Coming to terms with Rebecca Black

3 Apr

If you’ve had enough willpower to stay off any and all social networking sites (or any website, really) recently, you’ve probably missed  all the chaos surrounding thirteen-year-old Rebecca Black’s music video ‘Friday.’ It hit the web February 10th, but didn’t go viral until March 11th, when Comedy Central’s TOSH.0 blog featured it in a post entitled, “Songwriting isn’t for everyone.” That weekend alone, the video received 2.2 million hits, and in the 10 days after, the total skyrocketed to a record-breaking 39.4 million– it essentially received 3.1 million views per day.

As is wont to happen when you post something on the Internet, the video attracted its fair share of haters- just click the music video link above and read through a page or two. A week after the video went viral, Rebecca admitted on Good Morning America that some of the comments did make her cry, specifically one that said “I hope you cut yourself and die.” To that commenter and to all the others, I have to ask: why do you care? Why does a 13-year-old putting a (seriously auto-tuned) music video on the Internet bother you so much?

Don’t get me wrong, by posting this video on the Internet, Rebecca Black opened the doors for fans and haters alike to revel in her song’s… well, whatever it is. But at the same time, it’d be kind of like if someone took your angst-ridden posts on the Whatever University Class of 2014 group and posted them on a blog. You posted it on the Internet to be viewed, not abused. And in 5 years, I’m sure you and Rebecca Black alike will be wishing it hadn’t gone up in the first place.

What I hate the most, though, is the comparisons to music from the 70s (or really music from any decade prior to the 2000s), as apparent in this popular Tumblr image, which has been reblogged roughly 45,000 times as of yet:

This sort of comparison bothers me for several reasons:
1. Led Zeppelin is arguably one of the best bands to come out of the 70s. Even spell check knows what ‘Zeppelin’ is! Edit: I have recently been informed that that is because a ‘zeppelin’ is also a type of airship, making its existence in my spell check dictionary much less remarkable. Alas, I digress. It’s hard to compare a legend to an ephemeral YouTube sensation. I’m sure there were a million and one Rebecca Blacks of the 70s, but we wouldn’t know about them, because they lost momentum. People listen to them, laugh at them, and then they go away. They have no staying power. Zeppelin has staying power. We wouldn’t know about them if they weren’t the best of the best. If, in 40 years, Rebecca Black is still being listened to, then you can tell me the 70s had better lyrics than we did.

2. Rebecca Black came into existence less than a month ago. As a member of the Today generation, I do not feel Rebecca Black is representative of the entirety of Today.

3. Not everything exists to be award-winning. Like many musical outlets (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: the Musical; “Lip Gloss” by Li’l Mama; “Girls of Summer” by LFO; hell, even the majority of ‘Hair’ lyrics), some songs exist just to be fun. Not every song is poetry; not every song should be or needs to be poetry. I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime in the past, let’s say, 6ish years, we developed a fixation on things that are deep. At least where I’m from, there was a heightened interest in books like ‘Go Ask Alice’ and ‘Speak’ (if I had a quarter for every book report on ‘Speak’ I had to listen to over the years…); in songs involving the lyrics “I tear my heart open/I sew myself shut/My weakness is/I care too much/and the scars remind us/the past is real/I tear myself open/Just to feel,” and emo blog (predominantly Tumblr as of late) posts and images about how our lives are so difficult and we just want to be loved. We’ve started to judge things that aren’t Brilliant, and then complain about how no one’s happy and nothing’s fun anymore.

4. To that end, as a friend of mine astutely noted:

“I find it interesting that the population of young people who are attacking Rebecca Black and her innocent attempt at a music career is the same population that openly and willingly embraces other piece of shit songs like the ever-popular “Shots” by LMFAO ft. Lil Jon. That song, for example, boasts not only meaningless, but degrading lyrics such as,

The ladies love us

when we pour shots

they need an excuse
to suck our cocks “

Why is simplicity more of a crime than crudeness?

