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Industrial Revolution: Black Is The New Blank

Welcome to Industrial Revolution, with your host Scott Janovitz. In this space, we will observe and report on various topics, happenings, changes and innovations related to today’s evolving music industry. Janovitz is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and winner of two Boston Music Awards who has toured around the world. He has worked in the music biz as a record store clerk, door guy, sound guy, major label rep, writer, producer and studio owner…in no particular order. He is also a television addict and food enthusiast.

Rebecca Black’s Internet-dominating single/video “Friday” has garnered north of 40 million views and plenty of commentary since it was posted on YouTube on February 10th. Some of the discussion has focused on whether or not the singer and song are any good. Anyone with two ears and a heart could settle that with a negatory, good buddy. Even great singers are simply not interesting enough to incite a 40,000,000 count viral riot. So what’s the big deal?

The compelling thing about this song and its stunningly ill-conceived video is what it reveals about (and portends for) pop music. At issue is not Rebecca Black’s talent, but rather Ark Music Factory—the production team behind the whole shebang—and the question of just how little it takes to create popular art. Ark’s answer is the product now known across the land as Rebecca Black’s “Friday.”

Ark Music Factory, hired in this case by Black’s mother, lived up to their name and churned out a contender for laziest song ever written. It’s hard to fault them, though; they call themselves a music factory right up front. What they don’t mention is that it must be the saddest, soulless, and most cynical factory this side of Chuck Dickens.

Ark Music Factory?

If Ark were just incompetent, it would be one thing. But these guys at least understand the very basics of songwriting and production. Their song follows a contemporary pop structure, complete with a guest rapper on the bridge, and a simple little hook. But, damn…those lyrics. I mean, DAMN THOSE LYRICS. If Ark had just put together even a hint of a narrative, or had not treated the recurring line, “which seat can I take?” as the song’s emotional center, “Friday” would not be the giant Internet kidney stone that it has become. It would be another unknown, wanna-be pop singer vanity project.

But then we would never have heard of it. So maybe all our rubbernecking at “Friday” is because we are aware that this could be the future of pop music. The dizzyingly low quality of “Friday” has become its reason for being. Okay, mainstream music probably won’t uniformly get this bad— after all, there is credible, occasionally innovative, and even great pop music being made by thoughtful and/or interesting pop stars which sets a high mark, both creatively and commercially. But there’s also a pretty low mark at the other end, which denotes what we, as pop consumers, will still accept. As silly as “Friday” might be, we realize that it only just misses that low mark. The only difference between Rebecca Black and Bieber or even someone like Ashley Simpson (before she gave it all up in the interest of avoiding further embarrassment and, presumably, not having to deal with her dad anymore) is a very small amount of effort on the part of her producers.

Impending doom never looked so adorable.

Pop music is in danger of being taken over, not by singers like Rebecca Black—who in better hands could easily be made to seem as legit as those other fluffy popsters—but by people like Ark Music Factory, who would foist upon us a new generation of utterly blank pop music and stars, devoid of even the pretense of substance. They would celebrate the Biebers of the world as aspirational—the height of what can be achieved in commercial music. So we look at Rebecca Black and we see that, a few missteps aside, it’s just a stone’s throw to our mainstream pop sensations. After all, it’s difficult to argue that she’s not one of them already.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Gwen Stefani donates $1 million to Japan relief

Gwen Stefani announced she will donate a cool $1 million to aid Japan relief efforts. “I’ve been inspired by Japan for many years and have a true love, appreciation and respect for the Japanese people and their culture,” the singer said in a statement. “The disaster in Japan is beyond heartbreaking and I want to do anything I can to help.” Help is on the way, Harajuku girls.

Rebecca Black to donate all “Friday” proceeds to Japan

Not one to be done by Gwen Stefani, viral sensation Rebecca Black announced on Jay Leno she will be donating all the proceeds of her hit single “Friday” to Japan. So all you people who downloaded the song as a joke (that’s everybody except Rebecca Black’s mom), your love of irony will end up helping people in need. We, we, we so excited. Check out part of Black’s interview with Leno below.

