It’s a new day for Rebecca Black. The viral phenom has just released “Saturday,” the follow-up to her mind-bendingly bad single and video “Friday.” And I’m pleased to say that it’s an incredibly good, boundary-pushing piece of pop art. No, I’m kidding, it sucks terribly.
Black and her team, including duet partner Dave Days, who takes a verse and sings harmonies here, seem to think that displaying some modicum of the self-awareness that “Friday” lacked entirely will erase the public perception of her as a talent-challenged hack.
It does not. The un-subtle recalls to some of the more laughable moments of the “Friday” debacle (the bowl of cereal, the shocking ‘fun, fun, fun, fun’ lyric) in fact make them instantly un-laughable. We weren’t laughing with you, Ms. Black, and we don’t want to. It’s important that you understand that. You’ve actually ruined “Friday” for us. Amazing.
As some reviewers have noted, “Saturday” is a much more professional production. Black’s voice sounds better, and the song is both better written and better produced. But now she, and we, must face the moment of truth in which we hear and evaluate the ‘mature artist’ being offered here, unfettered by producers Ark Music Factory, which rightly took a lot of the blame for “Friday.” Now, almost three years after that toxic smoke has cleared, we gaze upon the banal horror of utterly soulless, overproduced, uninspired tween party pop, no different from a hundred other forgettable, disposable songs.
And that is why we should be glad for “Saturday.” It exposes the quality-irrelevant mess that pop music has become. If the person responsible for what has been called the worst song ever produced can turn around and release a song that would sound right at home on Top 40 radio or at the VMAs, what does that say about those celebrated pop pushers who were spared the embarrassment of having a “Friday” released before the pros got their hands on them?
For at least another year or two, all of the U.K.’s up-and-coming sisters (and brothers) with voices will have their work cut out for them. As if it’s not already tough enough to rise above the pop pack, they’ll also have to contend with all of those inevitable Adele comparisons.
Is she (or he) the next Adele, the future of U.K.-bred pop talent hoping to achieve global domination?
Admit it: You wonder, too”every time a great new voice emerges from the British music scene. With the ruling pop diva of the last two years now between albums (perhaps she’ll be back in the autumn singing the theme for the next James Bond film, Skyfall) and expecting her first child with boyfriend Simon Konecki, the battle is on for the keys to the kingdom that the princess hasn’t even yet vacated.
If you’ve got a great voice and/or a slightly unconventional pop sound and/or look, if you’re more substance than style, to the front of the line you go. It’s the latest greatest aspiration in pop since the days when it was all about being the next Amy Winehouse, whether you sounded anything like her or not. Challenging Adele might be as scary a proposition as walking in the late Winehouse’s scuffed shoes might have been (terrifying for reasons that had everything and nothing to do with Winehouse’s talent), but at least fans are in for some great music. Recently, I heard a Rumer (the off-the-beaten-pop-path singer behind 2010’s Seasons of My Soul and this year’s Boys Don’t Cry), and my first thought was “Is this it?”
Rumer isn’t the only talented singer who’s making me listen and wonder. Here are three others:
Emeli Sandé (Current hits: My Kind of Love and Next to Me) In June, a friend sent me the video for Sandé’s recent single, Next to Me, on Facebook, with a short and sweet message: love… After watching the clip, my first impression was Sara Bareilles with a really dated look. White on black is so mid-˜90s! My second impression: How is it that everybody all over the world doesn’t already know her name (which, incidentally, is actually Adele Emeli Sandé)? (more…)
That’s what John Taylor of Duran Duran recently told Time Out Melbourne on the subject of illegal downloading. When I read Taylor’s comments, I applauded as if his band had just completed a rousing encore of Skin Trade. Finally, a pop star who understands what it’s like to be low on cash but high on music.
Back in the old pre-Internet days, before iTunes, Amazon and having access to the latest hits 24/7 on YouTube, if you couldn’t afford to pay to listen to the music you loved anytime you wanted to, you had to improvise. For me, and, apparently, for Taylor, that meant pushing a tape recorder up the speakers of the radio, waiting for your favorite song to come on, pressing play when it did, and praying for no outside noise to interfere with the sweet music coming from the speakers.
On the subject of short-lived stardom, Andy Warhol said it best: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” Surely in 1968, when Warhol uttered that soon-to-be immortal prediction, he couldn’t have foreseen the emergence of the Internet and reality TV as the two biggest factors in the making and breaking of pop stars this side of MTV back when it was still all about music television.
Though it’s easier to get famous for fifteen minutes or less these days, it’s harder to stay that way when you’re made online. Bloggers everywhere seem to dedicate their Internet domains to the building up and tearing down of American idols. And here in cyberspace, the sometimes-adoring public is just as fickle: You don’t go viral without annoying a lot of people along the way.
- Everyone gets in bar fights, but only celebrities get in bar fights in Helsinki.
