CMU Weekly Editor's Letter

CMU Weekly – Friday 18 Mar 2011

By | Published on Friday 18 March 2011

Andy Malt

It’s Friday. Or at least it is if you’re reading this on the day it was published. And you know what Friday means: Fun, fun, fun, fun. The biggest concern for any of us today is which seat we should occupy in our friend’s car.

Yes, you’ve probably already guessed it, I’m about to do what someone on Twitter described as being the aural equivalent of saying, “this tastes horrible, wanna try some?”. You’ve probably seen it by now, and at the very least you must be aware of it – ‘Friday’ by Rebecca Black.

Pause a moment. Absorb it in all its glory.

For those of you too weak or previously emotionally scarred to endure it, I’ll bring you up to speed. While in the early part of the new millennium, we in the UK enjoyed the manufactured ‘discovery’ of artists like Lily Allen and Arctic Monkeys on MySpace, in the US it’s all about YouTube. Soulja Boy, Justin Bieber and Susan Boyle have all found their initial followings via videos posted to the site. It makes for a great story when you can say that you were discovered because people liked what you were doing and decided to share it with each other in their thousands. And the latest artist to enjoy this phenomenon is thirteen year old model, dancer, actress and singer Rebecca Black. Well, sort of.

‘Friday’ was bouncing around the internet at the end of last week, but seems to have really picked up momentum when it was posted to the blog of US internet-focused TV show ‘Tosh.0’. And whereas people shared Susan Boyle’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ audition partly because of the shock that someone who was not the most attractive person in the world could actually sing, ‘Friday’ has now scored over sixteen million views because, amongst many other things, no one can quite believe that Rebecca Black actually feels the need to explain the order in which the last four days of the week come.

Actually, like Boyle, the first thing that really knocks you back in this video is the voice. Her delivery was clearly already a bit odd before it was beaten into a rough square shape with more Autotune than is safe without protective clothing. And then there are the lyrics. Oh my god, the lyrics. It’s not just the days of the week she explains, it’s every minute detail of her tedious life. There’s a lot to be said for identifying with the plight of ‘real’ people, but when you’re presented with a song that begins: “7am, waking up in the morning, gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs, gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal”, you should be asking questions.

Following that, she goes to catch the bus, but her friends drive up in a car. Her thirteen year old friends. Some of them are “kicking in the front seat”, others are “sitting in the back seat”. She leads into the first chorus with the anguished plea of: “Which seat can I take?”

As mind-numbing as this may sound, Black is adamant that there will be partying and fun later. “Fun, fun, fun, fun”, she sings in robotic deadpan several times, and in one memorable verse, “Fun, fun, think about fun. You know what it is”. As we wait patiently for the fun to start, she explains: “Yesterday was Thursday, today is Friday … tomorrow is Saturday, and Sunday comes afterwards”. And I’ve not even told you about the terrible rap in the middle from a guy who sounds like he’s plotting a kidnap.

The song is the product of a company called Ark Music Factory, which describes itself as a “community, music/entertainment channel and independent record label”. Its aim in life is to find the pop stars of tomorrow, which it does by seeking out new talent. Once it’s found them, the company takes the wannabes into the studio with a team of writers and producers, records the resulting song and shoots a video for it. Exactly who pays for all this isn’t clear, the Ark website is rammed full of teenagers singing terrible songs and it’s been suggested that all are the offspring of wealthy parents keen to help their kids on to the first rung of the ladder to fame.

Whatever the deal, I’m not sure anyone on the Ark roster screams “future pop star”. Certainly not with the songs they’ve been given to sing. But having racked up an average of two million YouTube views per day (even more in the last 24 hours), Rebecca Black’s video has also been covered and remixed numerous times, and the track is making its way up the iTunes chart – sitting at number 29 in the US last time I looked.

If it wasn’t for the fact that no one could possibly have predicted how far and wide this would blow up, you’d say it was a set-up. But the worst thing about it is how catchy it is. It’s become the default sound inside my head; the chorus can roll around my brain for hours at a time before I think to concentrate on something else. And I find myself craving it. It’s so bizarre, so awful, that I want to remind myself that it really is as bad as I imagined. I think I might need help.

Luckily, if you just fell for my trick and watched it for yourself, there is something to take your mind off it – the brand new episode of the CMU podcast. This week, Chris and I discuss the BBC Asian Network being saved, British music taking over the US charts, Matt Cardle signing a joint record deal with Syco and Columbia, Charlotte Church pulling out of her investment deal with PowerAmp, the possibility of Napster founder Sean Parker running a major record label, Jon Bon Jovi accusing Steve Jobs of murder and, oh yes, more Rebecca Black.

Andy Malt
Editor, CMU

PS – In the podcast we promise to provide you with links to some interesting articles on A&R. So, here is Eddy Temple-Morris’ CMU column from last week, Dave Fawbert’s article for Wired UK, and Sentric Music’s interview with three A&R people.

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