Lately it seems like the planet is going mad. From the devastation in Japan to the madness of Charlie Sheen, we seem to live in a sea of despair and unrest. But, in the middle of the death, tragedy and upheaval a teenage girl named Rebecca Black has emerged from the ashes, who, like a virtual Joan of Arc, has came to save us with her song, but instead we have decided to burn at the stake. Just who is Rebecca Black and why is the whole world talking about her? Last week Rebecca Black was just an unknown kid somewhere in America. This week she is the most talked about teenager in pop culture for the release of a single called Friday, which has become the newest YouTube sensation, receiving attention from countless amounts of media sources world wide, and being called “the worst song ever recorded.” Why did this song and this unknown little wannabe pop star gain the attention of the masses this week? Perhaps as the world falls apart we need something trivial to distract our attention, if only for a few moments so that we can calm our minds from the craziness that surrounds our world. Perhaps the negativity that has been thrust at Rebecca and Friday is the result of pent up angst of the world being misdirected on an unknown kid and her mediocre pop song. Perhaps…but no matter what the reason, somewhere in America a kid named Rebecca Black had a really really strange week.
Within a week Rebecca Black has become literally an overnight sensation as “the girl that ruined Friday”. but for the exception of a completely superficial bio released by Ark Music Factory, the true culprits behind releasing Friday onto the public, very little is known about who exactly Rebecca Black is. Through all of the hype and hate, the real Rebecca Black has stayed quiet to the point of nonexistence. One can assume that she is either burying her head under her covers, wishing this whole monstrosity would go away, or she, her parents and her representatives at Ark Music Factory are carefully planning their next move. Thus far it seems that the second option is the most likely. Since Friday March 11th, when the video went viral due to being posted on The Daily What, Ark Music Factory has been busy creating a Twitter account for their young star (although it is clear that Rebecca herself is not behind any of the tweets), have released Friday on itunes and rumor has it that a shopping mall tour, in the spirit of the Tiffany tours of the 1980’s, is currently being planned. Yet, in Rebecca’s silence, still little seems to be known about the girl herself. So what do we know about Rebecca Black? According to Rebecca’s Ark Music Factory bio, Rebecca has had an interest in show business at an early age, taking lessons in dance, acting and, believe it or not, voice. A participant in her public school musical productions, including Oklahoma and Guys and Dolls, she has also been involved in modeling and has been in at least one commercial. There are also clues that Rebecca resides in Southern California. That’s about it. At this time that’s all the world knows about Rebecca Black and, quite frankly, it’s about as superficial as the lyrics to her song.
What is clear is that Rebecca Black is simply a teenage girl with dreams of pop stardom, who has seen kids like Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers rise to stardom and figured that she had what it takes to do the same. She is a kid who has grown up on American Idol, watching total unknowns rise to questionable iconic status, and decided that she wanted to have the same opportunity. Rebecca Black was a misguided little girl with a dream. However, sometimes you should watch what you wish for. In the case of Rebecca Black, the dream may have turned into a nightmare. Friday isn’t going away soon, and the whole world is laughing at her. But want to know what? Rebecca Black is not to blame. Sure, it’s been her name and her face and her heavily autotuned voice that has been ringing through our head, but the real culprit behind Friday is a man named Clarence Jay, founder of Ark Music Factory. You hate Friday? Well Clarence Jey is the guy that you want to blame. .
So who exactly is Clarence Jey and why is it his fault? Clarence Jey is a mediocre Los Angeles based music producer who, after years of limited success in the industry, was inspired by the success story of Scooter Braun, the man behind the Justin Beiber phenomena. In search for fresh new talent from kids with aspirations for pop success, Jey formed Ark Music Factory. The idea behind Ark Music Factory is sort of like the monkey with the typewriter. If you give enough monkeys material to work with, eventually one of them will churn out a hit. In the case of Ark Music Factory, the first monkey to do this was Rebecca Black. Basically, wealthy parents of aspiring popettes can fly their little pop princesses out to Los Angeles to work with Clarence Jey and his people. For a heavy fee, Jey and friends will write a song, produce a single and even create a fairly professional looking video for the child and put the video on YouTube. Then it’s all about the waiting game. Will the video gain attention? Via YouTube there are a dozen Ark Music Factory acts, with each song and video being as mediocre as Rebecca Black’s. In fact, some are arguably even worse. But, for some reason Rebecca Black’s video was the first one to capture the imagination of the public. But while Rebecca may have sang the song, we must remember that it was Clarence Jey who wrote such now infamous lyrics as “Kickin’ in the front seat/Sittin’ in the back seat/Gotta make my mind up/Which seat can I take,” “Fun, fun, fun, fun” and of course “Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday/Today is Friday, Friday.” The whole phenomenon was 100% created by Clarence Jey and Rebecca Black was just this crazy kid that got mixed up along the way. Does she truly deserve our hate? She is nothing but a star struck victim that got taken in by a producer of little talent with dollar bills in his eyes. Every city has one and these are the true villains that are destroying the credibility of the music industry. Guys like Clarence Jey are the real villains of the pop culture experience.
