Rebecca Black’s “Friday” single has been uniformly panned as the worst song ever on the internet. And that has helped turn the 13-year-old girl’s song into an instant hit, with more than 30 million views of her official video on YouTube.
Update: [Black’s video has now surpassed 42 million views, adding 5 million views a day in the last couple of days. She is spoke and sang (really lip-synced) last night Jay Leno’s Tonight Show.]
The Black song has debuted above teen pop star Justin Bieber’s latest song on iTunes — sweet payback since Bieber was also a star born on YouTube. It’s a great example of how the internet can be manipulated into turning something that is slightly funny into an overnight cultural meme. And for Google’s YouTube, Black’s video is another example of its triumph as a pop culture medium over traditional media.
The fact that everyone now hates the monotonous song will make it even more popular. It’s pretty astounding that the internet — and social media such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook — can take something and elevate it to an insane scale. It also becomes a kind of chain letter joke. If you haven’t heard about it yet, you’re really out of it. But if you heard about it when it debuted weeks ago (mid-February), then you have your ear to the ground of popular culture. This kind of tidal wave could only happen with the aid of technology for sharing things fast.
Black will laugh her way to the bank. The iTunes success and the ad revenues from YouTube are certain to make the girl into a multimillionaire [Update2: Forbes estimates that Black has made at least $20,000 from YouTube ads and maybe another $200,000-plus from iTunes. Black said on Jay Leno that she will donate the money to Japan and to her school]. The video was made by Ark Music Factory, a Los Angeles company catering to young stars. They target kids ages 13 to 17, write a “hit,” then record it in an autotuned production. In other words, the aim is to manufacture Bieber-like stars. Ark Music Factory was launched last month by Patrice Wilson and Clarence Jey.
The cynical among us will conclude that anything and anybody can be turned into a hit, as long as someone figures out how to play the internet like a violin. It’s hilarious (and maddening to some) to think that a 13-year-old can outdo the likes of Bieber and Lady Gaga, whose new Born This Way video only has 24 million views. (See what Lady Gaga thinks about Rebecca Black, based on her interview at Google).
Pop stars who want to cash in on the virality of the video are creating their own covers of the song, which is nauseating because the lyrics are so inane, even if they are dead serious for a 13-year-old girl. (Black admitted she cried when her song was deemed the worst song ever.) Black intones “Friday, Friday, Friday” ad nauseum, with an autotune effect added. People who are not fans say the drone of the song is so memorable that they can’t get it out of their heads.
Popular boy band Jonas Brothers sang a cover of the song at the Gibson Amphitheater on Sunday. Simon Cowell, the former American Idol judge, told Entertainment Weekly, “I’ve never seen anything cause so much controversy. I think it’s genius. The fact that everyone’s getting upset about it is hysterical. Any song to do with the weekend annoys you. It reminds me of ‘Saturday Night,’ do you remember that  song by Whigfield? It’s what we call a ‘hair-dryer song,’ a song girls sing into their hair dryers as they’re getting ready to go out. But the fact that it’s making people so angry is brilliant.”
Bieber, who ignited “Bieber Fever” with his own rapid rise as a YouTube star, was somewhat snarky about Black’s song, tweeting to his 8 million followers, “sunday comes after saturday? weird.” Some brilliant music producer should get them together to do a duet. The coming days are critical for Black, as Google Trends shows that her popularity just might be tapering off (see chart). If she can get on a big talk show, that would be brilliant. (I see Conan O’Brien has already mocked her). What do you think? Take our poll below.