One often overlooked aspect of the current pandemic is the effect that it has had on brands. The poor brands, who long ago settled on a cool-sounding name only to have it coopted by a deadly once-a-century health crisis. Remember Corona, the beer that people used to drink before the association with illness and death became too much to take? Remember Delta, the airline that people used to use before it reminded everyone that new Covid mutations are destined to consign humanity to a quivering wreck for decades to come? These are the real victims.
Until now, the Omicron variant has escaped such a fate. This is because Omicron is such a stupid word that the only people who had ever adopted it as a name are an imposing German electrical diagnostic corporation and a Belgian death metal band, and neither one seems particularly bothered by the association.
However, if you squint hard enough and pretend that you don’t know how to read, the word “Omicron” sort of looks a bit like ‘Omarion’. And that’s bad news for the R&B singer of the same name who was once part of the band B2K. Because, for almost a full month now, Omarion has found himself on the receiving end of Twitter’s firehose. For a whole swathe of people online, Omicron is now “the Omarion variant”. If you catch it by surprise, you tweet a gif of Omarion on The Masked Singer. If you want to show how the virus spreads, you tweet a video of Omarion dancing through the streets after a woman. If you’re forced into self-isolation, you make a TikTok of Omarion dancing on the end of a lateral flow swab like an especially perky bogey.
Through the thick of the outbreak, Omarion himself has apparently remained oblivious to this association. However, he has finally issued an official response. On New Year’s Day, Omarion uploaded three TikTok videos to help clear up any misunderstanding. “Hi, this is Omarion. I am an artist, not a variant” he explained. “So please be aware that, if you just so happen to run into me on the street, you don’t have to isolate for five days”.
“While it’s important not to touch me and keep your distance, cause you know that’s how it’s supposed to be, you don’t need a negative test to dance to my music,” Omarion continued. On another video referencing his old boyband, he added that “The last time I had to do this was in 2000 when everyone confused Y2K with B2K”.
Perhaps this is Omarion’s lot. Perhaps every 20 years, some awful catastrophe will befall humanity, and it’ll sound a bit like something vaguely related to something Omarion has done. Maybe in 2040 we’ll be crushed by an asteroid that will come to be colloquially known as Fat Albert, referencing Omarion’s 2004 movie. Or maybe aliens will arrive from the planet Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami, named after the reality show that Omarion appeared on for a single episode in 2019. Perhaps, even, we will be hit by a second pandemic, and science will inexplicably choose to name each new variant after a different disappointing R&B album, and the most deadly wave will carry the title of Omarion’s 2014 record, Sex Playlist. What a way to go.
Still, you have to imagine that, deep down, Omarion must be quite pleased that his name is now synonymous with an unimaginably virulent strain of Covid. Because now, when you Google the word Omarion, you get swamped by results about his jokey clarification. And that means that all other news about Omarion has suddenly become much harder to find. That time Reuters ran a news story about Omarion asking his fans to pray for him because he happened to be in London – uninjured and inconvenienced – during the 2005 terrorist attacks? Very difficult to find now. Not impossible, but very hard.