice, combined with the light touch upon my back, triggered my first experience with the well-documented phenomena known as ASMR. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response is a term used to describe a tingling sensation in the brain and spine in reaction to certain auditory or visual stimuli. While some folks doubt that ASMR actually exists, due to the subjective nature of the experience and the fact that it isn’t widely felt, prominent members of the neurological and psychological fields have admitted that it “might well be a real thing”. The fact is that ASMR boasts a large library of experiential testimony and some degree of scientific data; in an article for the journal of Social Neuroscience, Stephen D. Smith compared the fMIR scans of a group who said they experienced ASMR and a control group without it, and discovered considerable differences between their brain patterns.
Scientific fact aside, ASMR is now a cultural reality which is being contended with by a skeptical societal establishment. Videos are watched by the hundreds of thousands on Youtube because their title contains those four little letters. ASMR is often triggered by personal attention and repetitive motion, so these videos, I’ll admit, can be strange: mouth noises, virtual barber shops, and first date roleplays are just some of the odd subject matter you might encounter. However strange this new media might be, the experience of ASMR is not relegated to perverts and outcasts, a small number of famous people experience it as well. Moreover, due to its growing popularity, a fair number of celebrities are now “performing” ASMR at the behest of popular media producers.
W Magazine is hopping on the ASMR bandwagon, and I couldn’t be happier to see it. This style and fashion mag published by Condé Nast, has a strong online media presence and recruits its roster of (mostly) female interviewees to try some gentle noise-making. Some of my favorites include videos by Jake Gillenhal, Aubrey Plaza, Olivia Munn, and Amanda Stenberg. The whole affair is pretty simple, celebrities tell stories about their careers and handle objects which have something to do with those experiences. The W Magazine youtube channel has a great variety of tingle-triggering content, and I recommend you go find your own favorite celebrity whispers. Until then, enjoy the sweet sounds of soft famous voices in the compilation video below.
Fuse Magazine is a Canadian non-profit arts and culture journal focused on alternative art. Fuse’s attention is mostly geared toward the rap and hip-hop music scene, which is why it appeared as such a god-send of diversity for the ASMR audience. Very much like W, Fuse brings in rappers and singers from interviews they’ve done throughout the day, and invites them to explore ASMR in their Youtube playlist, Mind Massage. Combining traditional ASMR practices with a Super Deluxe level of meta-awareness and editing style, Mind Massage brings the largely foreign concept of ASMR to a global audience. My personal favorite Fuse ASMRtist is the rapper Quincy and his teddy bear puppet, Snugs.
Honorable Mention: Janet Jackson
Ms. Jackson is known for her silky smooth tones in the recording studio, but can that kind of musical control be applied to ASMR? Turns out it can. Janet recently released a video with 102.7 KISS displaying these honed talents. Check her out in the video below.