What is it about 13-year-old Rebecca Black’s music video “Friday” that makes you want to simultaneously laugh, groan and cover your ears?
Is it Black’s nasal, Auto-Tuned voice? The background chorus of fist-pumping middle-schoolers? The wannabe-Flo Rida limo driver?
Nah. You know it’s the lyrics.
The song (a bona-fide viral smash that has racked up 63 million hits on YouTube in three weeks) tells the excruciatingly ordinary story of a young girl’s excitement for the weekend. It starts with her eating a bowl of cereal in the morning and ends with her finally kicking off the “fun fun fun fun” with a friend-filled party. Along the way is a helpful explanation of when Thursday, Saturday and Sunday occur in relation to Friday, and the now-infamous dilemma of whether she’ll sit in the front or back of her friend’s car.
“Friday” is, in no uncertain terms, a horribly-written song. It expresses no big ideas or emotions, it’s designed to get stuck in your head and required no talent to pull off. Viewers have every right to mock it relentlessly.
But the scary thing about “Friday” is that it’s not alone in its stupidity. According to the above criteria, we should be mocking some of the most popular songs on the charts today.
Take the insta-classic Black Eyed Peas number “Boom Boom Pow.” The chorus is “Boom boom boom, gotta get-get” repeated four times, for starters. The rest of the lyrics are nothing but the singer bragging about being the best at … something. Rapping or DJ’ing, maybe. It may be more well-liked, but “Boom Boom Pow”‘s meaningless lyrics are no better than “Friday”‘s.
Then there’s Justin Bieber. The most-watched video on YouTube is his music video “Baby,” with over 500 million views. That’s 500 million people willing to listen to “Baby, baby, baby, oh / Like, baby, baby, baby, no / Like baby, baby, baby, oh” for three minutes and 45 seconds. Suddenly a song about where to sit in the car doesn’t sound so bad.
There’s nothing wrong with fun, light tunes, but it’s getting out of control. Songwriting used to be a form of poetry, music and expressing profound emotion. It still is for many musicians, but when’s the last time a song on par with John Lennon’s “Imagine” or Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” was a smash hit?
Granted, you can’t dance to “Imagine,” and “Sound of Silence” would make for pretty depressing karaoke. But there is a happy medium in between the two extremes, and pop artists who regularly command the top of the charts ought to find it. Otherwise, songs like “Friday” will stealthily transition from being objects of ridicule to the norm of modern music.
The fantastic popularity of the guiltiest offenders, including the Black Eyed Peas, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Rihanna and more, is proof enough that we’re already heading in that direction.
The day Rebecca Black gets a record deal, pop music risks losing all credibility. Even if it is a Friday.
ROBIN MIGDOL knows there must be good music out there somewhere, but needs help finding it. E-mail your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.