Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Rebecca Black Is Better Than Your Band

The question of authenticity is a curly one. A lot of criticism leveled at any band or artist is that they're not authentic. That their motivations are suspect. That their intention is not to express themselves, but to sell records. 

Fair enough.

I demand the same from any musician I listen to. I want to know what I'm hearing is expression, not a sales pitch. Otherwise what's the point? 

I think it was Brian Eno who said that the last challenge a modern artist has is to convince the audience that his or her art is genuine. 

This is certainly true in music currently labelled "alternative".  When I watch this music I see an overwhelming amount of energy spent on appearing authentic. Guitar just messy enough to appear unplanned. Drums engineered painstakingly to sound like a lounge room recording while still having all the ballsy kick of a  Black Eyed Peas dance floor hit.

Don't get me wrong...I love these guys, they just look the part.

Much of this alternative music is just as sales-driven as any mainstream pop. The difference is pop doesn't try and disguise its motives. It earnestly strives to connect with as many people as possible. It doesn't hold itself up as high art. 

Both are constructed in the same way, framed in identical three and a half minute song structures. In other words, it's all just pop music. The difference is, one branch of pop is preoccupied with proving how totally not-pop it is. 

Which brings me to Rebecca Black and her viral hit "Friday."

Rebecca Black is a thirteen year old girl who like many other thirteen year olds dreams of being a pop star. Her song "Friday,"  is so transparent it may as well be about a thirteen year old girl who dreams of being a pop star, rather than ...partying, partying, fun, fun, fun, fun.  

"I'm a negative creep! I'm a negative creep! I'm a negative creep and I'm stoned!"

Millions of people around the world are sharing this tune (73 million (?!) at last count). They are sneering at it, ridiculing it and comparing it to the "authentic" artists they listen to. 

But when I watch "Friday" I see something that is so lacking in self-consciousness that it is refreshing. It's clumsy, it's pure, it's naive, and it's joyful. It's the kind of music people make when they don't know any better. It reminds me of making music when I was thirteen years old. In a word it's authentic. Not even the vanity label her parents paid to produce it could disguise the truth of it.

One thing is for sure: it's way more authentic than the work of a lot of musicians currently shitting on it.

Do I think it's clever or insightful or relevant to me? Fuck no. I never need to hear it again. But I'm not thirteen.  

And there is not a single shot of a laundromat in the whole clip.

"It's know...we're hot but we have to still do our own washing?"

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