I remember the first time I heard the viral music video entitled “Friday” by a then-unknown girl named Rebecca Black. I was sitting down by a computer and my friend said to me: “You have to listen to this. …” She put it up on YouTube without saying much else about it, so I assumed she was just going to show me another song to put on a spring playlist.
Once she hit play, I realized that no one could have prepared me for what was coming: “WE WE WE WE so excited … FUN, FUN, FUN, FUN … WEEKEND, WEEKEND!”
Ultimately, I was neither offended by it nor impressed by it. The piece was no different than any of the run-of-the-mill pop music sitting in the Top 40 or the Hot 100. Was it a little corny? Certainly. Was the singer’s voice a bit strange? Absolutely. But in my mind “Friday” had some of the more standard elements of pop music:
1) Female singer performing lyrics
2) Male artist performing rap interlude mid-song
3) Heavy use of auto-tune
4) Lyrics that look silly when you transcribe them (such as those in “Best I Ever Had” by Drake. They’re “the f****** best”)
Refreshingly enough, some usual pop music elements that appear to be missing from “Friday” include scantily-clad booty shaking dancers, sexual undertones, and lyrics about engaging in sexual activity or staring at body parts (i.e. objectifying women).
I was fairly certain that “Friday” was not a joke or a parody, mainly because I, too, was once one of those L.A. kids who wanted to break into the business – my claim to fame was as a fist-shaking child extra in the music video for “Falling Away From Me” by Korn (my 7th grade skater friend was impressed). In Rebecca Black’s instance, I thought she had just taken the search for fame a step further than most people do. That in mind, I figured “Friday” would be one of those videos I’d see once that would disappear into YouTube oblivion never to be seen or watched again, except by spammers in a far away country.
Boy, was I wrong.
A few hours after I was first shown “Friday,” I went home and saw that other friends had posted it on Facebook. Soon enough, “Friday” and references to it were blowing up my mini-feed. The venom began to flow freely.
The criticism was particularly harsh, and it was not just limited to Facebook mini-feeds. Writers everywhere ranging from major magazines to smaller-scale personal blogs had their opnion on it, and most of these opinions were not bursting with sunshine and praise. Some of it was downright mean. And let’s not forget the comments on the YouTube video itself – sometime in May 2011, comments were disabled on “Friday,” likely because most of the comments were becoming increasingly vicious.
Now, let’s all remind ourselves, Rebecca Black was only 13 years old when “Friday” was released. Since when is it okay to say terrible things to any kid or teenager such as: “I hope you cut yourself, and I hope you’ll get an eating disorder so you’ll look pretty”?
This makes me re-evaluate: Did “Friday” really deserve the hyper-critical reception that it received? What made it that much worse than anything else that had been released or was released later? Would it have been received so negatively had Rebecca Black been a celebrity at the time her song was released?
The answer to all of those questions is “NO.” While I am certainly not venturing to say that “Friday” is a musical masterpiece of the 21st century (and it’s quite far from it), I’m also not going to say that it is the absolute worst thing I have ever listened to. The rapper in her video who people dubbed “Fat Usher” was not really any better, worse, or even much different than some of the other rappers out there.
I honestly think that more famous individuals have put out songs that I have liked a lot less than Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” Some examples include “Americano” by Lady Gaga, “Toot it and Boot it” by YG, and “Jam (Turn It Up)” by Kim Kardashian. All these songs have very different shortcomings (“Americano” murders the Spanish language, “Toot it and Boot it” is mysogynistic, and “Jam” has a somewhat insipid sound), but the public never panned them or their artists the same way or with the same enthusiasm and energy that they panned Rebecca Black.