Pop Rocks: No One to Blame for Rebecca Black but Ourselves

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The Internet is a strange place. Its most dominant and pervasive bandwidth hogs are spam and porn, both completely voluntary (people actually open those Nigerian money request e-mails or they wouldn't still be sending them). It drives news cycles, turning what was, just 25 years ago, something we got from a 30-minute news segment or a daily newspaper into a minute-by-minute first-person story.

Movies, television shows and music are consumed en masse by voracious pop culture addicts who will soon store more music than they could listen to in a lifetime on some remote server they will never actually see or touch.

Perhaps most notable is how fascinated we are with the mundane and the curious. It's like a giant museum of the weird and we all sit transfixed by the morbid, the pointless and the randomly entertaining. It is a place where celebrity takes on a whole different meaning. An Internet superstar with a million followers on Twitter might be a complete unknown to the vast majority of everyday Americans. Ask Neil Gaiman.

As a result, we are occasionally blessed with a bona-fide YouTube sensation like Rebecca Black.

Black made a video, aided by a record label whose sole clientele consists of teens. YouTube music careers, all 15 minutes of them, are built on the backs of kids who love Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, both of whom have actual talent despite the derogatory comments to the contrary you can find all over the net, and Black is cashing in, her song "Friday" quickly climbing the iTunes charts on the strength of that video that has been viewed more than 10 million times.

The laundry list song about the perils of being a kid who eats cereal, lives in the suburbs and likes "fun, fun, fun" while "kicking in the back seat" is an example of truly awful music marketed directly at teenagers who change interests as often as they change their pink hair clips. 

Kids are easy targets. They like whatever is "fun, fun, fun" and anything new. Most of us were the same way when we were her age. Some of us didn't have the Internet and the breakneck pace of a world built on technology, but we bounced around from topic to topic and thought to thought in the same ADD way kids do now. We just did it without the laptop and the Ritalin.

Black is not to blame for the popularity of her song. Neither is she an example of how misguided the youth of today is. Every era had shitty music and is littered with examples of "artists" who didn't deserve to earn five dollars for their work, let alone sell a million records. 

For every "Friday," there was a "Disco Duck," a "Mickey," a "Monster Mash" and so on. There was an entire genre of popular culture artificially created in the sixties around safe, sexless romps on the beach. It was as popular then as Black and her ilk are now.

What is different about Black, besides the way her meteoric rise occurred, is that someone like her could reach the level of "success" she has almost purely on irony.

The overwhelming majority of people who Twittered about her and posted her video on Facebook did it purely to point out how bad Black is and how we should all be outraged over this latest example of the death of youth culture in America. It's like shouting for all the world to hear about something you hate only to popularize it by accident.

We all know what a travesty it is that Arrested Development got canceled while Survivor remains on the air. We've all heard that Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair," catchy as it may be, should never outpace the popularity of whatever cool indie band Pitchfork tells us we have to like despite their ceaseless droning keyboards and Morrissey knockoff fronting the band (it's art, man!). But, ranting about it in an extremely public forum -- the technological equivalent of a megaphone that can be heard from space -- won't fix the problem and, more importantly, it makes you look like an asshole.

Access to the same technology that allows turds like "Friday" to be made and disseminated also provides all the would-be critics, most of whom have neither the discipline nor the good sense to critique anything with even a small measure of credibility, a platform for preaching about the next big disaster to the yearning masses. It's equal opportunity bullshit and we're all guilty.

We say, let Black and her teenage friends have their "fun, fun, fun" "kicking in the back seat." They'll do that with or without us anyway and the less we intervene, the more likely crap like "Friday" will fade quickly into the background like every Blues Image and Lipps, Inc. that came before it (look them up). As comedian Chris Rock once said of the music business, "You know what they say? Here today, gone today!" All we have to do is keep our damn Twitter mouths shut.

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