Friday, March 18, 2011

Why Rebecca Black's "Friday" Is Better than You Think

The past week or so has produced two universal conclusions:
  • Now is not a good time for that trip to coastal Japan you've been planning.
  • The Rebecca Black song, "Friday," isn't very good.
That said, it's not the "worst song ever."

In fact, you can pretty much count on it that any song ever nominated or selected for title of "Worst Song Ever" ... isn't. If tomorrow, another song comes out, everyone watches it, and everyone agrees "it's even worse than 'Friday,'" that song will also not be the worst song ever.

To draw this kind of hatred, a song has to be at least a little good.

Think about it this way: You don't spend a lot of energy telling people how much you hate things that no one likes. You reserve your energy for the stuff that you think people might like, but shouldn't. You don't go on and on about how you hate the taste of feces. You don't even bother with it. But lots of people will rail about mayonnaise. Similarly, I like to beat up on movies like Armageddon -- movies that could have been brilliant, should have been better, and even have cool little moments in them. (Despite myself, I still get misty eyed at the end of Armageddon, when Liv Tyler gets saluted.) Because they're almost good, I find their weaknesses and flaws all the more painful, and I'm acutely aware other viewers will like the movies. Maybe they didn't notice the flaws? Or they didn't care? I'll fix that!

The same thing happens with any other kind of argument. As I've noted before, no one spends a lot of energy explaining why murder is wrong. They don't expect any opposition. Instead, they argue about things like abortion or the death penalty or torture -- subjects that are guaranteed to trigger divided opinions.

We don't hate the really bad stuff. We're apathetic about it.

What we really hate is the almost good.

That's what's happening with "Friday." Those of us who dislike the song nevertheless see the potential for a runaway pop hit (however slim) and feel the need to weigh in. Sure, the lyrics are bad, but the idea to create an age-appropriate pop song about spending time with friends has some real marketability. And the tune is kind of catchy, even if we don't want to catch it. Plenty of one-hit wonders have that characteristic. Ms. Black may be young and her talent may not be fully developed, and the auto-tuning may be annoying, but we've seen auto-tuned talent at her level succeed before -- she's not bad enough to guarantee failure. If all of this stuff were truly, truly terrible, we wouldn't bother to watch, comment, or think about it. We discuss it because we can imagine someone liking it. (As, in fact, some people have admitted to.) We imagine that five years from now, we'll be in an elevator, listening to a muzak version of "Friday." That's why there are so many comments about it.

And, ironically, if her critics continue, they'll almost guarantee that result -- something that Ms. Black seems to understand better than her haters. Indeed, I think this event could spark a whole career for Ms. Black, not necessarily in music, but in public relations. She has handled the unexpected hate brilliantly. People in business and public relations courses will be using her experience as a case study in five years, regardless of what happens with her song. She'll be the new Odwalla.

1 comment:

  1. On Twitter she trended for two weeks. Two weeks.

    She passed "#prayforJapan" the first week. In fact, "#prayforJapan" flopped off the grid and Rebecca Black Storm-Trooped the Trending topics like no other that I've seen.

    It got to the point where I actually refused to type her name. I refused to click on links regarding her. And I refused to even discuss her. Her fame was the one thing that irked me. The song didn't irritate me (okay, maybe a little), but the song could be overlooked. It was the attention she received that was just...mind-blowing.

    And exactly: her "haters" aided in her fame. For all the hate they spewed, they just couldn't ignore it. It was a Charlie Sheen fiasco all over again. The thing is though, she's dying out now. Charlie Sheen, well, he's still a trendsetter.