Friday, March 18, 2011

Rebecca Black's "Friday" (or: in which I discuss exploiting starry-eyed teens and their parents for fun and profit)

So.  Rebecca Black.

Randy asked me to cover the rise of Rebecca Black, a girl I'd guess is a high school underclassman and who has become famous for a very bad song which is making the rounds.

If you have not seen the video that launched a meme, I'll go ahead and embed it below. I invite you to watch the video in order to inflate Rebecca's hit count and get some context here.

So, I'll be honest... yes, its vapid, pointless pop music, clearly cranked out quickly and cheaply.  It utilizes auto-tune to fix a non-professional's deficiencies, and to make it sound exactly like every other song that's on Top 40 radio. Sure, its hard to say much about the song other than "they really know how to repeat the same words over and over", and itts intended to appeal to an audience I'd guess is between the ages 5-15 (ie: children's music - which i doubt Black herself has grokked), but it is MOSTLY a song that Ms. Black's folks would feel completely comfortable to hear their child sing in front of a crowd (if one can ignore the poor grammar of "we so excited".  Which raises questions for me about the writer's intentions regarding who was supposed to sing this song, but let us not go there.)

The video and song have been mocked by folks online who know better* and believe themselves snarky.  Hey, that sounds sort of like what we do here, but let me be 100% honest with you:

I have absolutely no idea what is funny about this meme. This song sounds exactly in my head like what I hear when anyone from Hilary Duff to Miley Cyrus to Britney Spears to Ke$ha to (insert pop starlet using autotune who is the product of a producer looking to create a brand).  It sounds like bad pop, which is what it is.

Perspective, people.

Sure, its a stripped down version of the overproduced pop that's dominated kid's music since someone tried to make a go of making Tiffany a household name.  I salute Black's parents for not buying that she has to put on a skimpy faux-Catholic school girl Halloween costume ala Ms. Spears to get attention, nor that she should sing about wanting to be "rubbed the right way", as Aguilera insisted en route to making the Top 40.  She seems like a sweet kid, and if riding in a car is a big deal to her, more power.

But...  I am 35 and a dude, and this is not intended for me.  This is exactly what pop music sounds like right now no matter who is performing it and no matter how they're dressed.  The difference is that she's singing about the dumb stuff that I suppose most kids in middle-class and upper-class homes think about at her age. Honestly, isn't this her "Everybody's Working for the Weekend"** but for rich kids for whom Friday represents a chance to get a ride with her friend's mom to the Pizza place where that cute boy from Geometry might be hanging out?  At least she's singing about what she knows. 

The fact that she can't sing (thus: auto-tune) and the lyrics are asinine: I'm sorry, where were all you people when Will Smith decided his daughter needed to be a pop star and everyone talked about how great and catchy that @#$% was? 

In short, its silly, its badly written, it doesn't really work...  but that describes 95% of what gets generated out there that outsells all your favorite bands.  So let us all give poor Rebecca a brake.

And... did we just notice that there are cynical producers exploiting bright-eyed young people and their parents? Heck, I admire Ark for their brazen choice to put their label out front and announce to YouTube Nation exactly who was making mad bank off of this hack job. And who can say that this method hasn't worked for them?
  • Rebecca Black has a top-selling tune on iTunes.  
  • You have smug self-satisfaction and once entertained notions that Crash Test Dummies were a good band when you were trying to define your tastes as "alternative". 
It's the Disney Channel of music.  If we're going to bag on this, let's all tune into Wizards of Waverly Place and bag on that show for not being The Wire.

Now what I do love is that at 2:30 in the video, this random, much-older guy shows up and starts rapping about how he wants to echo Rebecca's sentiments regarding the awesomeness of Fridays and his joy at seeing a school bus.

Guy in car, I salute you.***

Also, at about 1:16 it seems Ms. Black was asked to invite her pals to join her in a video shoot, and, man...  her friend in the braces does just not know she is about to be an internet meme.

Now, I know what I was listening to by 7th grade, so I can say with confidence, this would have drawn the same blank stares from me that Ms. Debbie Gibson received during her reign (btw, is this really worse than Electric Youth?), but maybe in, like, 2nd grade I would have thought this would have been great to hear at Pizza Royale while plugging quarters into the Galaga machine.  Back then, this would have been right there in my wheelhouse. 

You aren't going to really convince me that this is a whole lot different from, say, Taylor Swift.  Teen singer, handled by agents and producers, singing repetitive, tuneless songs, not in control of her own destiny...  Actually, that's kind of how I feel about modern country in general, but I digress.  The difference seems to be just how much someone's parents were willing to spend on an investment and how much a producer thought they could make on a kid before they wised up and he moved on to the next kid.

I am also not convinced that this girl is any different from the 10's of 1000's of bright-eyed hopefuls who show up for American Idol, nor what becomes of the "winners" of that show.

Now, I am willing to embrace this video and song as silly, if you'll acknowledge that Avril Lavigne did far more damage to the music industry than a 1000 Rebecca Blacks could hope to accomplish.

*I've seen your record collection.  You don't know better, and you have some explaining to do.
**I would submit that "Working for the Weekend" and much of the Loverboy catalogue was weaker than this tune, but we still let that @#$% play over the PA at Red Robin three decades on.
***In the story I've written in my head to give the video a narrative, this is RB's aunt's boyfriend who is the only one who appreciates Ms. Black's auto-tuned talent.

Oh @#$%...  

Here she is going acoustic (thx, Randy!)

I think her friend in the braces is sitting there on the couch looking way more comfortable this time.


rhpt said...

Good Magazine compares Black's lyrics to some other famous pop-stars ( and also has this tidbit

"She also notes that, outside of singing 'Friday,' and dancing in the video, she didn't have any hand in creating the song. She just went to a casting call at Ark Music, a record production company, with dreams of becoming a pop star, and she got the part. She then had to choose between two songs: 'Friday' or another one that she felt didn't speak to her."

And the article makes this very similar claim (WHO PLAGARIZED WHO?)

"Calling 'Friday' disastrous is akin to The New York Review of Books tearing apart The Berenstein Bears. Sure, it doesn't meet your standards. It's not for you."

The League said...

Well, the train of logic here is pretty obvious (at least to me). The music industry is sort of a weird scam of a business, and this is a CHILD. Once you put those two things in perspective, the rest falls in place.

J.S. said...

Your blog has gotten weird. Or weirder.
And this girl is an extremely mediocre vocal talent.

The League said...

She is, indeed. She's also, apparently, 13 years old. I was surprised that the acoustic version I included at the bottom demonstrated that she wasn't as bad as the auto-tuning would suggest (which is very, very bad).

The point here is not to point out that she's talented, but to inform people: when I hear this over-produced auto-tuned pop stuff, this is what my ear hears whether you're a Top 40 sensation or a YouTube meme.

And the blog isn't getting weirder, the world is. I'm just reporting on it.