Monday, 14 March 2016

In Defence of Rebecca Black’s Friday

In Defence of Rebecca Black’s Friday

“The Worst Song Ever Written”

When it comes to Friday, I am sure the above header was how most of us were introduced to the thing—it may as well have been the fucking title of the song, really. But while I’m sure your own personal experience with this tune still stands strong in your memory, can you believe that it was five years ago to this very day that this track was officially released? It doesn’t feel that way to me, half a decade pissing by since this viral hype smacked us in the face with all the anticipation in the world. Oh my God, could this finally be it? Could my social feeds be telling the truth? Have we as a population, beyond all reasonable doubt, discovered the authoritative worst song ever written in the history of mankind?? I’ve waited for so long!

Eagerly, I wasted no time by jumping onto my local YouTube just like the 160+ million other people around the globe, and nearly broke my index finger trying to locate this song with such a glorious reputation. I found it, pressed play, and then... I was completely disappointed. What was this? Was this it? This was not the worst song in the world? I felt robbed. I had heard worse songs. I had heard hundreds of them.

I scoffed and closed the tab in sadness, but it was futile. No matter what I did, I could not dodge the momentum. I don’t know how well you guys recall the whole affair, but Friday was pretty much the biggest song of 2011, inescapable in its power, fuelled exclusively by a hysteria of hatred and viciousness from the brains of anonymous kids hiding in the comment section. Which, as it turned out, was its greatest advantage, as the longer it lingered, the more I warmed up to its presence, eventually becoming fascinated by its buzz—less to do with the music or the lyrics, mind you, but rather the complete automated attack stance the internet took whenever the name was mentioned. And before I knew it, I was there with my own weapons, defending a song more furiously than I would even for the classics.

This went on for a while until I decided the only way to properly express my sentiment was to write this very blog piece, which I had pretty much completed way back then in 2011. However, I decided not to release it all that time ago because I realised I didn’t actually care as much as I thought did, and should probably spend my time writing better things, promptly banishing it to the depths of my Google drive, forever.

Except, obviously not forever, because here it is. I can’t explain why I felt compelled to edit, update, and release this blog on the song's fifth anniversary, but it’s too late now, which sucks, because I’m actually really busy. Whatever, this one's for Rebecca Black, and for Friday, and for the worst song in the world, which isn’t actually the worst song in the world whatsoever, as I am hopefully about to accurately illustrate right now.

In Defence of Rebecca Black’s Friday: Rebecca Black Herself

Rebecca Black Herself

Perhaps the primary reason I found myself obliged to come to the aid of this phenomenon, was due to Rebecca Black herself. Right back to the day in question, I felt terribly sorry for this girl, who really did not deserve the hardship dumped on top of her doorstep. For starters, she had very little to do with the project in the first place. Rather, our story begins with a company named ARK Music Factory, based in Los Angeles, California. These dudes have quite a clever and interesting business model, one which works kinda like a backwards record label: instead of fronting money to the artist, they allowed the artist to pay for a package which included a song written and produced for them, complete with a music video and some additional promotion, both parties taking a share of the profits. It’s quite a nifty idea, if you ask me.

The issue came with the writers at ARK Music themselves. They may have had the technical prowess, true, but they did not have the creative talent, generating material which is generally considered below average, and that's being charitable. What this also means in context of this blog, is that Rebecca did not write this song. This little fact alone should have ricocheted at least some of the bullets sent her way, but it didn’t even soften the punches. Furthermore, it is worth noting that Rebecca really wasn’t trying to achieve anything with this song either. She wasn’t necessarily hoping to be the next biggest popstar. There wasn’t some record label behind her, telling her what she should be doing or trying to manufacture her into anything. She was merely a girl whose parents paid some money to have a bit of fun (fun fun fun), and no one could have predicted that it would explode in her face as messy as it did.

