Not diving from the fourteenth floor

I have an occasional tendency to drop into a random page in the archives and then read a couple weeks’ worth, just to refresh the memory and see if my thinking has changed in the interim.

Which in no way inspired Rebecca Black to sit through the original video of “Friday”:

Well, most of it, anyway.

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Don’t think once, it’s all right

For some reason known but to Pat Garrett and/or Billy the Kid, Rolling Stone is asking “What is Bob Dylan’s worst song?”

“Worst?” you ask. Then again, not all eleventy-hundred known Dylan compositions are as good as “Forever Young” or “Tangled Up in Blue” or especially “Like a Rolling Stone,” so if there are Best Songs, there must be Worst Songs, right?

My first impulse was to name “All the Tired Horses,” the lead-off track from Self-Portrait, which has two lines of words, one line of humming, and almost no actual Dylan presence. But then, this is a track I actually sing along with when it comes up in the rotation, so I can’t very well call it Worst. So I figured I’d go to something unsingable, the endless (8:33) “Hurricane,” Dylan’s 1975 attempt to raise awareness of the case of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, then serving time for a triple murder. Ten years later, Carter was freed; Dylan had been right all along. But the song is a screechy screed, a testimonial to Tom Lehrer’s insistence that “it don’t matter if you put a couple of extra syllables into a line,” containing lines like “We want to put his ass in stir / We want to pin this triple mur- / Der on him / He ain’t no Gentleman Jim.”

And since I’m in a Zimmermanesque mode, here are two reworkings of “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” one by the (former) Raving Atheist based on a book by Dawn Eden, and one by Replacer based on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Maybe this was Dylan’s best song: it’s not easy to cover, even if you’re as brilliant as “Weird Al” Yankovic, which of course you’re not.

Then there’s “Friday,” best known in its late-2010 recording by Rebecca Black. Dylan is credited as the composer on his own recording (Columbia 45409), which inevitably spawned a cover by the Byrds, who’d been successful with Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and would later record his “My Back Pages.” (Dylan, according to these sources, also wrote Black’s second hit, “My Moment.”)

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Switching lanes

How low-budget was the video for “Friday”? It was shot at Rebecca Black’s home in Anaheim Hills, with prop expenditures of approximately zero.

Except that while announcing that the family is moving out, she admitted that the bus stop was fake.

I think I speak for everyone here when I say “Duh.”

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Think about fun

You know what it is, and the UK’s Intellectual Property Office has been looking into the oft-maligned art of parody. Some of their conclusions:

Parody is a significant consumer activity: On average, there are 24 user-generated parodies available for each original video of a charting single. 25% are target parodies, 31% are weapon parodies and 21% are self-parodies (where the parody maker criticised themselves).

YouTube, asked for “rebecca black friday parody,” claimed 316,000 results. It only seems like that many.

The potential for reputational harm in the observed sample is limited: Only 1.5% of all parodies sampled took a directly negative stance. This is where Rebecca Black’s “Friday” comes in. While there was a “disproportionately negative response from parodists”, the empirical evidence suggested that even highly negative parodies did not harm the original work. It is advantageous to a video to attract parodies, even critical ones.

If the makers of all those “316,000” parodies of “Friday” watched it only once, that’s still a tidy sum for RB.

There exists a small but growing market for skilled user-generated content: Parody videos located in this study generated up to £2 million in revenue for Google in 2011, a portion of which was shared with the creators.

I’ve mentioned this up before. It remains the one “Friday” parody I actually paid to add to the collection:

A definite Palpatine with cheese.

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This seat’s taken

Contagious: Why Things Catch On is the title of a new book by Jonah Berger, assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School, and one of the reasons things catch on, he says, is the presence of triggers: events or cultural phenomena that remind us of those things. This being Friday, which trigger do you think is being pulled? Right you are:

Citing Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” as an example, Berger illustrates the influence of triggers in the sharing of information.

“It’s not that the song is better on Friday — it’s equally bad every day of the week, but Fridays are a little environmental reminder, what I call a trigger … to encourage people to talk about it and share it,” he said.

And Professor Berger just might be right about that particular trigger; “Friday” video views tend to spike between Thursday (yesterday) and Saturday (tomorrow).

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Real live Rebecca Black

There was apparently an upsurge in death rumors again, but no, you can’t get rid of that “Friday” girl that easily. Lots of folks at her Sunday concert at House of Blues in Anaheim, one of whom shot this highly unofficial video:

This was the debut of “Take Me Away,” which will presumably be on the oft-delayed album. Also on the set list: “In Your Words,” the current single; a cover of Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team”; future album track “Carried Away”.

And, oh yes, this was the finale:

Rebecca has often spoken of rearranging “Friday,” but I never imagined it as reggae.

