Pop Life

Rebecca Black: 5 Reasons We Should Have Seen Her Coming

If you're on the Internet - and it would be tricky for you to be reading this if you weren't - you've undoubtedly become familiar with one Rebecca Black. If not, allow us to acquaint you. This should do it.

She's done us one favor: She's eclipsed Charlie Sheen as the nation's object of twisted fascination and scorn. Wow, is that song ever bad. All of those studio effects, and they still couldn't make her sound like she wasn't singing directly out of her nostrils. She sounds like an army of robot Fran Dreschers.

But let us not attack the poor kid too harshly. She's only 13, after all, and we'd hate to give her or anyone else an excuse to use the moral-panic buzzword-du-jour "cyberbullying." Let us instead take a step back and remember: She's not the only one responsible for this audio equivalent to a stream of diseased elephant piss.

In fact, one could say that in a way, we're all to blame for Rebecca Black. She's the logical conclusion to the trend of fluffy, shiny teen-pop that has seen such a virulent resurgence in recent years. Allow us to explain.

5. POP IDOLS ARE MADE, NOT BORN

There are kings, and there are kingmakers. Kings these days are usually lucky simpletons who happen to fit a certain profile, or who can be wedged into one with relative ease. Kingmakers are the truly scary bastards. They're the ones who have narrowed down the tricks and traps of fame to a simple formula, who have squeezed all the fun, spontaneity, and excitement out of an ascent to stardom by use of focus groups, analysts, and public relations dogsbodies.

The kingmakers seize an affable child with a certain amount of charisma and shoehorn that kid into the tween heartthrob profile, a cookie-cutter identity in which the only unique attribute you are allowed to have is your haircut. Everything else is scientifically managed to appeal to just the right demographic, the youth of the nation who have allowance money, but haven't yet developed the taste to spend it on anything worthwhile.

You're told how to act, how to think, what to say, what to sing, and what to wear. You're given a cut-and-dry identity before you've even old enough to really have one. Is it any wonder that when the kids get a little older, they inevitably flip out and rebel? They've been suffocated for so long that they explode into basket cases. And meanwhile, the handlers behind the scenes reap the profits even as they scour for the next sacrificial lamb.

Who's behind Rebecca Black? We don't know yet. But they should know that our ire isn't directed so much at Rebecca herself, but squarely at them. Rebecca is just a kid. These cynical manipulators, on the other hand, know exactly what they are doing.

4. THE PROCESS HAS COMPLETELY ELIMINATED THE NEED FOR TALENT

Until quite recently, there was talent involved in at least some aspects of pop music. Yes, sometimes even bad pop music masks genuine talent; before his reign as champion of cheese-soaked overproduction, Justin Bieber became popular with nothing but his guitar, his voice, and a YouTube account.

If the performer wasn't particularly vocally talented - we're looking at you, Britney Spears - they could still bring something engaging to the table, even if it was just slick dance moves, a great ass, and the best record producers in the business. But no longer do you need a Dr. Luke or a Timbaland to transform something terrible into something that might actually sell on iTunes.

The truth is, any asshole can learn to work ProTools and AutoTune well enough to turn anything - absolutely anything - into a pop song. Sometimes these tools are used for good, as in the following musically and philosophically beautiful video.

But more often than not, they're used for evil, to try and foist some talentless performer upon us, fool us into thinking what we're seeing has artistic merit. But consider: Lady Gaga, like her or not, has the talent to arrange and perform all of her songs solo, with nothing more than herself and a piano. Can Rebecca Black, or any number of recent pop artists, do the same?

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John Seaborn Gray