3/19/2011

Coping with Rebecca Black: An emotional trajectory of "Friday"

Overview This is just going to be another useless commentary on the song “Friday” by Rebecca Black. I am also aware that this song burst onto the internet nearly five days ago (which in offline days is like two months) further rendering the futility of what I feel like I “just gotta say about it,” deal? But this is partly what fascinates me about the viral sensation. Rebecca Black brings out the cliché in all of us! Ultimately what I’m really trying to preface here is that I’m sorry. Not sorry for Rebecca Black, but for my own lack of imagination.

Obliviousness I actually don’t have anything against pop music. The first CD I ever owned was East Side Story by Squeeze. I don’t use the disclaimer “guilty pleasure” when the opening bars of “Teenage Dream” makes its rounds on my shuffle. On a good night, Ke$ha’s “Blow” is enough to get me feeling Serena van der Woodsen drunk (this is the part where I do disclaim that I’m a boy, though). Point is, before I open my laptop Monday morn to check my vitals, my alarm clock was probs that “Bulletproof” song. So catchy!

Confusion Who is Rebecca Black and why is she trending on Twitter? What’s this video? Should I press play? She looks totally harmless in her Youtube screen grab so I'll bite.


Denial Man, who did these opening graphics ‘cause they’re awful? Is this the latest SNL video short? I haven't watched SNL in a while, is this new cast member? She looks part ethnic, so she the new Maya Rudolph? Because opening graphics can't look this bad and Saved By The Bell without gunning for a punch line. And this auto-tune has to be a parody of auto-tune, right? Wait, what, this is real?

Acceptance Quickly realize this actually isn’t a parody of song, but an actual song. This is real. Jesus. I feel slightly disoriented because usually if a song is this bad, it has a context and a place (I guess colloquially that graveyard is called a “One Hit Wonder”) and I either embrace it (Metro Station's “Shake It”) or I tune it out (Bieber’s “Baby”). But before I go any further, I need to check if this is truly an edifying moment in popular culture so I conduct an unscientific litmus test. Quick refresh on “Friday” and I see its total Youtube views jump from 500,600 to 22,460,300. Too real.

Amusement Now with the courtesy of knowing what to expect, “Friday” actually delivers on its promise and becomes fun, fun, fun. To laugh at! The beat that moves a little too fast for the words but awkwardly matches the stop-go-time-lapse-ish effects rendering the video into claymation! Which seat can she take! Tween decisions, holla! As I write this, I think, oh my God, Rebecca Black was right… today *is* Saturday! Imagine if this song was called “2010,” then we’d be in some deep shit! *fingernail biting* Also, LOL, her friend has braces! The only thing I won’t mock is that lyric, “Gotta get my bowl, gotta get cereal” #TRUTH

Celebration So it's been established that “Friday” is great to laugh to in the melancholy glow of your laptop screen at 1 in the morning while into your second pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia (just me?), but it’s time to take this shit public stat.

The next day I wake up feeling sick and sluggish for an indeterminate reason and it puts a total damper on my morning routine. I just feel like I’m squinting at everything, you know? When I get to work, someone makes the obligatory, “Hey Matt, how you doing today?” gesture. I say, “I’m good, except I feel like I’m developing a kidney stone or something. Ugh, can we just put on ‘Friday’ already?”

This is when my co-workers and I put it on full unadultered blast and nearly die laughing, shouting, “No, no, no, this is the best part!” over one another. When Rebecca Black and her minions are through partyin’, partyin’, partyin’, yeah! I say, “I think my kidney stone went away,” and an intern laughs. Awww, staff bonding! Only the weird thing is I actually kind of do feel better and that’s when an unsettling spiral sets in…

Disenchantment We continue to listen to “Friday” at least once every other hour to break up the office monotony and because the whole thing really is still funny at this point. We make the observation that this song is so bad, you can’t even like it ironically. It's so bad it’s not even so-bad-it’s-good, it’s just so-bad-it’s-bad. Yet with every repeated viewing/listening, the initial absurdity of the song that kept it on the radar of our consciousness begins to wear off. “Friday” is starting to sound…normal. Saturated. Catchy, even. We're desensitized. (I’m reminded of a very recent affair I had with Rihanna’s Only Girl (In the World). Relationship status: On a break.) I even try to make a playlist during my lunch hour to disassociate myself from “Friday”.


It doesn’t 100% work. Guess the saying's true. Once you go Black, you never go back.

Guilt and remorse I get home from work, turn on the TV, and Princess Diaries is on. Specifically a scene where Mia Thermopolous is walking through high school and receiving insults left and right from her peers. I’ve always sort of hated these scenes in teen movies, because I can’t ever recollect seeing this stuff happen outside scripted television/film and I was a pretty steady fly-on the-wall in high school.

But maybe I’m just being naïve when I think kids just can’t be this mean that easily. Except on the Internet. Which gets me thinking about Rebecca Black and how even though she’s the laughing stock of the web, but she’s still just a kid, right? I feel a strange, slight sense of remorse because I think today is the closest the internet has ever felt like one giant hypothetical high school to me (having grown up with MySpace and Xanga, child’s play by today’s standards).

I try to escape this hopeless argument with myself by flipping over to the news and what do you fucking know? Anchorwoman reports that Rebecca Black is receiving death threats. It’s a sensationalist headline, sure. I mean, I don’t think the person/people who sent those to her honestly want to kill her over a song (themselves maybe, in all seriousness). They’re just bullies who are trying to be funny and this is when I feel myself slowly getting behind Rebecca Black (the person, not her music because if you were a true friend you would tell her sucks, ‘cept in a nicer “That was way harsh, Tai” way).

Forgiveness In fact, the awfulness that’s at the core of “Friday” isn’t even within Becky’s grasp. I mean, her voice isn’t really that bad… it’s hardly her voice! It’s the producers who fell asleep at the auto-tune. Maybe if Rebecca Black got Timbaland or whoever it is that makes Avril Lavigne sound the way she does, she’d stand a chance at producing a song with a shred of irony. I begin to rationalize my newfound kinship for the girl by making comparisons to other horrible music. Like, a Black Eyed Peas song isn’t that far off from “Friday” considering, but then again none of them are in 8th grade and therefore an easy target. She also doesn’t have the industry or marketing-savvy to dot her name with periods (Will.i.am) to let people know she’s a construction of herself and possibly in on the joke. Or? Is? She?

Over analysis I’m so on Team R.B. at this point I begin to think her song could be a commentary on the Twitter generation, her lyrics poking fun at this new establishment of updating everyone in your narcissistic sphere of your every waking move (“Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs” is less than 140 characters). When she reaches the chorus, “Gotta get down on Friday” it comes off more like a chore. Like. She. Just. Don’t. Care. Light bulb, of course! Rebecca Black’s really making fun of the cool kidz who rage on the weekends! I realize I’ve entered the darkest part of this entire trajectory and take a big sobering breath into…

Exhaustion As with all hype, it starts to die. Largely because the attention you bring to it (re: this blog post) is unnecessarily tiring. Who cares? Whatever. Over it.

And that’s it! Hope this can serve as your guide to the emotional rollercoaster that is “Friday” (if it’s not too late that is) and that you make it out alive.

By the way, that word “alive” reminds me. Whenever I see someone’s full name trending on Twitter I’ve been conditioned to assume they just died or something, and on my fourth viewing of “Friday” I realize something in fact did.

RIP Electro-Dance-Pop Music 2009-2011.

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