5. Her target audience is tweens ranging in age from about 11-14. No one exerting an opinion on the matter- that I have spoken to- is in that age range. That’s why no one likes Miley Cyrus, or Ashley Tisdale, or Selena Gomez, or any other tweeny bopper star- we’re not their audience! We’re not supposed to like them! You don’t see anyone attacking The Wiggles for ‘Hot Potato, Hot Potato,’ do you?

6. That being said, her lyrics may not be super clever, but they are age appropriate for her desired audience. I’d rather have my hypothetical pre-teen listening to Rebecca Black than, say, Rihanna or LMFAO or Eminem (who are all talented musicians, but not exactly ideal for tweens to be listening to, content wise).

7. As much shit as she has been getting, her song is *still* on the Top 100 on iTunes. Regardless of its artistic quality, people are buying.

8. Everyone who hated it and thought it was the stupidest thing ever continuously reposted it on Facebook for their friends to view and gawk at. It’s counter-intuitive. If you were really so disgusted by it, why encourage others to help her raise her view count? The quickest way to send someone into oblivion is to not care. It almost seems like people secretly wanted her to succeed by creating a bigger buzz and a bigger audience.

It’s been a good three weeks since the video’s explosion, and a recent Google search yields nothing written after March 23 (save anything in reference to Stephen Colbert’s cover). What once yielded a visceral reaction from the public seems already to be on its way out- the view count, though, has climbed to over 80 million, coming out to just under 4 million views PER DAY since it appeared on the Comedy Central blog. Like it or not, it’s a hit.

More than that, though, the bottom line is that if “we” don’t want this type of music- and I’m not just talking about Rebecca Black here, I’m talking about all of the new-age hits that we complain about (“music was so much better in the 70s/80s/90s/every decade before now!”)- we should change it. We, as consumers, decide what music gets produced. If you don’t like it, stop endorsing it. Stop requesting it on the radio; stop buying it on iTunes; stop listening to it on YouTube. And don’t even THINK about scapegoating “society” on this one, because society is not an omnipotent, omnipresent being! WE ARE SOCIETY! The only way any mass following begins is by a single person (well, more realistically, a small group of people, but that’s neither here nor there) taking a stand. So if you don’t like it, change it. Period.

And so, while I would not file Rebecca Black under “Next Great American Artist,” I don’t understand why people are bothered by her. She’s a 13-year-old who recorded a song. She didn’t deem it Grammy-worthy. She didn’t declare herself the next Adele or Katy Perry. It’s catchy. It’s fun. It’s youthful. She’s donating a portion of her proceeds to Japan and her school. Lady Gaga likes her. And she does have a point… as I sit here writing this on a Sunday night (Monday morning), I’m already “lookin’ forward to the weekend.”

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3 Responses to “Coming to terms with Rebecca Black”

  1. Q April 4, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    How thoughtful.
    Ps – spellcheck knows what zeppelin is because a zeppelin was a thing before Led Zeppelin. baha. It’s a flying thing.

    • On the Verge April 4, 2011 at 11:08 am #

      Oh wow, thanks Laura! I had no idea… I suppose that makes my computer a little less musically savvy than I initially thought, hey.

  2. katie April 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    I absolutely agree with you. The only reason I even learned about Rebecca Black was through the numerous, overwhelming Facebook statuses that prompted me to look up the lyrics “it’s friday, friday, gotta get down on friday.” If it had not been for multiple of my Facebook friends making that their status, I would probably never know or see that video. With that being said, once I saw the video, I did not really like it. Her voice is super autotuned, and while it does have a “catchy” beat, it just simply does not make sense. However, never would I think of: 1) posting those lyrics as my status to promote it or 2) commenting anything nasty about her on YouTube. I just do not care enough. The only reason I looked her up on YouTube was due to the curiosity inspired in me via numerous Facebook statuses. But that was it. I looked her up, saw the video, commented that I did not really like it that much, had the beat stuck in my head a little, and then basically forgot about it…until someone would bring up her video again. I don’t know. I find it really interesting to notice how some things gain popularity.

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