Saturday, March 26, 2011

Obligatory Rebecca Black Post: “Never wanted to be no ... pop singer ...”

There are an increasing number of pop recordings that make their mark solely on the internet, in particular on YouTube. The latest "viral hit" is a song called “Friday” written by two guys who run a recording studio and talent agency in Los Angeles, by the names of Clarence Jey and Patrice Wilson, and their latest protege, Rebecca Black, a thirteen-year-old American singer. From what we can gather, Black began modeling and acting in talent competitions from the time she was about eight years old. A friend told her about the ARK Music Factory, and with her mother putting down a couple of grand as a flat fee, the rest is pop history. Or something.

The "package" included the recording of two pre-written songs of her choice. What is interesting is that, of the two, she chose the one she did because ...

... the other song was about adult love – I haven't experienced that yet. 'Friday' is about hanging out with friends, having fun. I felt like it was my personality in that song.

The other thing she couldn't possibly have experienced, is driving a car, or having classmates who do. Nobody -- not CNN, not Rolling Stone, not the internet trending "expert" trotted out by ABC's Good Morning America -- has made note of the fact, that we are watching a bunch of eighth-graders driving around in cars! Is this why California has a budget crisis? Too many insurance risks? The very thought of it makes you wish the whole state would slide into the ocean already.

The early 1960s saw a lot of these pre-manufactured teen sensations. You can find them on old recordings of ABC's American Bandstand from that period. They feature Dick Clark introducing a young boy or girl, lip-syncing a song they couldn't have possibly written while a bunch of white kids shake around, and then you never hear from them again. When popular music went through a paradigm shift in the latter part of that decade, there were fewer compromises with commercialism. That didn't last long once there was money in being "anti-establishment." Funny how that works, huh?

Speaking of white kids, that's the second issue we have with this whole thing. Virtually all of the kids in the video are white. (From what we can tell, Ms Black is half-Latino, through her mother's side.) Aside from that, there is one black girl riding shotgun in the night scene, and one older black guy providing the obligatory hip-hop bridge. (Remember one of those beach bunny movies, the one where a young "Little Stevie Wonder" makes a cameo appearance? Yeah, that's what I mean.) We learn that this is Patrice Wilson, one of the song's co-writers and co-producers. One might suppose that Wilson is on to get some face time for himself on the ride to fame and fortune, or to give these lily-white kiddies in the story some "street cred." Be that as it may, the idea of a grown man going on about following a bunch of kids around on a school bus is just plain wrong!

Reaction to the song has been mixed. It has already spawned a number of parodies, some better than others, the one featured here being the best. As of today, however, the real deal has gotten over 54 million hits on YouTube, and over one million comments, over ninety percent of them negative. Jim Edwards of BNET and Doug Gross of CNN remarked that the rap break from the considerably older rapper was "creepy." (FWIW, so did Paul.) But get this; Simon Crowell actually liked it -- he thinks Black is a gutsy thing for going through with this and hanging in there; can't argue with that -- not to mention Rolling Stone!

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.

While any artistic criticism must be duly noted, it isn't any worse than any other one-hit wonder to come down the pike in the history of pop music. It's not obscene, it's not sexually exploitative, and nobody's "busting a cap" on anyone else. It's the basic California schtick of kids out having fun. We can't wait for the Weird Al Yankovic version to come out. And you just know it will.

We also wonder what John Mellencamp would say. After all, he "never wanted to hang out after the show."

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