"I want to talk about Rebecca Black. Now before you throw this newspaper away in disgust because of that sentence, hear me out. Black, and her terrible-yet-you-can’t-dig-it-out-of-your-brain-without-a-lobotomy single "Friday," which is currently dominating YouTube, is the latest example of a pop-culture trend from the last decade.
"The rise of social media has allowed people who want to have some kind of career in the spotlight-whether it be singing, writing, acting or some less than morally decent occupations, anybody can have the opportunity to further their career aspirations. Singers can post songs on YouTube; actors can post performances; and writers can independently publish their work.
"But with the case of Rebecca Black, a reaction has never come this quickly before. Think about it: Black has not even recorded an EP, and her song, which was posted on March 11, was the most talked about pop song in America before the end of that week. As of March 28, it has 60 million YouTube views. It debuted at No. 72 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Black is hardly the first person to gain popularity this way, but she is probably the recipient of the most traffic in such a short period-some videos go weeks or months before capturing the public’s attention.
"There will, of course, be some debate as to whether or not this idea of "do-it-yourself celebrity" is a good thing, especially with a song as terrible as "Friday." The song has inspired a lot of heated reactions, with people attacking Black herself, calling her "stupid" and a destroyer of good pop music. First of all, she’s 13 years old. No one should attack a kid like that. Second of all, she’s anything but stupid. She made a substantial earning in less than three weeks, clearly she’s doing something right. I would like to see the rest of America try it. Lastly, there is one good thing I think the song does do: it invalidates "American Idol." Think about it. When someone who can not really sing and doesn’t even have a record contract can become more popular and successful than half the people who have won on that show, "Idol’s" concept seems fairly dated. Why spend weeks of voting and drama just to get a record contract that offers no guarantee of success or popularity? Black’s song has 60 million views on YouTube. The number of views for season 10 winner Lee DeWyze’s singles? If you count just the official videos, it’s less than two million combined.
"But to be fair, it is difficult for any musician to gain the kind of traction Black has. The Hold Steady, who, in my opinion, are the best rock band in America, will probably never reach 60 million views on all of their videos combined over the duration of their career. For a song to capture the public’s attention, quality doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. But music is subjective, and tastes have become so splintered and diverse that it is impossible to come to a consensus on what is good music anymore (which is why arguing over best-of lists at Rolling Stone or any other publication is completely pointless). Just about every band on the planet has used social media to try and spread the word. Some never make it, but some do. It is hard to predict who will, because music is so expansive and diverse now. "Friday" became so popular because it is a pop-culture curiosity, someone doing something in a way that has not been quite done before. Also, as pop-culture essayist Chuck Klosterman pointed out in an ESPN chat with Bill Simmons, the song is educational. Nobody who listens to it will ever forget that Saturday comes after Friday, and that Sunday is afterward.
"Whether or not Rebecca Black is one of the four horsemen of the musical apocalypse remains to be seen. What we do know for sure is that she is a major part of the YouTube revolution that has been going on for the last five years or so. Who knows, she may flame out by the end of April. Or maybe she will be on a world tour by May. The point is, with the advances of social media, success can be rewarded to just about anyone, so no one should ever stop striving for it. If "Friday" can become incredibly popular, then an incredible piece of music can take over the world too.