Chasing the Shitegeist: ‘Black Friday’

"We we we so excited". Thus spoke the poet.

Ok, I know I have come late to this party, and that the fun is, as with all ‘memes’ of this type, all but over. So, in this hurtling rapid virtual world , a two-month lapse between release on Youtube and blog commentary virtually constitutes a historical analysis. But there’s something to be said for holding off a little, letting the ‘worst song of all time’ hyperbole die down and letting the 85 million views accrue (I mean, just think about that for a second. Eighty-five million… and counting).

I must admit, when I first heard this song, I wanted to write, indeed began writing, something along the lines of: “stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, disconnect the internet. The shittest song ever has been found. Pop music is dead, it has finally eaten itself.” But then, with the (brief but necessary) passing of time, I listened to it again. And again. And again. I encourage you to do the same. It’s fucking mesmerising!

Now, as with all things where the overwhelming consensus is that the thing is unredeemably shit, you get a small band of capricious (snobbish) musos who deliberately adopt the opposite position. This happens with tremendously popular music more often; some will hate it just because it’s popular. Well, I’m not going to join the Rebecca Black apologists. I can’t. Because the song it disastrous. But we must be carefully in our pillorying, lest others begin to take a closer look at our self-appointed popular music treasures. He who is without sin &c…

The main consternation with this song, apart from the overabundance of autotune (which is so de rigueur in pop music now, that I don’t even really hear it anymore; it’s like complaining about reverb), is with the lyrics. I love lyrics. And these lyrics are extraordinary. They take the ‘kitchen sink drama’ (minus the drama part, perhaps) to it most mundane nadir:

7am, waking up in the morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal

[…]

I see my friends (My friends)
Kickin’ in the front seat
Sittin’ in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?

(As a pedantic little tangent; in the video accompanying the lines “gotta make my mind up, which seat can I take?” we see Black’s friends occupying all but the middle seat at the back; the decision, it seems, has been made for her. Phew!)

The second verse – perennially the residence of phoned-in lyrics – descends into a moderately elongated Tweet, crossed with a nonsensical string of sounds, as far as I’m concerned:

7:45, we’re drivin’ on the highway
Cruisin’ so fast, I want time to fly
Fun, fun, think about fun
You know what it is
I got this, you got this
My friend is by my right
I got this, you got this
Now you know it

“Fun, fun, think about fun you know what it is”. I don’t think that can even be counted as shit, it’s too bizarre!

But it is the bridge (isn’t it always?) where notable dross disintegrates into a perplexing liminal space so mundane and unnecessary that it’s disconcerting; listening to it is like a psychotropic test or something!

Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today it is Friday, Friday (Partyin’)
We-we-we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today

Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes after…wards
I don’t want this weekend to end

“I know Sunday comes after Saturday, and that Saturday comes after Friday! Why are you telling me this?! What’s happening? Why can’t I feel my arms anymore? What have you done to me?!!!!”

___________________________________________________________________________

But there’s a couple of redemptive points that need making here.

1. For all the insane mundanity, it is actually a pretty honest account of an ‘average’ young teenager, isn’t it? Well, in pop terms, maybe. Compare it with ‘Leave (Get Out)’ by Jojo, which she released at 13, the same age as Rebecca Black:

Hope you know that when it’s late at night
I Hold on to my pillow tight
And think of how you promised me forever

[…]

wanted you right here with me but I have no choice you’ve gotta leave
Because my heart is breakin’
With every word I’m sayin’
I gave up everything I had
On something that just wouldn’t last

I should just say at this point, I love this song. I love Jojo’s music. ‘The High Road’ is among my favourite albums ever (my favourite ‘driving album’ ever), and I make no apology for that. However, even the title of this song sits oddly with the singer; there is a disjunct between song’s protagonist(s) and singer. Just where is the person (Jojo?) is singing to supposed to be leaving? Their house? The school? Rebecca Black, on choosing to sing ‘Friday’, is quoted (on Wikipedia, for what it’s worth) as saying “the other song was about adult love – I haven’t experienced that yet.” And that, at least, is commendable.

2. Are the lyrics really that much worse than anything else in pop music? Or rock music? Here’s an experiment for you; take a song you like, pick out a lyric, and really think about it.

e.g. 1 “the world is a vampire, sent to dra-i-a-i-ain”

e.g. 2 “I’m a negative creep, I’m a negative creep, I’m a negative creep 
and I’m stoned”

e.g. 3 “her baby buys her things, you know. He buys her diamond rings you
 know she said so. She’s in love with me 
and I feel fine”

Need I go on?

That’s the thing with pop music, when you stand back and look at it, a lot of it is open to ridicule. A lot of it can seem pretty silly and superfluous. So whether ‘Friday’ is the thick end of the shite lyric wedge, a momentary reflection on the whole machinery of pop, or just a incendiary, momentary flash, it is part of pop, and we can ill afford to turn on our own so viciously!

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One Response to Chasing the Shitegeist: ‘Black Friday’

  1. Mrtn Skrtl says:

    The lyrics are good because they’re like the teleological endpoint of R-Kelly; the drama of being trapped in a closet removed, now he’s just answering a phone, eating breakfast, remembering his bag and choosing a seat.

    For this reason ‘gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal’ is my favourite line. Take it one step at a time pet, and make sure you don’t forget anything.

    ‘pour milk on it’

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