Friday, April 01, 2011

A Quick Word... On Rebecca Black's 'Friday'

I thought that I would leave this blog til Friday, partly because it seemed poetic, and partly because I was scared of writing it. Foolish creature that I am though... I appear to have left it until April Fool's Day. Please note friends, the only jokes here are the obvious ones.

I noticed this morning that someone on Facebook had said 'Why is everyone talking about the fact that it's Friday?', so while I thought everyone had seen this video, perhaps I'm wrong. Let me, with no degree of irony, say that my housemate Jess showing me this clip was the highlight of last week.


About a year ago, I was alerted to the presence of a film called The Room, a film so, so shambolic that it was one of the most enjoyable I've seen, and gave me one of my highlight evenings of last year. We still quote it. I also love the films of Ed Wood, such as Plan 9 From Outer Space, and was once passed a book by my boss, who said:

"Read this."
"Good is it?"
"No. It's terrible."

It was.

I guess I just love bad art. And not because I believe bad art teaches you numerous invaluable lessons about how to make good art (it does). But truly bad art is an art form all of its own. Rebecca Black's video, and some of the critiques of it that I will share in a minute, has had me in tears of laughter - pure, pure enjoyment. And I have my suspicions that you can't create something like that deliberately. Think Snakes On A Plane, for example, which was fun, but just too self aware to reach the lofty heights of 'so bad that it's good'. My suspicion is that you couldn't engineer a Rebecca Black video - the parodies are never as funny as the original - simply because the faces in it would be smug and self satisfied with their own irony. It would simply be too self aware. Pretending to be bad at something rarely works. To be genuinely rubbish, to have confidence in non-existent ability to the point of hilarity, is perhaps impossible to teach.

Which leads me to my next point, and a paragraph I taken from Amanda Palmer's blog entry on 'Friday':

almost everybody can relate to rebecca black.
almost every pre-teen year-old girl in american is singing shit like this in living rooms and bedrooms after school, singing into that universal hairbrush, dreaming about being lady gaga, britney, avril, whoever, dreaming to be the pop-star that somehow signifies freedom, acceptance, awesomeness, status, happiness, success.

but the world has changed. the living room now has cameras and the cameras connect to youtube.

When I was 7 or 8, my friend Jack McNiff and I would write and record songs that we made in the sunroom at my house. We would bash things for percussion - if I recall plastic tables and icecream boxes. Jack in those days knew a bit of guitar - has gone on to know A LOT of guitar and be bloody good at it with his own real band to worry about now - and somewhere on tape in my cupboard are all our recordings as The Bush Kids. I haven't heard those songs in nearly fourteen years. I couldn't even tell you how they go. I promise you though, that they are at best unlistenable. And I also know this: If Jack and I had Youtube back then, we would've recorded those songs and put them up online. I'm almost certain of it.

The people who made Rebecca Black's video, Ark Music Factory, are paid good money by ordinary families to shoot professional video clips, and record professionally the songs these kids have written. Don't get too many grand ideas about Rebecca being 'discovered'. If you have enough money aside, you could make this story true for any child in the world. This question of the artist's ego that I was talking about in relation to adults, the part of their brain that causes them to make beautiful, terrible things and think that they express true talent - this is inherent in children. It's not until you look at the things you drew in primary school years later and find that the description your teacher wrote in the corner is actually necessary to decipher its meaning, that you realise you weren't the Michelangelo you thought you were. Yet for someone like Rebecca Black, the damage is already done. You can't take back Youtube hits or iTunes downloads. You cannot cleanse the internet.

So I guess I have two requests from here. Don't be ashamed of enjoying failure. Not only does bad music, bad artwork, bad literature and bad film teach us what makes something good too, it's good for the soul to just experience creativity without inhibition. Learn to love terrible things and you'll be rewarded for it.

And also, forgive Rebecca Black. If, in fifteen years time she decides she's going to really take a shot at the music business, don't judge her on what's come before. I always think it is best for kids to step back and practice through childhood before trying to start creative careers, but in the world of Web 2.0 it's not nearly as simple as that, and I probably would be making the same mistakes if I had been born a few years later than I was. Whether you like the song or not - or maybe love to hate it - you've got to accept that it's not going away. The internet has changed everything, and it's here to stay. That's just something we have to learn to live with.

Happy Friday friends.


Finally my two favourite 'Friday' links. Thanks to the friends who shared these!

Firstly it's Friday, reimagined by someone who is a bad lipreader, in a song called 'Gang Fight':

And secondly this one, from The AWL examines the work as radical text. As an Arts student, I can't get enough.

Here's an excerpt:

“Gotta make my mind up,” she sings, overjoyed to finally exert some control over her fate; “Which seat can I take?”

Yet here the discerning viewer notes that something is wrong. Because it is a simple matter of fact that in this car all the good seats have already been taken. For Rebecca Black (her name here would seem to evoke Rosa Parks, a mirroring that will only gain in significance) there is no actual choice, only the illusion of choice.


We return to the computer graphic calendar sequence, the litany of days: Ms. Black’s image flickers across the screen, now doubled, fractured, schizophrenic, threatening Kleboldian frenzy—as we cut to an African-American man in his early thirties.

He wears diamond earrings, a light beard, drives across the familiar blue-screen cityscape. He alone seems untaken by the false images around him. Is it because he can’t forget American brutality? Does ancient bondage keep him from modern numbness? Is he protected from pharma and plasma by fire hoses and cotton fields?

In broadest terms, the answer is yes: Ms. Black’s parents have paid this rapper to appear in the video as a conduit to ghetto rawness, hired blackness, an invigorating hit of the Other. He is a peddler of “the real” in a false-era of commoditized suffering.

1 comment:

  1. This is an awesome point of view about Friday!

    By the way, that gang wars lip-sync video at the end of the post resulted in me stumbling across this:

    Ha ha!