Today is Friday.
You know — the day after Thursday, but the one before Saturday?
The Internet has been abuzz this week over a new music video by a heretofore unknown 13-year-old girl named Rebecca Black; her out-of-nowhere hit “Friday” has already racked up 16 million views on YouTube as of this writing, and seems to be garnering another million every couple of hours.
Not because the song is good, but rather because it’s so bad. Or rather, “bad.” No, that’s not right either. The song is “”””bad””””.
One needs at least four levels of ironic quotation marks to get to the bottom of the “Friday” phenomenon. Plenty of things in modern culture are simply bad and don’t get any attention. Even things that are “so-bad-they’re-funny” might draw the attention of a few sarcastic hipsters but remain relatively obscure. But “Friday” has a fan base that dwarfs even those of most serious mainstream top-40 artists.
The cognoscenti will tell you that the listeners are only appreciating “Friday” through an ironic lens: We watch it only in order to mock it. And perhaps the cognoscenti do — but they only account for a few million of “Friday’s” views (oops — almost up to 17 million already). The other 15+ millions viewers I posit are other tweeners who appreciate “Friday” at face value — it’s catchy, upbeat and fun.
And what’s wrong with that? I give “Friday’s” popularity my wholehearted stamp of approval:
I think “Friday” is popular with the 10-to-14-year-old crowd specifically because its lyrics are completely innocent and unsophisticated. Kids are sick of being barraged with sexuality and violence and cynicism. At last, for the first time in a long time, a pop song for kids is not about humping or angst. Kids just want to be kids! And Rebecca Black is their new guide.
Hipsters heaping mock praise on terrible performers (whom they secretly love) is not a new phenomenon. The most obvious prefiguration of Rebecca Black are The Shaggs, a quartet of completely incompetent teen sisters whose father paid to produce an album of their songs in 1969. Needless to say, the album sold exactly zero copies, until it was discovered much later by the avant-garde hipster crowd, and reissued Shaggs tracks have since become cult classics.
Part of what makes the Shaggs so “terrible,” beyond their incomprehensible sense of rhythm, is the complete naiveté and simplicity of their lyrics. The same is true of the next “guilty pleasure” heroines in the hipster pantheon, the Japanese band Shonen Knife — who sounded like the Ramones but who sang in all sincerity about ice cream cones, Barbie dolls and going fishing.
The problem with Rebecca Black is that “Friday” is actually a catchy little ditty, so you can’t really fault the production or the song structure. Where the song fails — or rather, “epic FAIL” according to commenters — is in its lyrics, which are so unsophisticated and so emotionally simplistic that many wonder if they were written as a joke:
7am, waking up in the morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal
Seein’ everything, the time is goin’
Tickin’ on and on, everybody’s rushin’
Gotta get down to the bus stop
Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends (My friends)
Kickin’ in the front seat
Sittin’ in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?
It’s Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend
Gettin’ down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend
Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin’ forward to the weekend
Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today i-is Friday, Friday (Partyin’)
We-we-we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today
Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes after…wards
I don’t want this weekend to end
But it’s not a joke. Rebecca didn’t even write the song. It’s the product of Ark Music Factory, the modern equivalent of what used to be called a “vanity press” — a company hired by untalented writers or musicians to produce a book or a record simply to satisfy their egos, but which has no chance of ever becoming commercially successful. Ark Music Factory preys on the parents of spoiled daughters who want to be pop stars but who lack any talent. For a hefty fee, AMF writes a song for the girl, Autotunes her unlistenable vocals, produces a bare-bones music video to accompany it, and then uploads it to YouTube. Voilà! A little girl’s fantasy comes true, at least briefly, until she realizes it’s all pretend.
Ark Music Factory has many other “artists” on its roster, but none have accidentally struck gold like Rebecca Black. That’s because most of their other videos lack the childishness and innocence of Rebecca’s; for example, take a gander at their creepily sexualized video for “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind” by an 11-ish-year-old girl named Kaya:
Shudder. Tweens can only take so much culturally imposed sexualization until they cry out, “Enough already!”
Innocence Takes a Stand
In an interview, Rebecca revealed a key detail:
The 13-year-old’s mother paid $2,000 to the LA based Ark Music Factory – production company for aspiring teen singers – to get the song and video made.
Presented with two songs to potentially record, she chose ‘Friday’ – but she did not write the lyrics.
When presented with two songs, she chose Friday as ‘The other song was about adult love–I haven’t experienced that yet.’
That simple decision by Rebecca to reject the sexy song in favor of the childish song could be a landmark moment in modern history. We as a culture have been essentially abusing pre-adolescents by expecting them to embrace sexuality before the kids themselves even want to. For the first time, the abuse victims are standing up for themselves.
The postmodern nihilistic hipsters think that “Friday’s” popularity is a joke they’re pulling on American culture; but in fact the joke is on them. Mocking innocence has until now been the most effective way to intentionally destroy it. But this Friday — and every “Friday” — innocence is striking back.
Could this be the beginning of an unspoken tweenage counter-revolution? Let us kids be kids!