Friday, August 5th, 2011

Rebecca Black – My Moment

What comes after Friday, Rebecca…?


Jer Fairall: So we have finally reached the point as a culture where even our collective laughing-stocks get to wax inspirational and tell off their haters in song? The music industry isn’t dead, folks; it’s just found more innovative ways to insult us.  

Katherine St Asaph: “Rebecca Black’s new song isn’t hilarious,” a friend texted me the day of. It is not. It’s not particularly memorable until Rebecca starts needling at people. It’s not boastful, which’ll happen when you needle like Chris Brown. It’s not even bad — the chorus flits and jitters promisingly, and at least one of Rebecca, her backup singers or her Pro Tools palette planted little sprouts of prettiness into the verses that, given five years or so, could blossom. If anyone but Rebecca Black recorded “My Moment,” they’d receive at least a vocal coach. Rebecca’s name and fame aren’t enabling anything; they’re the problem. So on the off-chance she sees this, here’s some unsolicited advice: hunker back to middle school, take up an instrument, mainline the work of every singer-songwriter people get compared to, write daily, change your name upon graduation and leave L.A., then send a few quiet emails and SoundCloud links to your industry frenemies. Then comes your moment; this isn’t it. 

Michaela Drapes: I suppose everything you need to know about this song is that I went and watched a lot of Tiffany and Debbie Gibson videos just now. Miss Black, with her charmingly goofy grin and fleeting viral video fame, is the ultimate everygirl for the ’10s. But instead of replicating the look and sound of the hardened Disney career teen, you’ve got to look back 25 years to find her true precursors: She’s got the mall-friendly earthiness of fellow SoCal girl Tiffany and the chipper demeanor of Debbie Gibson down pat. The song itself is just terrible (good lord, those horrific synths!) but catchy enough to barely pass muster. A little part of me wishes that she’d had better material and producers to work with, who might have let her funny little voice shine through as brightly as her sunny demeanor, instead of smoothing her over into oblivion.

Alfred Soto: A bauble as pseudo-twinkly as Merril Bainbridge’s “Mouth,” ornamented with a couple of gauche synths from 1983. A joke rarely turns into the real thing; here, the pumpkin almost turns into a carriage. Credit to Black, who knows that the second marks the time when you prove you’re not just a… moment.

Edward Okulicz: “Friday,” as cheap and dubious as it was, clearly gave all the people who laughed at it and loved it something they couldn’t get anywhere else. “My Moment” is semi-credible and completely forgettable, and its existence clearly gives Rebecca Black something she clearly wanted, but my guess is that absolutely nobody else will share her feeling. They can get this slop anywhere.

Zach Lyon: It is absolutely wacky that she does not have even a co-writing credit on this — I thought she was the sole writer! And I don’t mean that as an insult (except to the actual writers), only that this song sounds as if it were stolen from the pages of a fourteen year-old’s diary, one that wasn’t intended for anyone else to read. It’s trying to tell a story, but it’s all directed to “you,” and nothing about the dynamic between Rebecca and “you” makes sense. It’s simultaneously too vague and too specific. It sounds a bit voyeuristic. I hate that I’m rooting against her success, but this isn’t working, and apparently her success can only be predicated on her being the punchline.

Jonathan Bradley: Rebecca Black was a joke that lasted until it was explained, at which time it transformed into a phenomenon that felt vaguely exploitative. (Who was exploiting whom never quite became clear.) “My Moment” is Black playing catch-up and deciding, quite reasonably, that she should be in charge of any exploitation going on. The production is more expensive, but the lyric is still a pasted-together pastiche tasked primarily with holding together for three and a half minutes. That embarrassing moment when someone who’s lost her dignity insists she intended to engage in that pratfall.


Rebecca Toennessen: Props to Becca Black for still being around despite all the online bullying and harassment she endured for “Friday.” Yes, it’s a pretty terrible song, but it gets in your head and that’s, er, something. This song’s slightly better lyrically and is just as bland and autotuned as any teenybopper pop song. It perfectly fits its genre; you’re either a fan or your aren’t.

Jake Cleland: Another in a long line of egregiously mediocre post-fame songs that adds to the already-overwhelming amount of proof that success is toxic for new artists. Addressing detractors in a second single is the pop music equivalent of writing about writing: lazy, unimaginative, and appealing to the most trite stereotypes. And that’s why it’s so shocking that the video is genuinely endearing. It seems like some of Katy Perry’s goofiness rubbed off while on the set of “Last Friday Night”, except where from Perry it’s grating and obnoxious (and in the case of “Last Friday Night”, offensive), watching Black is genuinely fun (fun, fun, fun.) Listening to her… not so much.