But this is the part that I don’t understand. Just why is Friday being called the worst song ever written? I mean, I know its not good, but is it really all that bad? Now I must admit that I don’t have my thumb on the pulse of the pop music industry. My taste in music tends to rest on artists like Miles Davis or The Doors. But to me, for better or for worse, Friday is about the same caliber as anything coming from the majority of the pop acts today. It is painfully clear in Rebecca’s video that she is uncomfortable and lacks the confidence or natural performance ability of Miley Cyrus or a young Britney Spears, and she is autotuned so much that she makes the Black Eyed Peas sound as natural as a Karen Carpenter recording. But as far as I can tell, Justin Beiber is about as mass produced and autotuned as Rebecca Black is. As far as my untrained ear can tell, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Vanessa Hudgens is pretty much of the same caliber of performer as Rebecca Black. As far as her much criticized vocal style, she seems to be emulating a less cutting edge Ke$ha. The bottom line is it is pop music. If you want art you listen toTchkovsky. If you want something with substance you listen to Lou Reed. If you want someone with talent you listen to Amy Winehouse. But in the case of Rebecca Black, what the hell do you want? What I know is that Friday has been stuck in my head for six days now, and in the world I live in, that screams “hit song.” The song is easily the most popular song in the world right now, although for all the wrong reasons, and by the end of last weekend YouTube was full of people doing cover versions of it ranging from heavy metal to acoustic folk, and in the case of one clever musician, a Bob Dylan version! In many outlets and countries Friday is already finding its way onto music charts. Love it or hate it, Friday has become one of the songs of our lives, and that’s something we can’t take back. Friday may be a far more powerful song then any of us would like to admit.
But what about Rebecca Black? Can she recover from the massive upheaval of misdirected hate aimed at her for the release of Friday? Well, if you’re out there somewhere reading this Rebecca, let me give you a bit of big brotherly advice. This weekend pick up Esperanza Spaulding’s Chamber Music Society CD. You may not understand it, but let her example be your guide to success. Talent can not be bought, stardom can not be produced and slicksters like Clarence Jey don’t have your back. All they care about is money and they’ll leave you flat the moment your moment of glory fades away. You’ve already accomplished the hardest part. You are the most famous teenage girl in the world, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. However, if you truly believe that you can be a performer, and if you have been training like your bio from Ark Music Factory says, then keep working hard and find what your best at. You can turn this around If you truly have what it takes to be an performer then fame will find you. Perhaps you hit just a bit to early. Talent comes from within, not from a credit card.
The only clue to what is really going on in Rebecca Black’s world at the moment comes in the form of a similar message left to Rebecca from her father via twitter. Rebecca Black’s father writes: “Wow! What a wild last few days, huh? I hope you take this new found fame (or infamomy in some cases) and grab hold of it! Don’t look back; look forward to your next great thing that will come your way. This such a lucky break that doesn’t come along very often for most singers. It’s yours right now to mold your future if you choose to embrace this opportunity! Way to go my little star! Dad.” Within this message it is clear that Rebecca and her family are very aware of the full extent of the phenomena that has been created, but despite the negativity they are full of encouragement and support. Rebecca Black’s family may be her biggest supporters. But Rebecca’s father is right. For better or for worse, Friday put Rebecca Black on the pop culture radar. Perhaps her fame will last only fifteen minutes, but as long as Friday is stuck in my head, I have a feeling that this song is going to be around for a long time. In my books that doesn’t make Rebecca Black an epic fail. That makes her a genuine pop culture phenomena.