By Olivia Goldman
Over spring break, I went on Facebook and was surprised to see at least 5 people independently post the song “Friday” by Rebecca Black. Opinions ranged from hilarity at her unique pronunciation of “Frah-eee-dayee” (which has been mocked repeatedly for sounding like “fried egg”) to actual offense (perhaps at the implication that they didn’t know the days of the week, “Yesterday was Thursday/Today it is Friday”). On March 13, when I saw the video around 2:00pm, the views were around 60,000 but by that night they were well over 1 million. Black’s infamy steadily snowballed as more and more people listened and were drawn to the catchy song, but really more to the sense of justification reaped from saying nasty things about the video. Myself included. After all, by the time you’re old enough to enjoy thrills such as sitting in the front seat (“which seat should I take?”) you should probably already know that Sunday comes after Saturday. Right now, the video has over 72 million views.
As I’m sure many were, I was curious to know: is it a joke? Unfortunately, not. The lyrics are so idiotic and the song is so bad, who is to be held responsible?
Rebecca Black, a performer of the vanity label Ark Music Factory, is currently in the eighth grade and whose past experiences include dance lessons, a lead role in her school’s performance of Guys and Dolls and two whole summers of musical theatre camp. The reality of the situation is clear—this is a 13-year-old hopeful, singing a song she didn’t even write, is being torn to shreds on the internet. All because ethics fall away in anonymity and no one’s holding us responsible for saying things like “I hope you get an eating disorder so you’ll look pretty. I hope you cut [yourself] and die.” I mean, really? I know there are internet trolls out there, but who says that to a 13-year-old girl?
So, is it the Ark Music Factory responsible for making our ears bleed? To an extent, maybe. Bohemian.com cited an alleged casting call asking for “great singer [s] without any material [who] want to get discovered” between the ages of 13 to 17 to contact the Ark Music Factory. Founders Clarence Rey and Patrice Wilson (the latter also that “rapper” in the “Friday” video) get sponsored produce singles and music videos for under-aged artists—by the very parents of the artists themselves at $2,000, or even $3,000, dollars a pop.
In a staged-interview posted on the Ark Music Factory’s website of Patrice Wilson (that cuts after every question and response), an over-animated girl asks, “Everyone wants to know, who are you?” (the Ark Music Factory seems to have a knack for getting straight down to the existential questions of life). Egotistical and quite frankly pretty delusional himself, self-proclaimed “CEO,” “President,” “Founder,” and “the face of Ark Music Factory” used to be “pretty big” in Eastern Europe but came over the United States to “let people know what clean, good music is.” For almost the same reasons as Rebecca Black, I might say that Wilson doesn’t deserve the criticism either. He is, however, clearly capitalizing on the dreams of kids who hope to one day “have a show on the Disney channel” (some as young as nine and who’s parents must be just as naïve), including CJ Fam, a frequent performer at Ronald McDonald fundraisers. Although, letting these kids with typically mediocre voices the feel like pop stars, needless to say, makes them happy. It’s sad and creepy and probably not healthy for their perceptions of reality, but the artists themselves don’t feel cheated. When contained in their own delusional little bubble it was even harmless. Yet, as the broadcasted hours and hours of American Idol auditions so aptly illustrate, Americans love to dream, but they also love to shoot down, mock, and ridicule the dreams of others—the Ark Music Factory was a ripe target. Rebecca Black is not a unique victim of ridiculing web-browsers,although it’s unusual that she has landed the publicized support of American Idol creator Simon Cowell, as well as Chris Brown and Lady Gaga.
Why Rebecca Black? The amazing thing about “Friday,” is that when you see it, for a moment, you actually think it’s serious. Matthew Perpetua of the Rolling Stone writes, “If the video was intended to be a parody of teen pop convention, it would be on par with some of the best SNL Digital Shorts by Lonely Island.” After all, it’s not a surprise that in an interview with Good Morning America, Black admits she has Bieber fever. Down to the songs’ chord structure, intervals in the chorus and the random segment with a featured rapper, “Friday” is not really that different from Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” or other tween-pop sensations. Admittedly, Bieber’s music video effects are a little better, the kids don’t have braces, and the auto-tune doesn’t make him sound like an alien, but “Friday,” however unintentionally, pushes to the extreme some of the weird things we already see in Bieber’s video: young kids, auto-tune, stupid lyrical concepts. The Disney channel might actually have a run for it’s money given all the attention the Ark Music Factory has gotten and that “Friday” has landed #33 on the iTunes’ Top Songs (surpassing even the Biebster himself, currently residing at dismal #57), as well as a juicy revenue speculation from Forbes magazine. A statement from the Ark Music Factory revealed “they will soon be holding massive online auditions and nation wide [sic] auditions.”
Rebecca Black definitely comes out strong and respectable through all this notoriety, more than can be said for a lot of other female pop stars. She plans on recording an acoustic version of “Friday” to prove she can sing (in addition to having sung national anthem live on Television), and has a mature outlook on the whole matter (“I’m just used to the hatred… There are going to be haters, but don’t let them bring you down”) and plans to donate some of her profit to her high school and to the victims of the Japan earthquake.
Olivia is a first-year at Barnard she is also arts editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.