As someone as fascinated with internet culture as I am, Rebecca Black proves to be an interesting figure. I first knew of her as the "Friday Girl", singer of just about the most annoying song on planet Earth. I was 8 when the song came out, and it was truly awful. The hook, "It's Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday" still echoes in my head. It gives me cold chills. Usually, I'm the first person to show up and point out the merit of something produced by a teenage girl that's ripped to shreds and trashed by adult men, but I have no words of defense for this song. It's as bad as the tweet that made it go viral in 2011 claims it is.
But that's not really Rebecca Black's fault, per se. Black was only 13 when the YouTube video went viral, and she had almost nothing to do with the entire situation. As the story goes, Rebecca had an interest in a music career and a girl at her school had just made a music video, so her mom bought her a production package from ARK Music for two songs and a music video. The price, you ask? I've seen varying reports between $2,000 and $4,000. Regardless, Rebecca's mother Georgina Kelly spent thousands of dollars on a truly horrible song, which was then performed by Rebecca and auto-tuned within an inch of its life by Patrice Wilson, who might be the real villain of the story. Patrice is the one responsible for writing "Friday" in the first place.
Then, as we all know, the video went viral after sitting dormant for about a month because of a mean tweet declaring "Friday" the worst video on the internet, which is harsh considering what else is on the internet... What most people don't seem to consider about "Friday" and its legacy was that it was one of the first viral hits propelled across social media platforms. It's an early example of the jarring power the internet can have to bully children (or end careers or, I guess, make something popular). We all know the internet loves to hate. But it was also a precursor to TikTok, a platform that has launched so many songs to catastrophic heights. There are a handful songs and artists that launched careers off of YouTube. Unfortunately, that's not how it went in this case. "Friday" begs to stretch the ultimate question of whether all press really is good press.
Still, I hadn't put much thought into "Friday" since I was 8. I'm pretty sure my brother mentioned it a year ago, and I said, "If her mother was going to buy her a song, why not buy her a good song?". It's a hard conversation to have because Rebecca Black was cyberbullied by millions of people, on a cross platform scale for putting out a kinda stupid song about the days of the week. She didn't do anything wrong and wound up getting food thrown at her and laughed at the rest of her high school career. No one deserves to go through that. On the other hand, all of this was started because her mother was trying to buy her a music career, something that makes me particularly thorny.
Because Rebecca's mother failed to actually buy her a good song (though it did chart on Billboard for something like six weeks) and her less than stellar performance skills at thirteen, she became infamous in the industry. A living meme. She noted in an Instagram post that the song made her a pariah in the industry at nineteen, six years later, when she was told no one would ever work with her. In one sense, she'd be fine and in another, a video where she did nothing wrong was ending any hope of a career she'd clearly wanted for a long time.
And all of this preamble is the tell you at twenty-three, she's finally back in the music industry. I guess she eventually did find some collaborators. She's certainly put plenty of work into rehabilitating her image for this moment. Between her YouTube videos and TikToks, she's redefined herself to a new generation as a cool girl with great style and a sense of humor. She's finally asserting herself as her own person with a real personality, something she never had in the popular imagination before. I first learned about her when Claudia Sulewski and Finneas were on her series Blacking Out, and I was shocked when I connected who she was. It seems like she's laid out enough of a fresh start to get back into music on her own terms with "Girlfriend".
If I'm being honest, I still don't see an extremely compelling reason for Rebecca Black to be making music. She's not bringing anything in this song or video that couldn't be found elsewhere, and her voice still is baked in plenty of effects. Apple Music doesn't give her writing credit, but Genuis does. I'm not sure if she wrote on the track or if it was just Micah Jasper and David Charles Fisher. I'm assuming that she co-wrote the song if she's bothering to step into music again.
"Girlfriend" is aggressively glitter pop. She has a disco influence and tone to her voice that instantly made me think of Dua Lipa. There's a bit of a Chromatica sound, and there's a hint of Teenage Dream Katy Perry. The song is a strong pop song for about the first minute and a half. I'm a huge fan of the first verse into the chorus where she describes a break-up and moving back in with her mom. It's relatable and a bit self-deprecating in the best way. She flippantly remarks she, "Killed some time on the rebound" in an incredibly satisfying melodic lilt. But then she decides to get back with her girlfriend anyway.
Unfortunately, I can't fully fall in love with the song (as bad as I honestly want to) because it runs out of content in the second half and gets extremely repetitive. I've heard the song four times now, some intentionally listening and sometimes in the background, and I stop at the same point every time because I feel like the song should be over. It's half of a good song, and that hurts. But I do have to give her points for creating a COVID safe video (unlike most artists lately which is a whole other eye roll). She spends most of the video in an empty gymnasium ready for prom, and she only has a brief scene outside in a park with the girl she's getting back together with.
Still, I think I might be cheering for Rebecca Black's future. I have to admire her sheer force of will to force a music career against the odds (or maybe they were never fully against her given her connections). Regardless, she got back up on her feet after the disaster of her early teenage career, and I appreciate she's telling her own stories, her own way, on the platform she's worked hard to rebuild. Also, this song is called "Girlfriend", and it's all about getting back together with her girlfriend. Outside of Fletcher's release last year with The S(ex) Tapes, I can't think of many mainstream queer girl pop songs that are so clear about it, especially ones that have the same glitter as Dua Lipa.
Expanding on that, Rebecca has actually shared some great thoughts on sexuality in a variety of interviews. You can read about her telling her own entire story in this great Teen Vogue piece. She talks about coming out as queer publicly because she wants to be able to talk about romantic relationships with all genders without it being an issue. She talked about her hesitancy to come out because simply being queer without stating any particular preference that may or may not exist is still stigmatized and not completely validated both in and out of the LGBTQIA community. This is an issue that has gone on far too long, and I'm glad to see someone out there advocating for change and acceptance for being simply queer or unlabeled. She speaks about her own experiences being invalidated by those close to her, and her honesty in the piece is truly important coming from a public figure.
I could see Rebecca getting a better foothold on her message, performance skills, and brand and becoming a new evolution of a major candy-pop girl. Katy Perry and Lady Gaga are moving on and growing out of the opulence, and I think having an openly queer girl like Rebecca fill their place would be really cool. She already has the look for it, especially based on her make-up looks in the singing portion of the music video. I've been staring at the blush look that goes up to her forehead for a while now trying to figure it out. Rebecca has a fresh style take on the classic main pop star glitter.
Similarly to "Driver's License", I guess, what makes me happy about this song isn't the song itself, it's the potential behind it. I don't think this is the best thing Rebecca Black can do, and I think that's a good thing. It's only getting better from here.
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