I Can Explain… Rebecca Black

First appeared in the April 8, 2011 issue of Retirement News Weekly

If you have the internet and/or a TV, you’ve likely heard of Rebecca Black and her song “Friday.” The song and video are horrible and people are talking about it. The most common complaint about the song is the ridiculous lyrics, which follow Rebecca through her daily Friday morning activities and then devolve into proclamations about how she plans to “Get down on Friday” and then nonsensically repeats “Partyin’” and “Fun” over and over and over. While the production value seems high, Rebecca’s nasally and heavily auto-tuned voice (A technology which corrects a singer’s pitch, while often distorting the voice to sound mechanical) does little to raise the song into anything more than sub-par. So what is this song and why have we been watching the video… I can explain.

Rebecca is a thirteen-year-old girl, who wanted to be a famous singer. Her somewhat-wealthy parents hired ARK Music to write and produce a song for her. They were given two options written by the company’s co-owner Patrice Wilson: one was about love and the other was about Friday. Given that Rebecca is only thirteen, she chose to sing about something she actually knew about (Good for you, Rebecca!). Unfortunately, the song had ridiculous lyrics that are easily mocked. In one verse, Rebecca can’t decide which seat to sit in: Kickin’ in the front seat. Sittin’ in the back seat. Gotta make my mind up, which seat can I take? Later in the song, she explains the days of the week: Yesterday was Thursday, Today it is Friday, Tomorrow is Saturday, And Sunday comes afterwards!

The video was put on Youtube on February 10, 2011 and went relatively unnoticed (only 4,000 views). But on March 10, comedian Daniel Tosh posted the video on his blog under the title “Song Writing Isn’t For Everyone” and the video became a viral sensation. Between then and now, the song has been viewed 84.4 million times and has received 1.6 million comments.

The fact that even the best comedians and singers are doing covers of the song and are unable to save it reveals how atrocious it really is. Stephen Colbert, a news satirist on Comedy Central and a personal hero of mine, sung a cover of the song on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon after fans donated over $26,000 to Donors Choose. Conan O’Brian spoofed the song on his show with his version “Thursday,” which he claimed Rebecca Black has ripped off. (The cover that’s made to sound like Bob Dylan sings “Friday” is actually pretty good.)

The response has been vile. Comedians have mocked it. Rolling Stones called it an “unintentional parody of modern pop.” Many have dubbed it the “worst song in history.” Viewers have sent hate mail to Rebecca, while making the nastiest of comments on Twitter and blogs. In her appearance on Good Morning America, the interviewer sat Rebecca down and read off the worst of the comments, which is atrocious in and of itself. (A reporter reading “Her song Friday is the worst song I’ve ever heard in my entire life… even deaf people are complaining” to garner a reaction from a 13-year-old is disgusting journalism. Her upbeat and positive spin of each of the comments reveals a side of Rebecca that shows she in no way deserves this much hate.)

Now I’ll be the first to admit that when I first heard this song, I got upset. (How dare this bad singer push this horrible song on us! How dare she claim to be good!) And I was early to point the finger and mock it. But the fact is, Rebecca in no way claims to be the best. And no one’s really claiming that the song is good. People are upset, but why? It’s just another bad song by an amateur singer. What upsets us is the fame and notoriety that Rebecca now has, but we’re the ones who did that. We made her popular. We watched the video and we pulled her out of the rabbit hole only to bash her until she climbs back in. So really it’s one of two things: either we love to hate Rebecca Black or we really hate ourselves for not being able to look away. Either way, we’re going to hell.

In any case, Rebecca’s fame and incredible sales (the song reached #19 for top sales on itunes) is likely going to lead to a CD. We’ll see if the world has what it takes to let a young woman, with a little talent in need of a lot of practice, disappear back into anonymity.

And if you want to know whether or not I could have sung it any better… I’ll let you guys figure that one out on your own!

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