- Oh look, more Radiohead music.
- Florence + the Machine get ready for an arena tour at… a department store.
- Saying you want a pasta maker for Christmas is almost as lame as saying you want world peace, T Swift.
- Okay, 10 days left for something amazing to happen so that 2011 doesn’t go down in history as the year of Rebecca Black.
- There’s not enough time in the day to read all the 2011 music lists out there.
- Such a grumpy Gus, Morrissey.
- That’s just lovely that you had a ‘great time at the Military Ball’, Justin Timberlake, but GET BACK IN THE STUDIO ALREADY.
- Oh look, another inconclusive autopsy.
- We’re just not going to get rid of you, are we Rebecca Black?
- Its going to be very unfortunate when future generations start thinking Santa Claus looks like a giant Lady Gaga monster.
- We happened to spot Adele when she was in Boston for throat surgery, and she certainly wasn’t ‘just chilling’.
- Boy oh boy, do we love globe-trotting spoken word tours.
- Headline of the Day: “Losing Your Virginity: The Ultimate User Experience”.
- Kim Kardashian hires an acting coach, because her show is “not-at-all-scripted”.
- We’re pulling for ya, Brit Brit. Even though your boy toy’s kiiiiinda a creeper.
- Good thing Childish Gambino won’t be shooting any babies in the head. If he did… who are we kidding we’d still dig him.
No matter what the media say”and for more than a year now, they’ve been declaring Justin Bieber as big as, if not bigger than, the Beatles”Bieber Fever is no match for Beatlemania. Even if Bieber’s new holiday album, Under the Mistletoe, which was released November 1, ends up being the biggest one ever (the first single, “Mistletoe,” just debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 11, immediately making it the seventeen-year-old’s biggest solo hit yet), remember this: The Beatles never released a Christmas album. (Thank God!)
Obviously, Bieber Fever does have one thing in common with Beatlemania, a movement launched by The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 that continued long after the Beatles broke up in 1970: girls, girls, girls (all screaming at the top of their lungs). They are the cornerstone of Bieber’s success, but Beatlemania involved so much more than overzealous female fans caught up in the rapture of hot musical act.
Thanks to his largely underage female following, Bieber does reasonably well commercially, though he lacks the opening-week clout of Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne or even Coldplay (to name the artists behind the Top 3 debuts of 2011). In the US, he’s sold some 5 million copies of one full-length studio album, three compilations and one EP. That may barely be on par with the sales standards set by pop’s top divas, but it would put him in the running for modern pop’s most commercially viable male star.
Still, Bieber is no chart phenomenon. For all of the hysteria he spawned in his first two and a half years in circulation, he only hit the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 twice in his first eight tries. The highest-peaking of those was “Baby” (No. 5 in 2010), and both were collaborations with rappers (Ludacris on “Baby,” Jaden Smith on “Never Say Never”), which means Bieber has yet to score a massive hit based on his star power alone.
In a world where making a record is as easy as starring on reality TV, and even easier when you have your own show, Rebecca Black was bound to happen.
Don’t worry. Black, the fourteen-year-old from Anaheim, California, who made us wonder if she was making fun of shallow pop stars or being one herself in her viral YouTube video “Friday,” hasn’t gotten her own reality show. Yet. But isn’t it only just a matter of time?
What she does have is a level of fame”or infamy, depending on how you want to look at it”without having any discernible singing talent. Before it was yanked from YouTube in June over a dispute between Black and her former record label, Ark Music Factory, her “Friday” video had logged some 161 million views. Black became an Internet favorite, with article after online article devoted to her and her music”well, her song. Some people loved her; some people hated her; everyone was talking about her. Everybody’s still talking. Katy Perry even invited Black to costar in her “T.G.I.F. (Last Friday Night)” video.
Yes, Rebecca Black is a huge hit. Ironically, though, she has yet to have one. For all of the hoopla surrounding it, “Friday” was never a commercial success as a single. It peaked at No. 58 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and didn’t fare much better anywhere it was released.
Australia, one of the few places where “Friday” made it to the Top 40, is about to launch its own fourteen-year-old star, Jack Vidgen, recent winner of Australia’s Got Talent. Sadly, it’s gonna take a miracle”or maybe a Black cameo in his video”to give Vidgen’s career any momentum in the US, which Justin Bieber aside, has been resistant to young male solo pop (i.e., white) stars since Justin Timberlake went Hollywood.
- Gavin DeGraw gets jumped and then hit by a cab. Let’s hope bad things really don’t happen in threes.
- Ding ding ding: Anderson Cooper vs. Chris Brown.
- J Lo returning for American Idol. Smart girl.
- This really freaks us out. Like, REALLY.
- Ya wanna be a star, dontcha?!?!
- As if independent music didn’t have it tough enough.
- Give it a rest, Radiohead.