I feel like the subject of Rebecca Black, the new teen-phenom-in-training, and her opus “Friday,” has been exhausted by now. Younger and more in touch people have weighed in over a month ago and I expect that I am probably the last to offer my two cents. In fact, I really hope that I am. Originally, I watched the video out of curiosity. After all, it was being described as the worst song of all time, and I guess I just had to see it. After I watched it, I debated for a while about whether I would even bother to put down an opinion, which would be a open admission that I actually sat through four minutes of adolescent treacle instead of pursuing loftier things. I decided to let it rest.
This was until I saw that Stephen Colbert was to perform the song on Jimmy Fallon’s show. Clearly this phenomenon was now bigger than the adolescent girl who made the song and the pathetic teenage boys who took the time to write online comments urging Black to “get an eating disorder” or “die.” (Frankly I believe those comments should instead be directed at Ark Music Factory, the company that wrote the song and sold it to Black’s parents for two grand.) To be sure, I don’t like the song. I hardly think that even needs to be said. To be honest, I would be wary of any thirty-something males who do. Which is why I was so surprised and dismayed that Colbert, backed by the Roots, performed a special arrangement of the song on Fallon’s Friday night show, potentially giving the song more cultural weight (ironic as their performance was) and greater longevity.
I feel about “Friday” the same way I feel about “2 Girls, 1 Cup”: If it’s not your thing, don’t watch it. If you aren’t a preteen girl with a taste for sugary pop, don’t watch “Friday.” If you aren’t a far-out fetishist fecalpheliac, don’t watch “2 Girls, 1 Cup.” These are two internet sensations that became popular because of the horror that they inspired in an unintended audience.
But in spite of the fact that I belong to neither of the aforementioned demographics, I have seen both. They simply blew up in such a way that I felt that I was somehow disconnected from the reigning popular culture if I didn’t experience both of these things. In fact, I probably didn’t have to, and probably shouldn’t have. I don’t feel scarred by either of the experiences (but if I had to choose, I would probably say that I found Ms. Black’s video more disturbing), but found them both tremendously unnecessary. Both of those videos should have remained mercifully in obscurity.
The view count of “Friday” on YouTube is now pushing 90 million, but in spite of the fact that the number of views do not count as votes of approval (there are nearly 2 million “dislikes”, and only a quarter million “likes”, while the rest didn’t bother to vote), Rebecca Black has become famous. I feel slightly guilty knowing that I am 1/90,000,000th responsible for that. I added, in a small way, to its popularity, or at least infamy. I was even hesitating to write this piece because I thought it would further contribute to her notoriety if I thought for a second that anyone was actually reading this.
YouTube provides a way to satisfy our curiosity in the latest viral internet phenomena in a way that can be anonymous without making any type of monetary investment. This is especially convenient in the cases of videos such as “2 Girls, 1 Cup” and “Friday” when we know in advance that what we are going to see is a lot of shit.
For the most part, it was a combination of ridicule, indignation, and curiosity that made the song and video popular. Consequently, whether we like it or not, we will be hearing more from Rebecca Black. What direction her career will take is anyone’s guess. Will she go the Ashley Simpson route and find a degree of unearned success just through sheer marketing, or will she actually prove to have some artistic voice of her own (unlikely)? Or will she simply record an album that will end up in the bargain bins next to William Hung’s CD by the end of the year (see how old I am? I’m talking about CDs for shit’s sake!).
Seeing Colbert perform it made realize just how big it has become and how inescapable it is. Even we old farts can’t ignore it. Maybe if we had ignored it, not let our morbid curiosity get the best of us, maybe it would have remained what it was supposed to be, a frivolous video for a thirteen year old girl to show to her friends. As if its internet success wasn’t enough, in Colbert’s and the Roots’ hands, the song has been given a new treatment and an even bigger platform than it had before. But who knows? Maybe, hopefully, this will be the last word.
I will give Colbert and the Roots credit: they polished that turd to a shine, and as far as viral internet videos are concerned, I’m glad they recreated “Friday” instead of “2 Girls, 1 Cup.”