I don’t normally comment on viral videos, but for some reason I feel compelled to sit you down and have a little chat about the latest YouTube sensation. But first, a story.
A Star is Born
One day, in the quiet community of Anaheim Hills in California, a young girl named Rebecca Black dreamed of becoming a star. She had grown up listening to the likes of Justin Bieber (the suspiciously clear-skinned pubescent) and longed for the same. So, one day, her mother paid the princely sum of $2,000 to the Ark Music Factory for the privilege of singing a pre-written song and starring in her own music video.
Rebecca had the choice of two songs: one about adult love, and the other about the excitement one feels at the end of a working week. She chose the latter, claiming of the first: “I haven’t experienced that yet.” Unsurprising, really, as Black is but a sprightly 13 years of age.
The Ark Music Factory warned Black and her family that this was, essentially, just a bit of fun: something she could look back on in a few years when her dreams of being a pop star had been smashed by the cruel realities of life. They agreed; just a bit of fun. And so, in January 2011, Black and a group of recruited friends and family gathered at her father’s house. Twelve hours and multiple takes later, the video was complete.
Black posted the video on YouTube; within a few weeks it had amassed 4,000 views, which Rebecca and her family were happy with. That’s, like, two viewers for every dollar spent.
At the beginning of March, Black’s video was spotted by Daniel Tosh: an American comedian who hosts his own TV series. In a blog post entitled “Songwriting isn’t for Everyone”, published on 11th March, he imagined a discussion between Black and her producer relating to the banality of the lyrics. Within a week, Black’s video had amassed 18 million views. She suddenly found herself sprawled all over the media, and receiving support from the likes of Lady Gaga and Simon Cowell. Her name has been etched into Twitter’s trending topics for the best part of a fortnight; so many people watched her video that it featured on YouTube’s list of Most Discussed videos of all time.
And the hits just keep on coming: right now, over 43 million people have viewed Black’s video. That’s akin to every resident of Anaheim Hills watching it almost 800 times. Heck, it’s more than the entire population of Canada and Sweden combined.
Rebecca Black has come in for a lot of criticism. Commenters on her YouTube video savage her like a lion with a handicapped kitten. “This is the most terrible thing I have ever seen.” says one. Another: “Has to be the worst song (if it can be legally called that) I have ever had the displeasure of hearing.”
Guys, chill. Black never had the intention of becoming a global superstar, albeit one whose fame will ignite and then fizzle out like a sparkler on Bonfire Night. If I’m truly honest, the song is catchy. Too catchy, in fact. It’s one of those tunes that sticks in your head so much you desperately try to drown it out by playing more brain music over the top, only louder: but, like a ravaging STD, she keeps rising to the surface.
The song is annoying, and sounds like an auto-tuner has vomited all over it. But Black doesn’t deserve to be the victim of what is, essentially, bullying; although she seems unfazed. “It doesn’t bother me,” she told a reporter on Good Morning America, “it’s an accomplishment. Even if a person doesn’t like it, it’s going to be stuck in their head. That’s the point of it. It’s a catchy song.”
That it is, Rebecca. That it is.
Now, I’m not going to focus on the terrible lyrics (such profound wordsmithery as “tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwards”), as these have been torn apart a thousand times before. But there are a few things I’ve noticed that I feel I should share with you.
1. This video should not be viewed by epileptics
Halfway through the song someone has gone a bit mental with the computer effects. Instead of what they were trying to achieve – simulating the pages of a day-by-day calendar being torn away – all they’ve done is created an effect that would render an epileptic frothy and convulsive within about five seconds.
2. Rebecca’s self-doubt
There are times during the video when you wonder if the absurdity of what Black is doing creeps into her mind and inadvertently registers on her face. Look closely: now and again she will pull this expression:
The first rule of showbiz, love: smile.
3. She should pay more attention
During her song, Black has a dilemma: should she sit in the front or the back seat of her friend’s car? This causes her grave concern – but this anxiety is all for nothing. If she’d paid attention, she would have noticed that both front seats were already occupied.
Really, unless she wanted to cause a lot of aggravation and annoyance, the back seat was her only choice.
4. Those children are not old enough to drive
In America, the legal age to drive a car is 15, if there’s an adult present; otherwise, it’s 16. Either Black hangs around with people three years her senior, or those kids are driving illegally. I mean, look at them. It looks like they could barely muster a pube between them.
5. She shouldn’t be out partying all night at that age
Her parents need to be stricter. A girl of Black’s age should not be out partying at night. What if someone slips a roofie into her Ribena?
6. The rapper is weird
Black’s song is somewhat interrupted about halfway through by a middle-aged man rapping about a school bus, or something. This man is Patrice Wilson, an Ark Music Factory producer who co-wrote “Friday”, and is therefore partly responsible for bleeding ears the world over. He also raps a bit.
7. The awkward backing dancers
Look at the two girls dancing by Rebecca when she’s ‘cruising down the highway’, or whatever. You know, that bit where they’re in the car and it’s night-time. Have you ever seen anyone look so awkward? You can almost read their thoughts: “Rebecca’s my friend and all, and it’s great that I’m in her video, but I really want to die right now.”
8. She pulls a funny face at the end
At the end of Black’s video, she is performing in front of a large crowd who is either cheering her on or baying for her blood. She pulls a funny face at one of them, a kind of slightly patronising expression, like “Oh hello you! Have you come to watch me sing, even though it’s past your bedtime? We’re having fun!”
So that’s Rebecca Black in a nutshell. Let’s allow her mother – the one person responsible for this whole thing – have the final word. Asked how she felt about the cyber-bullying, she said “In all honesty, I probably could’ve killed a few people.”
Don’t worry, m’love. I think your daughter’s taken care of that for you.