Rebecca Black is too easy a target for music criticism

I will admit that I have had more than my share of laughs at the expense of young Rebecca Black, who has become a Youtube sensation thanks to her low-budget music video for the absurdly bad song, “Friday.” You know, that song about… Friday.

Surprisingly, she isn’t trolling. Black is the centre of attention thanks to Ark Music Factory, an independent label promoting very young and mediocre pop singers. The young performers are clearly the children of the affluent and wealthy who rub elbows with all the right people, as they all have about as much talent as an American Idol reject before the auto-tune kicks in.

Ark did not “discover” Black or her comrades – they bought the company’s services, which includes writing a catchy pop song and directing a straight-to-Youtube music video for a nominal fee. Ark even says in its description that it is “essential” that the performer have a well-written song and well-designed image in order to advance in the entertainment industry.

Yes, it’s sad, but it’s nothing new.

When it comes to artists relying on the aid of auto-tune, the phenomenon is far from recent. The Spice Girls were widely criticized for lip-syncing their live shows in the 90’s. And while pop stars such as Katy Perry and Taylor Swift don’t typically lip-sync live, the quality of their live performances indicates that they probably should.

As for the over-manufactured image, that concept has been alive since the age of the Beatles, who were forced to cut their hair and put on suits and sing about hand-holding in their early days.

Justin Bieber’s image was designed by a team of professionals who took him from an unassuming and plain-faced suburban kid to a street-wise heartthrob with a sassy haircut. Even his accent and mannerisms are clearly not that of a born-and-bred Stratford boy.

So while we can criticize Black’s overly made-up face, the Sebring that she and her friends are clearly too young to drive, the green screen they’re cruising in front of, and the awkward social interaction of the fake party, it’s just as awful and disingenuous as Island Records trying to make a barely-pubescent Bieber look like a suave young adult.

The only difference is that Bieber and his peers operate on a much larger budget.

When it comes to Black’s “Friday,” everyone jumps at the chance to be a critic. The song gives even the most musically-impaired a chance to look down their noses at an auto-tune-abusing, repetitive, nicely-packaged product of a singer, though the same individuals balk at the slightest criticism of their precious bubblegum acts.

Take, for example, 2009’s party anthem “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black-Eyed Peas. The song is ripe with obscene repetitiveness (not that that’s anything new for a BEP song), the over-use of auto-tune, and even a verse dedicated to naming the days of the week (in which they felt a need to name Saturday twice).

How does this song differ from Black’s? Perhaps it was the higher-budget music video, the fan-base that the Black-Eyed Peas already had, or the marketing and production. Either way, the quality of the song, when closely examined, barely surpasses Black’s.

Does this make Black a good artist (or even an artist)? Not at all. It simply means that singers with just as little skill (but larger budgets) have always existed.

While everyone is enjoying the hilarity of “Friday’s” ridiculous lyrics, I can’t help but wonder how the public would react if a totally unknown teenager had produced a song with the lyrics “You’re hot and you’re cold / you’re yes than you’re no / you’re in then you’re out / you’re up, then you’re down.”

For those of you stating that Black’s single is a sign of some sort of musical Apocalypse, don’t kid yourselves. The point of no return was reached ages ago.

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