"Mass Text" is awful, but it’s no Friday by Rebecca Black.
When Tay Allyn’s mind-dissolvingly bad “Mass Text” was released, the Internet immediately pounced on it, site after site calling Tay Allyn the next Rebecca Black. Tay Allyn’s song was bad, but it was no Friday. Truth be told, there may never be another Rebecca Black and Friday. It was a product of a unique moment in time that has passed. To understand why, we'll need to go back to 2011 to see what was going on then.
The Conveyor Belt Of Viral Video Stars
The Internet is great at creating accidental celebrities, people who get caught doing either something wonderful or something awful, placing them on wobbly pedestals. Star Wars Kid, Numa Numa Kid, and David After Dentist were among our earliest. By Spring 2011, the web had been on a roll, churning out viral star after viral star from Epic Beard Man to the Rent Is Too Damn High guy, to Antoine Dodson. By the time we got to March 2011, we were ready for the next big thing to gawk at.
Autotune Infecting The Music Industry
By 2011 Autotune had taken over pop music. T-Pain had been using it to augment his voice for years. Snoop Dogg had used it on his ballad, Sensual Seduction. Lil Wayne had even started rapping with it. In 2009, Jay-Z released “Death of Autotune,” voicing the annoyance many of us were feeling about Autotune, but Autotune’s death had been greatly exaggerated. In 2011 T-Pain was selling a microphone that would allow you to have the “T-Pain” effect. Autotune was inescapable, and here came Rebecca Black, whose singing was still awful despite being enhanced by autotune singing the worst lyrics since Mmmbop. Even if you could forgive it as an aesthetic choice, autotune just felt like cheating to people who remembered a time before Autotune, and singers who needed it seemed unworthy of our attention.
Youtube Celebrity Popping Up Like Weeds
One of the things that was happening under the noses of people too old to spend all their time online was the emergence of a crop of Youtube stars, people who owe their celebrity to kids who live on Youtube. Fred, Annoying Orange, and even Ray William Johnson were among these new stars.
They all showed that if you want to reach kids, forget TV. Go to Youtube. The problem is these Youtube stars all seemed like amateurs to people more accustomed to traditional TV and film. Ark Music Factory, who produced Friday, realized it could go straight to its audience with Youtube and tried to build a business out of producing pop songs and making music videos for the Youtube generation-- no radio, no MTV, no nothing else. Older people resented the success of these Youtube personalities because it appeared they hadn't had to work to achieve their status.
If you take each of those strands and braid them together, you get Rebecca Black and Friday.
The inauthenticity of autotune combined with the perception of Youtube stars as amateurs were personified in Rebecca Black, who we all turned into a viral video star. With each additional view her video received (even though most of those views were spurred by morbid curiosity), she became an even larger figurehead for the new normal in which talent was finally less important than technology, and anyone could be a star as long as they had enough subscribers/followers/fans/friends. We were building her up for the sole purpose of tearing her down, and the larger she loomed, the angrier people became. The funny thing is that, ultimately, Rebecca won!
The people Rebecca was most likely to appeal to were younger people, the Kidz Bop audience, and they held on to her. Katy Perry was clever enough to put Rebecca in her music video for TGIF, signaling that she got the joke, enjoyed it, and the joke was over. Rebecca Black now has 300K subscribers on Youtube, and her most recent video upload has half a million views. Make no mistake, despite my generation’s outrage, Rebecca Black and her generation won.
That’s why Rebecca Black can never really happen again. The war is over. She was a perfect storm occurring over the site of a generational rift. My generation was trying to hold onto its own idea of what our culture should be, what music and celebrity mean, but those are the kinds of fights that the older generation always loses. Since Rebecca Black, a lot of awful singers have graced the front page of Break.com, but they don’t mean anything the way Rebecca did. They’re good for a laugh, and then they’re gone. Friday is forever.
- Earnest (Follow me on Twitter @earnestp)