A few days ago, not many people would believed that Cardi B, famous for her “raw and aggressive rhymes,” would be into the soothing art of ASMR. But a recent ASMR video released by Cardi B with W magazine suggests that the she may have the makings of a second career on her hands, says ASMR expert Craig Richard, Ph.D.
ASMR, short for autonomous sensory meridian response, is a tingling sensation triggered by soft, gentle experiences as varied as spa treatments, haircuts, or quiet sounds like whispering. It’s not fully understood by scientists, but ASMR aficionados maintain that the sensation as a soothing feeling of bliss. A YouTube culture has sprung up around this sensation, with some “ASMRtists” garnering a large following around videos intended to evoke this sensation in their viewers. Now, Cardi B, who, says ASMR helps her fall asleep, is taking her own stab at the mysterious art.
Richard, a Shenandoah University professor of biopharmaceutical sciences who wrote about the biology of ASMR in his book Brain Tingles, tells Inverse that Cardi’s first attempt is nearly perfect.
“It’s very well done,” Richard says. “She really does understand ASMR, genuinely likes it, and has watched a lot of ASMR videos because she’s doing a very good job of creating ASMR triggers the way the top ASMR artists do. It really stands out to me when she does her trigger words.”
Throughout the video, Cardi B returns to a few phrases (“Bodak yellow”) and words (“sensations”), repeating them and speaking them slowly into the microphone. Richard also gives Cardi B full marks for other aspects of the video, such as the moment when she gracefully sweeps her nails across the microphone and touches a shag rug.
There’s just one part where Cardi B’s ASMR attempt faltered.
“When she was playing with the childs toy, she allowed the pieces to clunk. That’s a loud noise and it’s a sharp noise, and that’s not ASMR,” he says. “That was really the only thing that struck me, and she even at one point made a face when it clunked, so she was aware of it.”
This unintentional blunder robbed Cardi B of what would otherwise have been a 10/10 score from Richard. But it’s a small mishap in what otherwise was an interesting experiment in ASMR-related intimacy, because what’s really soothing about Cardi B’s video is that it feels like she’s speaking directly to the viewer.
She walks us through the intimate details of her insecurities about following up her hit record, “Bodak Yellow,” to her experience shooting a music video while six months pregnant in sweltering Miami heat with the intimacy of a hushed late-night conversation between close friends.
“I think when you see the Cardi B video, it’s someone who is sharing what they’re doing in their professional life,” Richard says. “But because she’s doing it through ASMR video, what you’re feeling in that moment is someone sharing something with you as an individual.”
Richard’s research suggests that this need for intimacy is hardwired in humans, and his 2018 paper published in Bioimpacts showed that the same areas of the brain are activated during socializing. However there isn’t much research on neurobiology and ASMR, so this work is really in its infancy.
“We put out a research study looking at the brain areas that are activated during ASMR and sure enough those are also the brain areas that are activated when people are receiving personal attention. When people are thinking about people they care about and people who care about them,” Richard says. “It just seems like something animals are hardwired for.”
The fact that fans love Cardi B’s ASMR-style video, with its confessional and intimate tone, is no accident. Whether it’s deliberate or not, what she’s really doing is tapping into our biological desire for attention and intimacy, suggesting she has no issues with invasions of privacy.