Brad Shoup: Trying to get it all in before death, I’ve spent the last year listening to private-press records. Sometimes (and credulously) called “real people” records, it’s a lumpen mass of LPs released between the mid 60s and the early 80s, often in the psych-folk or -rock vein. Some of it is obviously appealing; a lot of it is poorly recorded or thematically dated. The appeal is the 1-in-500 chance to witness something like pure expression. Even if the LP is chock-full with dippy entreaties toward understanding or portentous acid sound-paintings, even if the rhythm guitarist is incapable of not rushing the beat, the nature of its creation (ideas unmediated by record producers, labels, public tastes) often lends a powerfully generous, human element. I know that’s a little ridiculous to read, but you can hear it if you want. Now, I can’t really tell which band released 100 copies of a record because that’s as many friends to whom they wanted to impart a musical vision, or that’s as many records as they could afford to press up. So while it’s not my highest value, unexpected injections of unvarnished personality are something I try to look out for. The reaction to “Friday,” then, was a little disheartening. Forget the business practices of Ark Music, forget “fried egg“… the heart of the song was a teenage girl, having fun singing a song written just for her. (Maybe Black thought the track would make her famous, but then again, she was recording for a label that got Quincy Jones to attend a show… via iPad.) Spiritually, it wasn’t too far removed from the realm of Psychodelic Sounds, or Fohhoh Bohob, or Philosophy of the World. The beyond-dashed-off lyrics, the roulade of processing effects, the MIDI percussion, the inclusion of a middle-aged rapper because, well, somebody surely remembered that pop songs often have guest rappers… as far as I’m concerned, she vanquished all of it. She was a 13-year-old amateur singer drawing a line between a lifetime of absorbed pop moves and her own instincts. Was it a good song? Of course not. But what she did with it — despite it — was so great. The world respectfully disagreed, and a scant four months later, Black’s follow-up takes the only possible form: a drippy, assured ballad about heading off haters. The chorus achieves liftoff, but can’t shake the overall feeling of melancholy, as if this follow-up single is a grim compulsion. Where stardom might have been the academic subtext of her Ark Music single, it’s the blinding essence of the follow-up. Any difference between “My Moment” and a charting ballad is now simply a degree of quality. You win, internet: you gave a boring ending to a fun premise.

Kat Stevens: Dudes, her MUM is in the video.

14 Responses to “Rebecca Black – My Moment”

  1. Shoup, talk more!

  2. REBECCA BLACK FRIDAY call her by her name

  3. sorry lost my mind there

    they were very merciful not to prune it

  4. no, it was fascinating and important and really well written.

  5. thx

  6. I hadn’t really thought about old vanity press albums in the context of RB; The Shaggs comparison is astute.

    Also, I couldn’t decide if it was adorable or cringeworthy that her actual parents were in the limo. I also couldn’t decide if the weird ending with the paparazzi was altogether appropriate coming on the heels of the demise of La Winehouse and what would have been Princess Diana’s 50th birthday, but I guess that’s as random as the 9/11 skyscraper thing with Demi Lovato? Anyway, it was just a little strange.

  7. I think it’s quite unfair to expect an American teenager to know or respect the birthday of a dead participant in a foreign and anti-democratic system of government.

  8. Fair enough.

  9. This song, or the part of it I could listen to before I turned it off, it made me cry :-( I feel so bad for this little girl. She thinks this is her moment. That’s so… I dunno. It’s just sad.

  10. “I think it’s quite unfair to expect an American teenager to know or respect the birthday of a dead participant in a foreign and anti-democratic system of government.”

    Clearly you’ve never seen People magazine, then (and while I’m not a royalist, Jonathan, WTF does “foreign and anti-democratic system of government” have to do with anything? Diana is/was legitimately FAMOUS in the US, especially when she died. What she did has nothing to do with anything).

    And yeah, Brad’s blurb was good. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to this one.

  11. Yeah, I get crotchety about that kind of thing in a way Michaela didn’t deserve (apologies, Michaela), but I stand by my point, if not my terse tone. In countries like mine and yours, Ian, Diana Spencer was legitimately famous, that is famous with cause; in the US, she was only legitimately famous in the sense that “legitimate” also means “genuinely.” As such, I wouldn’t expect Rebecca Black to pay Spencer’s death any more heed than any other tabloid tragedy, like Anna Nicole Smith or Jon Benet Ramsey or Nicole Brown Simpson.

  12. “[I]n the US, she was only legitimately famous in the sense that “legitimate” also means “genuinely.””

    She had just as much cause for legitimate fame (in the other sense) in the US as she did in the Commonwealth, if not more. It’s one thing to say that the royal’s political power is illegitimate, but fame isn’t political power. But the original point was about the expectation, not the legitimacy; it’s not unfair to expect an American teen to know this stuff, because she was/is FAMOUS. That’s a description, not a prescription. You can dislike it, but pretending it’s not true is kind of pointless.

  13. I’m going to stay out of this one because I seriously don’t have the cred to discuss the political angle of the royals, but I will mention that magazines and gossip websites here were chock-full of Diana tributes last month.

    I certainly didn’t mean to start this kind of argument; I really did just want to point out that the climax of RB’s video, with her vamping for the paps, was distressing and disconcerting no matter what bellwether of invasive tabloid behavior you point to.

  14. I don’t think it would be productive for me to pursue this thread further, since by doing so I would be getting quite far from anything to do with the song or the point Michaela was making about the video.