April 4, 2011

A Black Sheep

Print More

The music industry has produced some incredibly laughable songs and accompanying music videos. These days, anyone with fleeting celebrity has a license to produce a music video, regardless of talent. Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, both famous for starring in reality shows and sex tapes, come to mind. Now, a debate has centered around surprise YouTube sensation Rebecca Black, the 13-year-old girl whose music video “Friday” has over 81 million views on the site. Commentators have wondered aloud if this video is the “worst song ever.” The vitriol, however, seems unwarranted.

Upon first seeing the video, my initial reaction was that the song was a laughable, gimmicky, over-auto-tuned and annoyingly catchy pre-teen jam. Like the theme song to Hannah Montana. Or a Lizzie McGuire anthem. In fact, it would have been perfectly suitable for a Disney show about an eighth grade student who works too hard during the week, but secretly D.J.s backyard pool parties on the weekends.

Despite the widespread popularity of the video, the media attention surrounding her sensation operates under the premise that Ms. Black committed a crime. As if she pulled the fire alarm in school, and now it’s time for her to face the principal’s scolding.

Take for instance the interview she gave on morning television.  The interviewer, in a piece about Ms. Black being vulnerable to cyber bullying, says at the start of the segment, “I don’t know, is something wrong with me? I think it’s sort of catchy.” She then proceeds to read to Rebecca the comments written about her online, including this gem, “Her song, ‘Friday,’ is the worst song I’ve ever heard in my entire life; even deaf people are complaining.” And, “I hate her voice it’s gonna be stuck in my head for life, Friday Friday Friday OMG.” Rebecca responded thoughtfully, but really how is one supposed to respond to these comments? Ms. Black said it was most painful for her to read, “I hope you cut yourself, and I hope you get an eating disorder so you’ll look pretty, and I hope you go cut and die.”

In certifying this as the most ridiculous interview ever broadcast, the mother responded, “In all honestly, I probably could have killed a few people,” as she stands calmly in her kitchen. At least there were no knives in view.

Next, the interviewer asks Ms. Black to perform a few lines from “The National Anthem,” which she performs well.  Instead of offering praise, the interviewer asks, “Do you think you’re a good singer?”  Again, how is she supposed to respond?  Defensively and with humility she says, “I think I have talent on some level, I don’t think I’m the worst singer, but I don’t think I’m the best singer.”

What is outrageous is that the question about her talent is out there. Since when have we started asking celebrities if they have talent?  Now, the reporters have decided to start with a 13-year-old girl whose voice was clearly altered by producers in a music video. The girl should be commended for her accomplishment, for achieving commercial success at the age of 13. She’s an entrepreneur, in the spirit of pursuing the elusive American Dream. On a recent episode of Kim & Kourtney Take New York, Kourtney Kardashian guest stars in the soap opera One Life To Live, where she delivers such lines as, “You can’t keep us cuffed together like this, it’s unconstitutional.” Where was the follow-up interview? “Did you think that was good acting?” Or, “Ms. Kardashian, did you know that the Constitution says nothing about handcuffing two lovers together?”

Some criticism of the song points out the juvenile lyrics (“Tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes after…wards”). “Friday” isn’t the first song to teach us the days of the week. The Black Eyed Peas did it well with “I Gotta Feeling” in 2009. When did we all of the sudden become so highbrow?  Where was the shame for Miley Cyrus’ lyrics (“My best friend Lesley says, oh she’s just being Miley”)? Where is the public humiliation for Kim Kardashian in which she sounds like a pre-teen boy whining (“They playin’ my jam”)? Or when Paris Hilton, or someone using her name, released,  “Stars are Blind”?

The interview ends with a news anchor announcing that a viewer poll revealed that, “76 percent agree with the harsh attacks, saying they’re not too harsh.” Really? I wished at this moment the news anchors had replayed the comments read earlier, where commenters urged Ms. Black to cut herself. In the age of the internet, everyone is now taken seriously, even if it’s blatant hate speech or bullying.

Just like Miley’s music caught on to become overplayed in frat parties circa three years ago, so too will Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” where everyone pretends to hate it, but makes it their jam.  Seriously, with 81 million views on YouTube and a permanent spot as a trending topic on Twitter, it can’t be the worst song in the world.

Original Author: Scott Eidler