I first saw the video for Friday by Rebecca Black at about 7am on Monday morning. The joy of mobile internet meant that a link posted on the world’s largest social network site by Australian music writer Tim Finney just before he went to bed (presumably) was pre-breakfast fodder for my half-awake brain. Such is life.
I had no idea, on first viewing, who Rebecca Black was or where Friday had come from. I still don’t. I don’t want to know. Viewed on a tiny screen with the volume turned down so low as to not disturb my sleeping wife, only the melody and a smattering of the words were perceptible. It was obvious straight away that this was a strange song, but it wasn’t until after breakfast, when I watched it again on the iPad, with volume enough to take it all in, that it was apparent quite how strange.
When I first saw it, Friday had approximately a million views. By the time I showed it to work colleagues mid-morning on Tuesday, it was up to 4 million. Now, Wednesday morning, it’s at just under 8 million. I’m adding another notch to that tally right now.
So what makes Friday so weird? Yes, the lyrics are asinine in the extreme (“yesterday was Thursday Thursday / today is Friday Friday / tomorrow is Saturday / and Sunday comes afterwards” only eclipsed by the existential pain of “fun fun fun fun” and the identity crisis of “which seat shall I take?” in reference to where one should sit in your friend’s car) and open to massive potential intentional comedy misreading (she smokes a bowl before breakfast?!), but they’re no worse than Saturday Night by Whigfield, arguably (crossed with Phil Daniels’ lines from Parklife, perhaps, or even Paul’s “woke up, got out of bed” lines from A Day In The Life…). Yes, the vocals are autotuned beyond the point of being recognisable as a human voice, resulting in the entire song seemingly being composed of just one note (and aiding the remarkable rhyming of ‘bowl’ and ‘cereal’). Yes the arrangement is perfunctory in the extreme. Yes, the middle eight is borderline psychedelic in its oddness (lyrically and musically) and sub-Sesame Street days-of-the-week elucidation. Yes, the sudden emergence of an anonymous rapper cruising the night-time cityscape in his car looking for a party attended by 13-year-old girls is creepy and anachronous. Yes, the image of a gaggle of 13-year-olds green-screened into a soft-top Mercedes (or similar) on the highway is slightly alarming.
But the weirdest thing about Friday is its ontology, the fact that this isn’t a popstar, seemingly (yet), but a real teenage girl, the way that, when you look into it, it seems to explode the way that popstars are formed more than Simon Cowell could ever hope to do. Friday is the product of Ark Music Factory, an LA company who seemingly make music videos (and possibly write the songs to build those videos around) for anyone who comes and pays them enough money. I can’t find any convincing proof (and I’m not really looking, because I don’t really want to know), but it seems like Rebecca Black might just be a relatively well-off teenage girl whose parents bought her an expensive present; only instead of a nice car, or a helicopter ride to take her to the prom, they bought her a music video (and 8 million YouTube hits as a BOGOF bonus). But amidst the fuss about the song and the attention, we have to remember that this is a real person, and a very young one at that, who almost certainly didn’t expect this level of attention. She looks nervous throughout the video, as people who aren’t natural performers tend to, but she seems to be having fun despite this, playing at being popstar the way every girl does, only this time she has a video memory of it, and it’s been shared with the world.
Is Friday pop? Yes, in that its nagging hooks are thoroughly lodged inside my head. Yes, in that it’s popular. Analytics don’t register irony. And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the dozens of covers, lip-synchs, slowed-down-to-sound-like-Sigur-Ros-versions, and dubstep remixes suggest that people want to gain a little reflected glory from the Rebecca Black phenomenon. Hell, what’s this blog post doing?
Maybe, given what’s happening in Japan, the world needed some frivolous, meaningless, bubblegum nonsense to distract from repeated viewings of tidal waves destroying cities and whirlpools sucking ocean-going vessels into the abyss. But 8 million views is far from the whole world, even if it might seem like everyone is talking about Rebecca Black if you look at Twitter trends. I just hope that Rebecca is able to treat the explosion of exposure for her video, and therefore herself, with the same nervous sense of fun she seems to display while actually singing. If we can call it singing.