March 22nd, 2011
01:20 PM ET

Rebecca Black: The Future of Music or a Cautionary Tale?

Rebecca Black. Love her or hate her. But if you’re leaning towards the latter, take a moment to put yourself in her shoes. If you were an ambitious, borderline-precocious 13-year-old Californian whose mommy and daddy could pay to make you a star, would you refuse their offer? I very much doubt it.

By all means hate the track with which Black has risen to YouTube infamy. “Friday” is Ke$ha without the booze references, and if you knew the true toxicity of my venom towards Ke$ha, you’d appreciate how much I despise it. The lyrics appear to have been conceived by a bargain basement Taiwanese robot armed only with a calendar and admittedly admirable "copy and paste" skills. The melody has all the merits of a rejected Daphne & Celeste B-side. And that thing they’ve done to her voice? If the producers used a button entitled “Singing under the bathwater with a wired-up TV thrown in for good measure”, I’d have to concede they’ve nailed it.

But let me make one entirely serious point. No young girl deserves the sort of reception that Rebecca Black has had to endure online. The strength of the language directed not just at the song, but at the performer personally, is unforgivable. As Black herself has noted, it amounts to cyber-bullying, And, more than the noxious song the comments accompany, the backlash lends an offensive quality to what should have been a feel-good story.

Say what you want about buying your way to stardom, or using your parents’ fame or fortune for personal progression. But it’s hardly novel, is it? Scores of American starlets have made their names that way. Countless more will follow them down that gilded path. Some of them are old enough to know better (yes, I am looking at you, Paris Hilton). But Rebecca Black is not. She should be given a break.

And you know what? It looks like she will be given a break. A pretty big one, in fact. What counts for infamy today could easily blossom into longer-term fame. It’s up to Miss Black (and, more pertinently, her parents) to use that opportunity wisely. Mr. Starmaker Simon Cowell wants to meet her. Jonas Brother Nick has performed part of “Friday” to ecstatic fans in concert. And the song that has already gained upwards of 33 million YouTube views is now scaling the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

OK, I’ll switch off the radio as soon as it comes on. But that’s the great thing about choice. You don’t have to listen to “Friday”. You don’t have to watch the godawful video. And you don’t have to bombard a 13-year-old girl with abuse just because she got the opportunity to make it. If Rebecca Black epitomizes the hideous side of fame, why not consider the possibility that you might be complicit in handing it to her?

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. ChelseaCanuck

    I am of two minds about this story. I don't have much tolerance for any kind of cruelty and there is no reason for the venom that has been directed at this young lady, especially from adults who should know better. But eclipsing this opinion is my belief that parents have a responsibility to protect their children from this kind of exposure, not encourage it. Like it or not, the reality is that anyone who puts themselves out there in this way is going to be the target of all manner of feedback – good, bad, mean-spirited, supportive, downright cruel. You know that going into it and while a child is naive to these things, her parents certainly are not and when they agreed to finance this endeavour, I hope they adequately prepared their daughter for what would happen. When I was a kid we formed our own bands and recorded ourselves singing popular songs but it was only for our own enjoyment and there was no expectation that we would grow up to be the next Spice Girls. Luckily, there was no other forum for our efforts. No Youtube, no Internet that was accessible in any way. And, no reality shows teaching us that anyone can be famous, talent be damned. Nowadays, parents have an obligation to protect their kids from the ugly side of the technology but also to teach their kids that they will not necessarily be good at everything, that they might not have what it takes to be a star, that fame for the sake of it is not a worthy pursuit.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  2. jeff

    I love that rebecca black is living her dream off of the hatred of others ... it just goes to show you, if you are ANTI WAR, more WAR will come ... if you are ANTI rebecca black, you're just gonna see more of her. Either love her, or ignore her ... don't HATE on her.

    March 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Reply
  3. John

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA................. she is sooo BAD!!!!!!!

    March 22, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Reply
  4. Bob

    The doubting public is certainly not helping make her famous. Nicol, you're conflating fame with infamy.

    March 23, 2011 at 11:09 am | Reply
  5. Jordan

    Think Rebecca Black "Friday" is bad...listen to this one...Jenna Rose "My Jeans" Click on the link for the video http://tinyurl.com/4uns9ty

    March 23, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Reply
  6. Hippo

    Lambast Black's version of the song yes, but why rubbish the song itself? It was a great song by Bob Dylan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FISHEO3gsM

    March 25, 2011 at 11:04 am | Reply
  7. Tim Owers

    Rebecca who? No seriously I've never heard of her. I only found this article because it's linked to by Google Zeitgeist and saw she scored the highest number of Google searches for 2011. I'm not in a position to pour scorn on her or what she does, but I was surprised a thirteen year old could have ever caused this level of fame/infamy. Why? Because she's just a kid. A kid that should never have been given the opportunity for all this in the first place. Leave the music industry to the grown ups, or has that industry become so desperate they'll readily lower themselves to that of a bilge pump?

    December 16, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Reply
  8. Stix

    See the problem here is that if you are willing to put anything on the internet the you will have to accept the fact that people will say things they would never say to your face.

    I would however sit Rebecca down and tell her that she obviously has no talent at all and should start looking for a career as a Mc Donalds fry person as soon as possible. School won't help her.

    December 19, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Reply
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    December 21, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  10. jen

    what do you mean "taiwanese robot"!?!?!?

    December 30, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  11. bywayofgooglezeitgeist

    Why associate her horrible writing with the Taiwanese? I'm sure they could develop even a bargain basement robot that could write much better lyrics than hers. Look at the creativity of the Next animations...

    December 30, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Reply
  12. princej1l

    I don’t hate Rebecca Black. It’s entirely possible she might have talent. She might be able to sing, but you would never know it from the amateurish video/song Friday.

    Some people report that Friday is an ear worm that sticks in your head, but somehow I have remained inured to its dubious charms—I remember it says something about partying, and she says cereal in a robot tone, but after I turn it off, I forget the song quickly.

    If Rebecca had produced this song and video herself, editing it together and recording it on a video camera and had edited in the affects using a computer program, I’d be tempted to say that it is the naïve and childlike musings of a teenager and showed promise. The fact that this little ditty was written by adults who claim to be music professions is just sad.

    Does anyone get the feeling that Rebecca is actually being exploited? That she is a young person with a dream who is being exploited by people who just churn out crap without any regard of the consequences on possible future career of the would be artist?

    One last point: Rebecca probably doesn’t realize this but the song is kind of a slap in the face of all the emergency service workers, retail sales people, doctors, and other workers and professional people who work on Saturday and Sunday, because if everybody is looking forward to the weekend, you’ve just called them nobodies.

    June 10, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Reply

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