by Chris Randle
Several days ago a lulz-starved Internet fastened onto Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” sending the Orange County eighth grader and her low-budget music video to viral fame. It’s already near 15 million Youtube hits, and there are many derivative memes, my favourite being the mashup with Ice Cube’s Friday. According to a Daily Beast article about the whole phenomenon, those monotonous drum machines and surreally bad lyrics were produced by the not-at-all-sinister-sounding vanity label Ark Music Factory, which charges rich parents $2000 to give their kids a fleeting taste of micro-stardom.
“Friday” doesn’t seem to be going pandemic from mockery alone; as I write, the single is #40 on the iTunes chart and climbing, which suggests genuine affection. You can point and laugh at it for free. (William Hung did manage to shift 300 000 copies of his Idol-assisted cash-in, but that was before Youtube existed.)
Paying even 99 cents for the mp3 of an ostensibly terrible song implies lots of tweens with a sophisticated sense of camp. Hearing Rebecca Black employ supercompressed AutoTune without a shred of self-consciousness or restraint, I thought of something John Waters once said: “Mink [Stole], when we were young, she would go to thrift shops the day after Halloween when all the children’s costumes were on sale for a nickel and buy them all and wear them all year as her outfits. That’s a good fashion choice. The day after Halloween, Halloween costumes are really cheap in thrift shops and the most pitiful ones are left. Just wear them all year.”
The track has piled up so many links that it’s sluicing off attention to other Ark Music jams. I can’t stop replaying Jenna Rose’s “My Jeans.” Its beat goes harder than “Friday,” but its guest MC isn’t so creepily adult: If you’re named Baby Triggy, your only promising career options are “cartoon dinosaur” or “contributor of non-threatening raps for 12-year-olds.” (My new dream job.) The breathless lyrics invoke pants as a magical sigil: “Hannah Montana’s wearing my jeans / Ashley Tisdale’s wearing my jeans / Keke Palmer’s wearing MY JEANS.” I think this is the first teenpop song about commodity fetishism in a while, unless you count Ke$ha. Stereolab should reunite to cover it.
At certain moments – like Jenna Rose’s “ha ha ha ha, jack my swag” non-sequitur – “My Jeans” almost feels too exuberant, so garishly wrong that it verges on vanguardism. My friend David Balzer IMed: “This is so close to a Ryan Trecartin video,” those Youtube pieces populated by the artist’s fluorescent, babbling drag tweens (see above). It’s also a jeans-obsessed clip that hardly deigns to show any. During last month’s Pop Conference in L.A., Carl presented a paper about “reality music” and tunes that trade in explicit non-fiction. Ark Music Factory inverted the concept: its amateurish signees, ordinary but for their privilege, would pretend to be generic pop stars for a weekend. And then, somewhere inside the assembly plant, the test subjects mutated.