Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Rebecca Black, Friday: Defense and Covers

Hello, YouTube lovers! This time we have 4 videos defending Rebecca Black from all her many critics, and 4 fun fun fun fun covers of "Friday"!

Today is April 13th. It has been about a month since "Friday" began to go viral. Here's the stats right now:

Views: 99,324,828
Comments: 2,089,987
Like: 260,300
Dislike: 1,995,488
#2 - Most Discussed (All Time)
#2 - Most Discussed (All Time) - Music
#34 - Top Rated (All Time)
#23 - Top Rated (All Time) - Music

As "Friday" hits 100 MILLION views, lets recap the story. Last year, Patrice Wilson, a rapper and businessman, team up with Producer Clarence Jey to create Ark Music Factory, a record label and community where people would be safe to follow their music dreams. They advertise for musicians without original material, offering to provide them with a song, video, photoshoot and image consultation. They offer two plans, either pay to buy the song and associated services while Ark retains publishing rights, or pay nothing for the song and services with Ark retaining all rights.

Alana Lee Hamilton, 14 year old student at El Rancho Charter School in California, responds to the Ark ad and goes on to record and make a video for "Butterflies." Alana tells 13 year old 8th grade classmate Rebecca Black about her Ark project and Rebecca talks to her mom about also making a video. Rebecca's parents, both veterinarians, pay Ark $4000 for a song and video. Rebecca is presented with 2 pre-written songs. One was about being someone's lover/hero and the other was "Friday." She chooses "Friday" because she liked the song, felt it went well with her personality and was more appropriate for her level of life experience.

Rebecca records the song, then the video is made at her dad's house with family and friends as extras. Rebecca's mom comments on the cheesy lyrics but Rebecca seems happy enough to sing them and act them out in the video, telling her mom that she sang them as they were written. The video goes on Ark's YouTube channel, trizzy66, on February 10th, 2011. It gets a few thousand views and then people like Tosh.0 begin to talk about it. They brand it as the worst pop song/video in history and people start to ask, "Who is Rebecca Black?" on twitter, tumblr and other social media sites. "Rebecca Black" becomes a Trending Topic on Twitter for several days and the video passes 1 million, then 10 million, then 25 million views.

Many of the viewers feel compelled to comment on the video. The Like/Dislike ratio is about 1 to 8 and the comments reflect that. People seem to enjoy stating their opinion about this video. Although many more people dislike it then like it, it is still the #23 best "Like"d music video of all time (about 5 years since YouTube began their rating system).

Negative comments seem to be of two main types. There are those who think the song/video was a serious effort to produce a high quality pop tune and video, but delight in the epic fail that they decide the video has become. They list the nasal autotuned vocals, cheesy preteen lyrics, less than professional acting and other technical defects as reasons for their opinion. One might say that these commenters take pleasure in what they perceive as someone else's failure. Of course, success and failure are subjective and depend on the original goals. The song has succeeded in attracting popular attention, so in that sense, it is a successful pop song. The original intent of Rebecca Black was to enjoy making a video for her friends and add it to her portfolio of musical accomplishments, and she did seem to enjoy herself.

A second type of comment points out that a "rich" family decided to spend some of their own money so that their child could sing this prefabricated pop song and film the video. People seem to think that you can't and shouldn't try to buy your way to pop success and fame, you should spend years of time and effort honing your skills and improving your talent. Then, and only then, should you receive any recognition for your work. One might say that these commenters are reacting to a perceived injustice. Their internal "cheater detector" mind modules see someone getting a benefit without paying a cost. They get the same feeing as when someone cuts in front of them in a line, or uses some sort of influence to get something they don't deserve. Of course it was not Rebecca's intent to buy her way to fame and success. They paid a very reasonable price for a legitimate product. It may have been one of Ark's goals to get the song, video and singer noticed, and they did let Rebecca know this but without any guarantees - and it seems even they didn't expect such a massive response. There are many examples of people who spent as much or more on videos with no recognition, as well as people who spent nothing at all and have had success on YouTube. Parents are free to spend their earned income in any way they choose; they bought a fairly professional video package and were satisfied with the results. They did not buy any video views, that all came as a result of the final product.

Why is the song so popular? Just like any other easily remembered and transmitted story, it takes a very familiar and relate-able core and adds a counterintuitive twist. The chord structure of I IV V is seen in many pop songs which subconsciously reminds listeners of other hits. The twist is the minor chord in the C, Am7, F, G progression. The lyrics come rapid fire and add to the percussive beat. They repeat phrases and meanings that are understood by any age group. The twist is that the lyrics don't rhyme and the vocals are autotuned which adds an extra syllable to "Fri-e-day" along with crackles and other digital affectations. The video shows kids having fun and has the obligatory verse by a black rapper. The twist is the subtle body language that projects a bit of "what am I doing here?" and the fact that the rapper is not in the peer group of the rest of the actors. Intentionally or not, this song and video follow a known formula for creating a successful meme - something memorable because it is both familiar and alien at the same time.

Even though the ratio of negative to positive comments is skewed toward dislikers, the song has huge numbers of fans. Sales on iTunes have been strong. People are willing to pay a dollar to have this on their iPod. Here are 4 videos from people who generally say, "leave Rebecca Black alone!" They feel that many of the comments on the video are way over the top, much too harsh to be directed at a young teen who didn't write the lyrics and just made the video for fun, fun, fun, fun!

Here are 4 videos that cover Rebecca Black's song "Friday." By listening to the two more serious covers, you can come to appreciate the basic tune without the digital audio effects and video distractions. By watching the two more comedic covers, you can laugh along with the lighthearted humor and leave with a smile on your face!

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