June 3, 2011

The Pinnacle of Pop Music. (or, Luke thinks way too hard about Friday, by Rebecca Black)

And now, to discuss a thing that has been on my mind for a while.  Friday, by Rebecca Black

Okay, i think it's time for me to talk about Friday, "by" Rebecca Black. I have made some pretty bold statements about this song in the past, namely that it is "the best song ever recorded." By it's nature, the meaning of the word "best" is elusive. Not only is it generally used in a way that means something different than its solid definition, but it's meaning is dependant upon context, usage, the user's intended meaning (emphasized by tone, cadence, etc.), and the listener/reader's interpretation (you could also add that the user may be changing their method of delivery in order to try to predict how the listener/reader will interpret it, and somehow effect that in whichever way they want ... and so on from there).

Is it my favorite song? Impossible to answer, but only because that changes from moment to moment (as does everyone else's). Is it truly the best example of what a song ought to be? Well that's so rife with words that can be interpreted in a hundred different ways that the only answer is that that's an irrelevant question. My statement raises a hundred questions like this, and not just because of the song in question. If it were to be made about any song, the questions raised would be the same.

So what is it that I mean by "it is the best song ever recorded?" I mean that I'm endlessly entertained by it, and find it to be one of the most enjoyable, enriching, and fascinating songs I've ever heard. But, beyond all that, the song is the Pinnacle of Pop Music. I'll touch on that later.

(yes, seriously)
It's undeniably catchy. Regardless of your own pop sensibilities, or whether or not you like it, it is instantly recognizable as a song expertly crafted to play naturally in almost any setting. It's upbeat composition speaks to the lowest common denominator in a way Minimalist artists could only dream of. Speaking to the minimal nature of the song, it has the standard Verse-Chorus-V-C-Bridge-C-C form, there are no risky chord progressions, and there isn't a lyric in the whole dang song.

Okay, obviously there are words in the song, but, realistically, it's not actually about anything, save for how much Friday rocks (which it totally does, and if you don't think that you my friend are a robot [though robots are kinda cool too I guess]). Even the rap break down just has words in there to fill the space where lyrics might be able to go (I'm reminded of how Matt & Kim admitted that the chorus to Yea Yeah was written with the words "Yeah Yeah" as place holders for future lyrics, and they just never wrote anything else that worked as well. This seems to be the method of writing lyrics employed for every word in this song).

This alone does not make it the best song ever. Alone, these qualities have been shown in "popular" music since basically Motown, with varying degrees of success. What makes this song stand out starts with how the song came to fruition.

(In lieu of a picture of RB in the studio, here we have her on Leno.  I just find this funny, that's all.)
It seems like basically all of RB's classmates had been making regular trips to ARK Music Factory to get their very own vanity release, if anything just for fun (though if my middle school ego was any example, I can imagine a few of them thought themselves the new Britney), so it was only a matter of time before she convinced her parents to front the reportedly $4000 to have the song and a video recorded. Side note: I fully believe the story that she never expected it to go anywhere, and I fully buy her modesty shown in interviews, which makes her "success" all the more sweet. I say a hearty "good for you, RB, good for you", devoid of any irony or sarcasm.

By the time Black came to ARK, Founders Patrice Wilson and Clarence Jey had been under the ARK moniker for a few months, their business plan working out pretty well for them so far. They claim to want to promote new artists who want to get their voice out there, and they do so by writing a song (often without any input from the young singers), recording the vox, and making a video, all for what I think it a fairly reasonable price for the quality they produce (again, interpret "quality" however you'd like. I think these kids are getting exactly what their parents are paying for). Wilson has been quoted as saying that they don't promise the kids fame, and I'm on his side when he defends claims that he is exploiting these kids. He saw an opening in the market, knew he had the skills to put out a product that would fit the demand, and opened up shop. The parents really don't have to pay for these services, hell, they could buy their 13 year olds a new car. If the parents are buying the kids a song through ARK music, that money is as good as spent regardless of where it goes.

If you go back and listen to all the songs ARK put out before Friday, you'll notice that they're all basically the same song, with the same structure (each has it's very own rap break down!), mood, etc etc. And here's where fate comes into play.

(fate looks just like this)
One way or another, they write Friday, which is the best example of various terrible ideas coming together and just plain working since Robocop. The serendipitous amalgam that is Friday is a perfect storm in Pop music form.

Another big statement, but it ties in with another thing I said earlier: that Friday is the Pinnacle of Pop music.

Pop music is trashy, funny, but kind of endearing, though ultimately ephemeral in it's nature. It floats in, makes you buy the record, and who cares if it sticks around. From Motown singles to *NSYNC, it's the same business model. Somewhere along the journey from Motown to *NSYNC, though, something happened, and it became less about making a good pop song that would really hit home with people and make them want to carry it with them, and more about making a song that would sell, regardless of "quality." And here is where Friday stands out.

(ugh, finally, the point!)
Friday marks the point in history where all discernible effort to write a good song is completely absent. There is no heart in it, and it is done purely for money ... which founder Wilson has all but said.

Parodies have come out of it, versions which change the lyrics in a way to criticize the song, but they all suck. They're not even funny, partially because they're criticizing a song we already know is awful, but also because Friday is, at once, a song and a parody of that song, without realizing that it is a parody of itself. It is invincible.

And that is why it is the best song ever recorded. It is the result of a 50+ year downhill slide, and it sits there defiantly, unwavering and unashamed, laughing at us as we try to understand how this could possibly have happened. And all we can do is sit back, bewildered, dazed, and try to collect ourselves.

Brava Rebecca Black, Brava

Stay tuned for pt. 2...

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