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Digital Disdain: The Strange Story Of Rebecca Black

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Hello once again and welcome back. No time for love, Dr. Jones – we’re getting right to it this week because we have a continuation of sorts from last week.

Last week, Bob Geldof’s address at SXSW was addressed with the thought that maybe the main issue of the times, sadly enough, is the obsession with celebrity and how that – despite much more important things going on in the world – can unite a culture. This past week, there has been no greater evidence of that than Rebecca Black.

For the uninitiated (which I think there are very few of by now, but just to cover bases), Rebecca Black is a young girl that released an innocuous single called ”Friday” via YouTube. The song, issued by Ark Music Factory (known for other teen pop fare such as Alana Lee’s “Butterflies” and Kaya’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind”), was released back in February.

A few facts and some disclosure before we get too deep in to this: Rebecca Black is 13 years old. The song, which I’ve heard approximately once in researching all of this, is just the sort of airy, throwaway pop I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to. I’ve long grown out of the hatred of this sort of thing; I tend to ignore it as best as I can nowadays.

And really, one pass with this track was all I needed. Repetitive beat, auto-tuned half to death, and such poignant lyrics as:

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)

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

In other words, when you think about it, exactly the sort of song you’d expect from a 13 year-old girl. There’s nothing really to hate there. Consider the source! Anyone expecting a pop masterpiece is asking entirely too much out of a girl who likes to sing and, according to her Ark Music Factory, is excited that she has “landed the lead role in her school musical, Oklahoma!

Back to our strange tale. “Friday” picked up steam a couple weeks ago when The Daily What blog posted it. And hated it. Next thing you know, it gets re-posted on Tumblr, Twitter – all over the place, really – to the point that with virtually no warning, this cheaply-produced but professional enough-looking video has soared to heights absolutely no one could have guessed.

Put it this way: as of this past Thursday, March 24, Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way” – the song that premiered at the Grammy Awards and received so much fanfare – had not quite 25 million views. Rebecca Black’s “Friday?” 45 million. And that’s been only since reaching the two-million mark a mere ten days earlier.

With numbers like that, you’d think this girl would be a huge star, right? The next Justin Bieber? Not so fast. The blog City Sound summed up the “popularity” of the video as such: “Is it sad? That depends on your point of view. Is it hilarious that “Friday,” Ark Music Factory’s biggest hit, has gotten famous for being mercilessly made fun of on the internet? You bet it is.”

Apparently, people did expect too much of a 13 year-old girl because the hatred for this girl online has been nothing short of ruthless. Imagine the angry mob going to lynch Dee Snider’s character about halfway through the movie Strangeland. Now substitute Snider for Black and the mob with your typical, vicious, “hide-behind-the-keyboard-and-be-an-asshole-because-the-internet-lets-you-get-away-with-it” pack mentality and you have a great idea of what’s happened to this girl. Describing it would not only be redundant, but a screencap from Black’s appearance on “Good Morning America” tells the story much better than I could:

 

 

  

Where has all this come from? The hatred, probably from having something this innocuous catch on just as the world is in the throes of BieberMania, and many are sick of having to hear this annoying type of pop every time they turn around. The obsession, from the fact that we’re a culture that’s become obsessed with it. I really hate to tell Bob Geldof this, but if he’s looking for his defining statement of a generation, “Friday” could very well be it.

I said it last week: “Let’s look at the landscape today. This is a time when being a celebrity for the sake of being a celebrity and the culture’s obsession with that is the big issue of the day. Small but powerful nations are rocked by earthquakes, human rights are being trampled all over the world, including here at home, but the one thing that unites everyone is the love or hatred of a teen pop star…The only statement people seem to be interested in making revolved around the idea of celebrities and how easy it may be to become one.”

If the story of Rebecca Black doesn’t speak to that very mindset then I have no idea what would. Opinions on Rebecca Black are divided, sure – the hatred for her online is rather tangible while many others, including Simon Cowell and Lady GaGa herself, have come to Black’s defense (which may harm her cause more than help, given the climate). One way or another, Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is the biggest issue going on right now.

The big issues that Bob Geldof may have been asking people to stand up and say something about at SXSW appear to be right under his nose. Whereas Geldof was looking at bigger concerns that affect the rights, situations, and treatment of human beings across the globe (which should be the main focus, really), what he fails to realize is that, in this day and age, the biggest concern people have – for good or ill – is the culture of popularity. The internet aids and abets in having so many outlets and ways to get noticed that many have whether they meant to or not.

The fascination with how easy it is to become rich and famous, that one random day, any of us could be a star and have everything we ever wanted and the jealousy so many harbor towards others that fame strikes, is what consumes us as a culture. If there’s to be an anthem railing against the issues of the day, it won’t be about war or poverty or tyranny. Actually, it may well be, but not the kind that involves guns, socio-economic structures or dictators. Rather, it will involve clawing envy, advance checks, and corporate control of the media. This is the social climate we find ourselves in now.

Thank you for reading and see you again soon.

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About Michael Melchor

  • weesnaw25

    sooo…. rebecca died??

  • zetus

    yes she died. It’s been confirmed. such a young kid

  • http://blogcritics.org/music/article/digital-disdain-the-strange-story-of/ kristina gjolaj

    wait soo she seriosly died?

  • captain stupendousnessman

    Sounds like Mike’s trying to make the case that the only thing that unites people is popularity, and the hate-Rebecca-Black movement is the proof.

    Not so fast, my music industry friend. It’s a lot more plausible to think of this as monkey wrenching the process of contrived popularity. This is precisely the kind of girl who should be popular, but now she’ll only enjoy a pyrrhic win; she’ll only be famous for being hated. What’s interesting here isn’t whether she’s famous or not, it’s the mechanics of fame being ripped by brute force out of the hands of people that would ordinarily control it and manufacture another teen idol.

    The real lesson here, though, is how anonymity makes people cruel. To think that millions of people commenting online could drive this poor girl to suicide is tragic… just tragic. My thoughts go out to Rebecca’s friends and family. She’s in the front seat in heaven now. God bless.

  • boehmi

    yup she died, she hung herself cause of the depressions.

  • trololol

    Ding dong, the bitch is dead

  • Robert Hansen

    I guess it’s true. On the news here in Denmark. Said they suspected suicide.
    RIP sweet princess :'(

  • Kimmo Rauttapaa

    also on the news in Finland. So young, so sad.

  • grimmless
  • Jason

    I think that we (the haters) are wrong in despising her – but her voice is absolutely terrible. I think that her “record” company is more to blame for this entire situation.