Lest we forget, poor little Rebecca was only thirteen years old at the time. Now, take a second to remember yourself at that age, and imagine you were suddenly the most hated person on the planet according to 167 million people (the actual number of hits before it was pulled down, a second version racking up a further 90+mil). Seriously, visualise yourself as that thirteen year old you, and try speculate what it would be like to have hundreds upon thousands of people spitting on your very existence, with comments including (and I quote): “Go die in a hole”; “You’re so fat”; “You suck at singing and I hope you go die”; and “I hope you cut yourself and develop an eating disorder so that you’ll look pretty”. In fact, this commentary got so violent that the FBI began an investigation, and Rebecca’s mom removed her from school.

Slightly off topic, but for some reason, Jason Russell always comes to my mind when I think of Rebecca Black. He was the director of Kony 2012, a video opposing Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony, which also went massively viral about a year after Friday did. Despite receiving much praise around the globe, his upload did also catch a fair amount of negativity too (as is the nature of the internet), and many people commented some unfavourable things—laughably tame in comparison to Black’s abuse, but somewhat nasty all the same. And do you remember what happened to him? He broke down, stripped naked, and ran around San Diego, yelling at the gods, punching the pavement, and vandalising cars. Here was a 33 year old man who literally lost his mind due to all the focus thrust upon him, and I wonder how differently each of us would have dealt with the same style of scrutiny.

But little Rebecca was immovable. She stood firm in interviews. She refused to let it bother her. She continued making music. She eventually started a video channel and became quite a popular YouTube personality in her own right, chatting about various topics and continually raking in millions upon million of views per upload. In all honestly, she has handled the fame and antagonism in a smarter, more mature fashion than most adults could handle, even using it to her advantage, and in that way, deserves way more respect than she has ever received. She never gave up. She is still fucking going.

And because of this attitude, she got the last laugh. Friday hit 74 on the iTunes Most Downloaded Chart. It hit number 6 on the UK Indie Chart. It hit number 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart. Apparently, she made enough money from this one song to pay for college and fund her future music ventures, whilst reportedly donating much of the proceeds to Japan, who in 2011 were hit by that massive tsunami, if you remember. And she did all of this without a label. At the age of thirteen. What have you done with your life?

I want to conclude this chapter by quickly defending her talent too: Rebecca Black can sing. Here is the proof. Even the ARK Music producers admitted that they used autotune on their own accord, and she sang completely in key the whole time. So let go of that angle at very least.

In Defence of Rebecca Black’s Friday: The Historical Value

The Historical Value

Even back in 2011, I remember distinctly thinking that this song had already reached some sort of a legendary status. Perhaps the last few years have become a bit thinner on the topic, but I do still stand by the idea that Friday has a specific historical value, especially when you set your mind back to its initial execution. Think about it: besides perhaps Gangnam Style, is there any music video you can recall which reached any similar level of viral sensation?

However, while the testament to viral video runs strong in this one, it is the stamp of ‘worst song ever made’ (according to BBC, E!, Yahoo, and a large portion of the internet) which truly sticks this track to the books. This is because the worst song in the world is the biggest winner of all the losers, and that’s a massive achievement. There is the best song in the world, and there is the worst song in the world, and everything else is lost in the middle. It is the bottom piece of bread to the all encompassing musical sandwich. Hey, in some ways, it could be considered the more interesting side of the spectrum too, because people get so irrationally worked up about it with their pukey emojis and sweary words, that it becomes extra hilarious. Seriously, send this song to anyone, and their reaction will most likely not be one of apathy, because literally everyone you know has heard it and has formed an opinion about it. Damn, I wish I had written the worst song in the world.

Basically, what it really comes down to is that Friday succeeded in what every single fame-hungry artist wants: creating a buzz so loud that it deafened the planet. Allow me to educate you that the key to success in the entertainment industry is not to have a million dollar music video, or a nice pretty face, or a Timberland production. It is to give the world an audio form of herpes, of which no one can stop talking about, and this song most definitely reached that peak. It is a factor you cannot buy. It is blessed upon you by the gods. Rebecca Black is practically a holy person.

