Welcome to the New Tone for musical acts, I guess. The star of one of the hottest — and most widely panned — videos on the Internet complained to the Daily Beast that she has been unfairly criticized. And in keeping with pop culture, Rebecca Black says it amounts to being bullied:
Rebecca Black never set out to become the latest viral sensation. The Orange County, Calif., eighth grader did not assume she’d displace Charlie Sheen as a top Twitter trending topic thanks to the first song she recorded–a scrappy synth-pop confection called “Friday”–or, for that matter, that the song’s deliciously lo-fi video would go on to be viewed a staggering 13 million times (and counting) in a month on YouTube in spite of (or more likely, owing precisely to) its amusingly amateurish production values.
And Black, 13, certainly never anticipated the social media uproar, mainstream media hellfire, parodies, and remixes that greeted “Friday” as the video became nearly ubiquitous across Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Time.com called the song–which provides a primer on the days of the week, innocently celebrates partying, and ponders the merits of “kickin’ it” in a car’s front versus the back seat from a wholesome teen girl P.O.V.–“a whole new level of bad” and “a train wreck.” Slate proclaimed “Friday” “disastrous” while Yahoo asked straight up, “Is YouTube sensation Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ the worst song ever?”
“Those hurtful comments really shocked me,” Black said yesterday in her first interview since the song came to dominate a certain quadrant of popular culture and crack the iTunes Top 100 singles chart this week, besting the likes of Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber. “At times, it feels like I’m being cyberbullied.”
How bad can it be? As Allahpundit wrote last night, it’s not good. On the other hand, for a 13-year-old working in a low-budget setting, it’s not horrid, either. Running it through Auto-Tune didn’t help, either. It certainly doesn’t qualify as “the worst song ever,” a topic to which we’ll return in a moment.
However, criticism comes with art and publication. I feel bad for Black having to discover this on such a large stage at her particular age, but it comes with the territory. For that reason, perhaps parents should exercise a little discretion when it comes to their children — as Rebecca certainly is, a middle-school girl barely in her teens — and ensure that they’re ready to handle it. Some adults can’t handle it well, and it’s a lot to ask of a child of Rebecca’s age. It’s not cyberbullying, it’s the kind of critical reaction that comes with mass-market products, especially in the arts.
On the other hand, she seems to be learning to grow a thick skin, and you have to give her credit for refusing to take the video down:
Things, of course, got ugly with an outpouring of YouTube commenter Haterade that stunned Black and Ark Music gave her the choice to strike “Friday” from the site. Instead, she stuck to her guns. “I decided not to give the haters the satisfaction that they got me so bad I gave up,” Black said.
Besides, this is hardly the worst pop song of all time. Even leaving out the obvious novelty songs that have hit the top of the charts over the last 60 years or so, I can pick at least three songs from my own youth that were orders of magnitude worse — and all three are preserved on YouTube. First, let’s remember the deep philosophical insight of “Run Joey Run” by David Geddes, from 1975:
There are a lot of dumb teenage death songs, but that’s the only one I know that features a death rattle from the victim. “Run Joey Run” was such a turkey that Glee even did its own version of it not too long ago. Next up, the salaciously stupid “Undercover Angel” by Alan O’Day:
“Wonder is your nightlight”? Not only do I have the 45 for this song buried somewhere in my collection, I have that original label 45 shown in the video. I bought it as part of a set from another collector. It reminds me that disco wasn’t the worst of music in the 1970s.
At least those two songs had a catchy musical hook that explains their otherwise-inexplicable staying power, as does Black’s song. The ultimate in badness came in the 1970s from Charlene, in this pseudo-feminist, pretentious, bad-knock-off-of-Rod-McKuen recording called “Never Been To Me.” It encapsulates everything that was ridiculously self-absorbed about the Me Generation, combined with bad writing, singing, and taste:
Let’s take a vote. Which of these four songs more deserves the title for worst pop song ever?
I’d say that Rebecca doesn’t even come close. Did I miss any obvious choices? Be sure to leave your own suggestions in the comments!
Update: Zombie defends “Friday” and tells the adults to get a grip. Better this than the next Madonna.