The Bad

Wyclef Jean shot in Haiti

Wyclef Jean was reportedly shot in the hand while in Haiti to support a presidential candidate during the country’s runoff elections. That’s the song he’s singing at least. According to this report, police say the rapper’s hand was actually cut by glass. Maybe we’ll never know what caused the rapper’s owie. Let’s just be glad he’s going to make it.

Band sells their name for $251,000

Coming up with a cool band name is tough, but most bands wouldn’t turn to corporate sponsors for creative help. Then there’s the BuyStock.net Band out of Seattle, who put their name up for auction and named themselves after the highest bidder. (Spoiler alert, it was www.BuyStock.net.) The band got paid $251,000 for their moniker and are probably extremely grateful that Monistat 7 didn’t offer $252,000.

The Ugly

Chris Brown freaks out on GMA

When you’re a convicted felon with a history of domestic abuse, here’s how you shouldn’t react when you’re doing an interview for national TV. You shouldn’t go back to your dressing room screaming, break a window, take your shirt off, and storm out into the streets into the welcome arms of the paparazzi. Chris Brown did it on Good Morning America and canceled out everything his PR people have been working on for the past two years. Then again, the show invited him back for another interview. So maybe temper tantrums are an effective manipulation strategy after all.

(Excuse us, we have to remove our shirt and score a network TV appearance. BRB.)

Miscellany

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Introducing Rebecca Black: Auto-tune meme extraordinaire

We all know how difficult it can be when you’re waiting at the bus stop and your friends pull up in a car and gesture for you to get in, but you don’t know if you should take the front seat, where people are kicking it, or in the back seat, where they’re basically just sitting. Internet meme Rebecca Black knows your pain, and has set this existential dilemma to song in her viral hit, “Friday.” Think of Black as skipper to Captain Obvious. Here are some sample lyrics: “Yesterday was Thursday. Today it is Friday … tomorrow is Saturday. And Sunday comes afterwards.” The teen singer is the product of Ark Music Factory—a music production studio in LA. that essentially mass produces amateur teenyboppers hoping that one will magically become the next Bieber. Talent is optional, as you’ll see when Black releases her auto-tuned monotone in the video below.

The Bad

Nate Dogg passes away

Beloved rap vocalist Nate-Dogg passed away at the age of 41 this week, reportedly due to complications from a series of strokes spanning multiple years. Born Nathaniel Hale, Nate Dogg rose to fame through his appearance on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic before collaborating with Warren G on the indelible hit “Regulate” in 1994. His was the G-Funk era, funked out with a gangsta twist. We’re glad we were there to hear it all go down. R.I.P. Nate Dogg.

U2 album delay due to Jay-Z?

Words have power, but Jay-Z’s words have some sort of nuclear effect on their listener. Even U2 front man Bono second-guessed himself when reading an interview the rapper had given. Says Jay-Z, “The writer had asked me about a U2 record that had just been released and I said something about the pressure a group like that must be under just to meet their own standards. “[Bono] said the quote had really gotten to him and he decided to go back to the studio, even though the album was already done, and keep reworking it till he thought it was as good as it could possibly be.”
So all you U2 fans who are frustrated with the album’s delay, take it up with Jigga Man.

The Ugly

Nikki Sixx slams Facebook

Nikki Sixx thought Facebook would be a great place to debut photos from his new book, This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx. Facebook, it turns out, didn’t agree. The book features photos of social outcasts—obese porn stars, transgender nudes, burn victims to name a few. Facebook systematically banned every photo that Sixx posted and warned him that he would be prohibited from posting any more images. Sixx griped to fans, 250,000 of whom then adopted one of his banned images as their profile shot. Facebook deleted their accounts, but let Sixx keep his. He responded by posting semi-nude photographs of himself in compromising positions. So far, Facebook hasn’t complained about them. Pervs.

Was Lady Gaga born this way?

Remember that rumor about Lady Gaga having male apparatus down there? We think we found footage of her before the female hormones kicked in.

Miscellany

 


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