How I Quit Hating and Learned to Love the Dumbest Song EverPosted: April 2, 2011
There are many things that I wish existed when I was a kid. I would have loved some of those fantastic Christopher Hart comic art instruction books 25 years ago. Some loop trainers and digital metronomes would have been godsends when I was learning how to play guitar. An intuitive word processor certainly would have made those research papers less painful. And what I would have given for a cell phone when I had to sit and wait for a ride after football practice.
There are other things that I’m glad didn’t exist when I was an ankle biter. For example, there was no UFC. Now I enjoy watching men in tiny pants beat the hell out of each other more than your average bear, but I’m glad it wasn’t around in the 80s. Had it existed in its current state 20+ years ago, my friends and I would have been foolish enough to give it a whirl. I can assure you that would have ended badly. I already endured more than my fair share of punches and kicks to the head during my childhood. A few more concussions would have scrambled what little brains I have left.
But more than anything, I’m glad we had no internet back then. I’m glad information moved at a slower pace.
Why’s that? Well, “Jackass” pranks and backyard wrestling antics didn’t fall out of the sky ten years ago, kiddies. Back in the 80s and early 90s, my Gen X pals and I spent a good chunk of our adolescence beating the snot out of each other. And I’m pretty sure that our parents did as well. Most of the time, it was simply to alleviate boredom. We recreated our favorite maneuvers from Mid-South rasslin’, broken bones and chipped teeth be damned. We played war by shooting bottle rockets and Roman candles at each other. Some testosterone-fueled idiot was always game to fight some other equally hormonal idiot in an empty parking lot on Friday night. And there was always at least one kid in the group who was dumb enough to accept a really moronic dare, like drinking a cup full of liquid garbage, jumping off a low pitch roof, or taking the Nestea plunge off the Front Street Bridge in Natchitoches.
Most of our silliness went undocumented. A video camera was occasionally present for some of those hijinks, but I presume the dissemination of said antics went no further than second-generation VCR dubs. 20 years later, those old tapes are probably rotting away in some landfill. At least that’s what I hope happened to them.
Thank god there was no internet back then.
I suppose that statement’s not entirely true, but it might as well be. I had a handful of friends who had internet access on archaic ISPs like CompuServe and Prodigy, but technological constraints limited their activities to 8-bit gaming and exchanging fart jokes on Monty Python message boards. There were no means of uploading our nonsense for the rest of the world to see. Our dumbshit activities played out in front of a handful of people. If it was a really stupid feat, word of mouth made the rounds in the school courtyard or cafeteria. It usually died on the vine after a few days. Now there were a handful of kids who got saddled with vicious rumors that seemingly wouldn’t die, but most of that nonsense lost its sting once we all grew up and moved on to real problems. And almost all of that craziness is a foggy memory for most of us now. For that, I am eternally thankful.
I worry about what instant communication is doing to kids these days. Rumors can get splattered across facebook and Twitter within seconds. Videos can be uploaded onto a whole myriad of sites with equal rapidity. Ignominy is potentially global and permanent (until a web host becomes dormant or until an electromagnetic pulse eradicates all digital media). I look at some of the poppycock that some of my younger relatives put online and it makes my skin crawl.
Simply put, too many kids are abusing our technological progress. I realize that makes me sound like a geriatric Luddite, but information moved at a slower pace when I was a kid. Your most embarrassing moments weren’t going to be broadcast to the whole world. Those saccharine love letters and journals had limited circulation. You kept your awful band cloistered in the garage until you were good enough to play in front of an audience. Now this also meant that your really good creative endeavors usually went nowhere because news crawled back then. But in retrospect, it was an invaluable buffer to the outside world, and it allowed us to have a few more years of innocence.
The brouhaha over Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is a microcosm for some of modernity’s messiness. A friend showed me the video about a week ago. My immediate reaction was “this is god awful. It might be dumbest song I’ve ever heard.” I cringed for the clip’s entirety. Once it ended, I scrolled down and laughed at some of the vitriolic comments posted on youtube. I’m a demented twerp, so brutality makes me laugh. Too much.
Then my friend told me that she’s only 13 years old. My critical daggers immediately went back into their scabbards. My normally blackened heart only has a handful of gossamer threads approximating humanity and parental concern, but those 14 wispy hairs tugged at me mightily.
“Oh, honey,” I muttered. “I am so sorry.”
I did a little bit of research to figure out how the hell this all happened. It turns out that the girl’s mother paid a vanity record label $4000 to record a prewritten song and shoot an accompanying video. This girl had a dream and Mama was going to facilitate it (the utter lack of talent for all parties involved be damned). She posted it on youtube in February so her family and friends would enjoy it. A few popular comedians stumbled across it, goofed on it on Twitter, and the thing spread like wildfire. That dang video has over 75 million views now.
We all knew people like this growing up. Mercifully, their off-key meanderings drifted no farther than recital halls full of bored and restless family members. After it was over, you smiled blankly, told them it was nice, and patted them on the head. You figured a failed audition or two down the road would preempt any further shame. Evidently the option of failing in obscurity is gone these days. When a cell phone can record and upload your most embarrassing moments in real time, all bets are off.
But what the hell were she and her parents thinking? Were they thinking? I’m sure Momma loves Rebecca with all her heart, but she should have told that poor girl couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Giving this kid the autotune treatment is like giving firewater to redskins. Nothing good can come from it. And those lyrics! They make Vanilla Ice look like Byron or Keats, for Christ’s sake! I love big, loud, and dumb more than your average bear, but I don’t think this kid delivered that song with a shred of irony or self-awareness. She’s bleating her delusional little heart out. I like to envision the soundtrack for Armageddon as the most bitchin’ Wagner/Norwegian black metal hybrid ever, but I figure it will actually be a ProTooled sequence of bleeps and over processed caterwauling. It probably won’t be too far removed from “Friday.”
It’s awful. But the haters are even worse. Some of them are innocuously snarky. I admit to initially laughing at comments like “my ears just threw up.” But a lot of them are simply cruel. Black says she received notes that read, “I hope you cut yourself and I hope you get an eating disorder so you’ll look pretty and I hope you go cut and die.” She went on to say that, “when I first saw all these nasty comments I did cry. I felt like this was my fault, and I shouldn’t have done this, and this is all because of me.”
What the #$%@ is wrong with people?! She’s a 13 year old girl, for God’s sake! Those don’t sound like the words of a prefabricated pop princess trying to pull a fast one on the rest of us. It sounds like an overwhelmed and confused kid to me. An errantly tossed snowball into a digital wasteland turned an avalanche overnight. Now people are excoriating this kid for her relentless self-promotion in the wake of this catastrophe. But else is there to do? The debacle can’t be undone. If over a million youtube viewers took the time to tell you that they hated your guts and anonymity is no longer an option, what would you do? She might as well grab every dime she can.
This song is horrid, but it’s an earnest, unabashed, adolescent awfulness. So I figure Rebecca Black has the same artistic integrity as Radiohead at this point. She can’t write a song and can’t stay in tune to save her life, but she’ll keep plugging away. Radiohead could write the most beautiful song in the world if they felt like it, but a I-IV-V song structure is so 20th century, maaaaaaaan. So we get album after album of meandering bullshit from these clowns and we’re supposed to accept their latest batch of drivel as artistic genius. Excuse me while I go back and listen to “The Bends” for the 9000th time. Sigh.
And Rebecca, I also hope that this weekend never ends.