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?
3. RICH, PRETTY WHITE GIRLS CAN DO ANYTHING THEY WANT (AND WE LET THEM)
It's true: We, as a nation, love rich, pretty, popular white girls. They're the only ones whose deaths make national headlines, because if you're poor, ethnic, and unattractive, you're kind of supposed to die, but when it happens to one of our little ivory-skinned angels, it throws the whole paradigm out of whack.
We especially love to hover over them lecherously, throwing around words like "jailbait" and "underage hottie," counting down the days until they're "legal" - usually with myriad actual Web sites with actual countdowns - and then immediately dismiss them once they turn 18. That is, of course, unless they ratchet the sluttiness up a couple of notches in order to keep our attention, because a virgin is hot, but a virgin we've watched become deflowered is a uniquely nasty brand of sexy.
Yes, we already have the whole story arc plotted in our heads, and every reasonably attractive white girl with money finds herself surrounded by the aforementioned handlers just looking for ways to profit from her genetic lottery winnings. And if, in the meantime, she becomes a spoiled, overpriveleged little brat who gets into alcohol and drugs and has her every superficial whim fulfilled until she's completely detached from reality and looks ready to completely burn out before she turns 25... well, that's okay.
We'll have moved on to the next tantalizingly pretty Caucasian teenager by then. If you don't believe this, go find out how many laws Lindsay Lohan has broken, and then look up how much jail time she's actually served. Think a poor, obese Mexican girl from Third Ward would get the same kind of breaks for the same behavior?
2. DISNEY-FICATION HAS METASTASIZED INTO FULL-ON CULTURE CANCER
We mentioned the tween demographic earlier, but few of us could have foreseen the consequences that would be wreaked upon our culture by giving our children a little too much pocket money to spend. It created a viable market for squeaky-clean, non-threatening performers who appeal to the kids yet are also inoffensive enough to pass parental muster.
But we've gotten our priorities backwards. By shielding our little darlings from lyrics featuring "objectionable content," we've helped them develop an affinity for neutered, bland art. Bill Hicks was correct when he pointed out that it's not "child-friendly" to raise your kids on music utterly lacking in passion and heart.
Do you think Rebecca Black really gives a hot fuck that it's Friday? What's so terrible about the rest of her damn week, that she's praying for the weekend? Does she, a 13-year-old girl with enough money to have a song and video (more or less) professionally produced, have any inkling of the work-a-day drudge that led to The Vogues' "Five O'Clock World"? Or the giddy infatuation that led to The Cure's "Friday I'm In Love"?
Her robotic, joyless mantra of "Fun fun fun fun" should be all the answer you need to that question.
1. EVERYBODY LOVES A MEME
As much support as Rebecca is gaining, however, it pales next to the number of people making fun of her. Take a look at the stats on the video for "Friday" and you'll notice that the "Dislikes" outnumber the "Likes" almost 10 to one. Far from becoming the next tween idol, she's instead become the whipping girl of the entire internet, and what should have been a privileged teenager's vanity project to be briefly tolerated by her family and friends is instead the focus of millions upon millions of people laughing at her, not with her.
As of this writing, 378, 696 people took the time to press the "Dislike" button upon viewing her video. That's the same as being actively despised by the entire city of Honolulu (pop. 374,658). And she's closing in on Minneapolis.
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It would be nice to believe that everyone who dislikes this song is putting it in the proper perspective, reserving the main force of their hatred for Rebecca's guardians and handlers, and for the culture that allowed this kind of thing to become the norm. But we get the feeling that most of the people who've passed her video along for mocking and who've written truly abhorrent comments on her YouTube page would then turn around and happily listen to the Biebers, the Mileys, and the Jonases, all slightly more talented but equally empty, insubstantial performers.
Sure, you hate the song "Friday." We won't deny it's utter shit. But do you know why you hate it? And do you know who's truly at fault?