I hate to jump on the buzzwagon and talk about the whole Rebecca Black ‘Friday’ meme. But it probably the most significant even in American music culture since Arcade Fire’s victory at the Grammys.
This video as of this posting has received over seven million views after being featured on the show Tosh.0. According to the buzz, Black’s video was produced by the Ark Music Factory, a studio that signs unknown teen girls and produces crappy music videos in the hope that they ‘make it’ like Justin Bieber. Numerous commentators have ridiculed the video as amateurish and the song itself as downright atrocious. No one really seems to ‘get’ it.
I’m going to go ahead and say that this video is one of the greatest piece of music to emerge in the last year. Yes, it’s true that the video is terribly produced, the lyrics make no sense, and the way Black pronounces “Friday” is cringe-worthy.
But this song is post-conceptual masterpiece. It seems like no one really likes the song. Maybe some people do, but they have to admit that Kim Kardashian’s new single is a little better. Instead, it seems people watch it to mock it. But they still consume it. They love it. Ark Music Factory is probably making tons of money off of the hit they produced. The very name ‘Ark Music Factory’ makes a Biblical reference while at the same time suggesting a sort of mass-produced inauthenticity [via Adorno and Benjamin].
The only reason this song has thrived is because of its position in a hyperreal network of signifiers. It trades on the tropes used by Justin Bieber and the tweenosphere, exposing the artificiality of the pop music industry. Her song is rich with inadvertent intertexuality and irony, reflecting all of the different facets of pop culture and exposing its own absurdity. At the same time, it ridicules the entire fame machine in which one becomes a youtube music sensation not from any musical talent but rather from manufacturing a successful meme. We have entered a hyperreal age of meme culture. ‘Rebecca Black’ is not a real live thirteen year old girl. She is a cultural artifact, an internet meme to be passed around, praised, ridiculed, and then thrown away when a new meme comes along. Remember Ted Williams? Does anyone really care about him anymore?
Notably, the entire internet has ganged up and bashed Black, calling her song ‘one of the worst songs’ in recent internet memory. Essentially, it seems like the music-blog complex is trying to preserve pop music by excluding her song from this realm. By isolating her from the pop music sphere through ridicule, they protect pop music against the same criticism of banality. By making an example of Black, they suggest that Bieber, Gomez, and every other teen star is somehow normal, acceptable, and even good.
While almost every cultural commentator on the internet has weighed in on Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’, there have been several articles of note.
-Carles of Hipster Runoff gives his own unique take on the event, but seems to miss the point that she is a postmodern genius.
-Rolling Stone’ Matthew Perpetua argues that Rebecca Black’s song is in fact perfect parody of pop music.
-Ned Hepburn at Death + Taxes rants about the internet meme industry.
-One commenter on an online forum gives a beautiful postmodern textual analysis of the song, suggesting that Black is in fact drawing attention to her own lack of autonomy.
-Rebecca Black recently released a new ‘unplugged’ acoustic version.
-She also gave an interview to Chris Lee at the Daily Beast.
-Sujay Kumar at Thought Catalog provides another rhetorical analysis, though not nearly as good as the commenter mentioned above.
-And finally, The New Inquiry editors Rob Horning and Malcom Harris give their own take on the meme, discussing it as a symptom of post-Fordist digital sharecropping and looking at it both in relationship to broader class systems and through the lens of the Frankfurt School, specifically Adorno and Horkheimer.
Say what you like, Rebecca Black is probably the greatest postmodern music meme since Bunny Holiday.