Budding pop sensation? Or singer of the “worst song ever?”
Whatever 13-year-old Rebecca Black is, we can be sure of what she isn’t anymore: A typical suburban youth hoping for a taste of fame. For better or worse, she’s practically drowning in it.
To understand the phenomenon that is Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” let’s back up a bit.
In 2010, Rebecca and her family stumbled upon Ark Music Factory, a vanity music label that helps wannabe musicians record and market songs for a price. In Black’s case, the up-front cost was (according to The Daily Beast) $2,000—a package that gave Black the opportunity to record a song (written by Ark Music), have it “professionally” produced and star in a music video. Even then, Black’s family still had to foot at least part of the bill for the video, which was subsequently posted (of course) on YouTube.
“I didn’t really expect much to come out of it,” Black told The Orange County Register. “Just maybe some friends and some family would see it.”
And at first, “Friday” didn’t cast its net much beyond that immediate audience. In its initial couple of weeks, the video was viewed a few thousand times.
But spurred in part by a March 11, 2011, blog post by Comedy Central’s show Tosh.0, “Friday” went viral in a big way. By March 17, the video had garnered 13 million views. On March 24, the number was 43 million. As of the end of March, “Friday” had been viewed nearly 70 million times.
But here’s the catch: “Friday” is so popular largely because it’s a song people love to hate.
Many folks have taken issue with its lyrics, the video’s production values and Black’s Auto-Tuned singing. More than 1.2 million people have posted comments on YouTube—and the majority are unflattering at best, crudely cruel at worst. Some have even suggested that “Friday” might be the worst song ever.
The uproar over the video has been so deafening, in fact, that Ark Music offered to take it down. But Black said no: She didn’t want to give the haters any satisfaction. That said, the largely negative publicity hasn’t been easy for her.
“Those hurtful comments really shocked me,” Black told The Daily Beast. “At times, it feels like I’m being cyberbullied.”
Despite the Internet hate parade, though, Rebecca Black has actually attracted some pretty high-profile praise as well. Chris Brown called the video “great,” Lady Gaga dubbed her a “genius,” and none other than professional critic Simon Cowell encouraged her to ignore everyone over the age of 18. “Whether you like her or not, she’s the most talked-about artist in America right now,” he told New York magazine.
So what is this song all about, anyway?
Online critics’ hyperventilating rhetoric notwithstanding, “Friday” is far from the worst song ever—either artistically or from a content point of view.
The lyrics are superficial, and therefore not very far askew from what you might expect to hear from many teen stars today. In a nutshell, Black ruminates breezily about the mundane happenings of her day, including eating breakfast (“Gotta have my bowl/gotta have cereal”) and going to school (“Gotta get down to the bus stop/Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends”). But mostly she’s excited ’cause it’s Friday. Which means a weekend full of possibility awaits: “Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend,” she chirps merrily.
It must be said that Black’s idea of a great weekend isn’t exactly the stuff of inspiration. It’s all about “partying, partying (yeah!)” and “Fun, fun, fun, fun.” (I’d love to hear Ark Music put together a song about chipping in at the local soup kitchen.) Furthermore, Black suggests that whoever’s driving her to her “partying” destination isn’t driving that safely (“We’re drivin’ on the highway/Cruisin’ so fast”)—a point, ahem, driven home by guest rapper Patrice “Pato” Wilson, who turns up late in the song: “I’m driving, cruising/Fast lanes, switching lanes/With a cop on my side.”
The video sports the same “fun, fun” vibe. Mostly, it features Black and her smiling friends driving around in a convertible. In one (obviously not real) scene, Black and two prom dress-clad friends perch atop the seats in back as the faux city lights whiz by in the background. Additionally, one must wonder, if all of Black’s buds are about the same age she is, why one of them is driving the car.
But that’s as “bad” as the song or video ever get—hardly the sort of media influence required to inspire, say, rampant meth use. And, truth be told, the tune is kinda catchy in a Disney-channel sort of way.
Far be it, then, for Plugged In to join the haters. I can’t say that “Friday” will wind up on my (or my kids’) iPod anytime soon, but I can think of far worse ways to spend four minutes of my time.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.