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.