In Defence of Rebecca Black’s Friday: Why It’s Not (Completely) A Bad Song

Why It’s Not (Completely) A Bad Song

I hope this article comes off in the right way, but just to be sure, let it be known that I’d never defend Friday as a good song. Because it isn’t, really. However, what I am trying to get across here is that it’s not an entirely bad song either, and definitely nowhere near as terrible as the furious backlash would indicate. And so, at the risk of my own taste reputation, here are five reasons as to why this song is ok.
  1. It’s a weekend anthem! So relatable at least once a week! This is not only a great topic for any song, but works particularly well for your stereotypical thirteen year old’s mindset. It feels light and genuine, which I much prefer over some adolescent obsession over boys or drinking or whatever.
  2. Some of the lyrics are so atrocious that they become brilliant, which was a large part of its success. For example: the painful distress of being a teenager trying to choose which seat to sit in, as well as the generous education that Saturday comes after Friday, and then Sunday after that. I love it.
  3. That said, some of the lyrics are actually very quotable. “We we we so excited”, “Partying, partying, YEAH, fun, fun, fun,” and of course, “It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday” are all brilliantly composed pop sing-a-long moments.
  4. There aren’t any rhymes in the whole song! Seriously, unless you count “me” and “scream” in the rap bit, or the countless examples of words rhyming with the same words, there are absolutely no genuine examples to be found. Try name one famous teen-dance-pop song that can claim the same. It’s a ballsy move, no matter how unintentional.
  5. Finally, it’s incredibly catchy. I think that’s what pissed people off the most. They hated it so much, but it sunk itself deep into the mud of everyone's brains to the point of fury, which is a very difficult feat to achieve. You know how many pop songs strive to do just that, yet so often fail? A lot of them. Most of which you won’t even get to hear, because they simply aren't good/bad enough to reach you.
That said, The rap part is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard in my life after all.

In Defence of Rebecca Black’s Friday: Defence From Other People

Defence From Other People

As with everything, it’s nice to discover that I am not alone in my backings for this track. Here are some other worthy praises from some other worthy people:

"I say Rebecca Black is a genius and anyone that's telling her she's cheesy is full of shit." - Lady Gaga
“I love Rebecca Black.” - Miley Cyrus
"Honest opinion? It was great. I'll be jammin' to it on Friday, Friday." - Chris Brown
"I love her [and] the fact that she's gotten so much publicity. People are so upset about the song, but I think it's hysterical [...] Anyone who can create this much controversy within a week, I want to meet. I love people like that [...] The fact that it's making people so angry is brilliant [...] Whatever she's done has worked. Whether you like her or not, she's the most talked-about artist in America right now. Nobody over the age of 18 should understand her or like her. So she should just do it her way." - Simon Cowell
"Rebecca Black is DOPE! I'm gonna support her music, her work, & her dream... But still make Friday jokes." - Nicole Richie
"I'm down with [Rebecca Black]. She's Living the dream! Eatin' cereal, choosing which seat in the car she wants, doin' homework. I BACK IT." - Joel Madden
"Dear[Rebecca Black], I would like to party with you." - Andrew WK
"[There’s] something sickeningly catchy about this tune that keeps you coming back for more." - Joseph Lynch (Entertainment Weekly)
"When you see this video, you immediately notice everything that it does 'wrong', but it actually gets a lot of things about pop music right, if just by accident." - Perpetua (Rolling Stone)

Not to mention that it has been covered by Justin Bieber, Todd Rundgren, Nick Jonas, Richard Cheese, and the cast of Glee.
There are also hundreds upon hundreds of popular parodies, including one by Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Taylor Hicks and The Roots; as well as another by Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter.

But probably the highest praise came from Katy Perry, who not only covered the song in concert, but also wrote a song named Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.), of which the music video features and heavily focuses upon Rebecca Black. That must have been quite cool for her.

In Defence of Rebecca Black’s Friday: So What’s The Worst Song In The World Then?

So What’s The Worst Song In The World Then?

Ok, so if this isn’t the worst song in the world, what is? Well, I won’t pretend to know the final answer to something so subjective, but my money's on this one.

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