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Friday vindication

If you can’t quite bend your mind around the phrase “Headlining Artist: Rebecca Black,” perhaps you need to flex a bit: RB’s first-ever West Coast concert, at the House of Blues Anaheim, is the 23rd of December, and tickets ($17.50 advance, $20 at the door) go on sale today.

And because it’s Friday, let’s mention “Friday,” and cowriter/producer Patrice Wilson, who made all this possible in his own way. Wilson has now surfaced with a song about, of all things, next Thursday:

He may be a one-trick pony, but it’s a fun trick. (Thanks to Nancy Friedman, who was happy to pass it on to me.)

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Thumbs counted

One of the more remarkable qualities of Rebecca Black’s original “Friday” video was the vast number of dislikes it received during its period of greatest virality (viralness? viralitude?), in the spring of 2011. The video was pulled after 160 million views or so, and then reposted on RB’s own channel. It’s still widely hated, I noticed today, and then decided to run a comparison with her later singles. The numbers:

  • “Friday”: 41436726 views; 205923 likes, 848917 dislikes (4.12 times as many dislikes as likes)
  • “My Moment”: 36157662 views; 401292 likes, 664306 dislikes (1.66)
  • “Person of Interest”: 7396022 views; 73564 likes, 134012 dislikes (1.82)
  • “Sing It”: 2084809 views: 43689 likes, 22560 dislikes (0.52)

Essentially, this restates the obvious: the fanbase remains loyal, while everyone else eventually moved on. But for the sake of completeness, I must note that during the 3:48 I devoted to one more view of “Friday,” four more opinions were expressed — and three of them were positive. Then again, so far as I know, YouTube pays on views, not on thumbs.

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Sad songs say so much

It was Elton John’s idea — okay, technically Bernie Taupin’s, though it took John to reify it — that when you’re feeling down in the dumps, those old, depressing songs actually help.

Which may or may not explain why so many more of them are being written these days:

Researchers from Canada and Germany report pop music recordings have become progressively more “sad-sounding” over time, as characterized by slower tempos and increased use of minor mode — that is, scales that evoke the same feelings one experiences when pondering orphan puppies or long-weekend gas prices.

The study found the proportion of minor-mode songs has fully doubled since the mid-1960s.

And this shift is apparently in response to popular demand:

“Many people assume pop music is banal in its happiness. But most songs now are actually in minor key,” says lead author Glenn Schellenberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. “Composers write in minor because it sounds smarter on some levels, and more complicated. And consumers like it for the same reason — although I don’t think that’s conscious.”

For some of them it might be, though I’m pretty sure I knew nothing from key signatures when I discovered pop radio by way of Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” which was written in A minor, though the recording comes out closer to B-flat, suggesting that the producers sped up the tape just a little, a common practice in the early 1960s.

There is, of course, precedent from days gone by:

“The baroque and classical eras were consistent in terms of their cues to happiness and sadness: faster pieces tended to be major and slower pieces tended to be minor,” says Schellenberg, recalling the musical periods between 1600 and 1820. “But in the Romantic era [1820 to 1900] that switched, creating mixed emotional cues.”

And I do love my mixed emotional cues.

The study is being published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts. Despite the fact that it’s Sunday, I think I’ll go crank up Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” which, not incidentally, is in B major, so sunny a key you might not want to walk on it.

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Is it Friday yet?

While you check on that, here’s this week’s Rebecca Black update.

A firm called Visual Measures has developed an algorithm for determining a video’s, um, virulence; “Friday,” they say, is the third most successful viral video ever, beaten out only by Susan Boyle’s appearance on Britain’s Got Talent and the “Kony 2012″ promotion.

Seemingly tangential: In 1997, I put up the very first Web fan page for singer/songwriter Carolyne Mas, now retired and living in Arizona. She’s still communicating with the fanbase, though, and recently she turned up a box of tapes, which she’s busily sending up to her YouTube channel. Recently, she reported on a batch:

These are demos I did in 1987 with Charlton Pettus who is currently with Tears for Fears, and who went on to produce Reason Street in 1992, while he was playing with Sinead O’Connor. He was the acoustic guitar player who sat behind her when she was booed off the stage at MSG … remember that? He flew to Germany to meet me right after that.

Which gave me an excuse to dig out Reason Street myself. Like all her European recordings, it’s worth hunting down. Inexplicably, Pettus doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, though I will tell you here that he produced the “My Moment” and “Person of Interest” singles — he also cowrote “POI” — for Rebecca Black. The fellow’s tastes evidently run fairly close to my own.

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Inspiration for a Friday

In case you’d like to hear some Friday-related songs besides the one we promote here seemingly every week, Delaney McDonough of Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School, south of Albany, New York, has a small playlist for you, complete with videos.

The one song she mentions I hadn’t heard before was NSYNC’s “Just Got Paid,” from their album No Strings Attached, which opens with this line: “Thank God it’s Friday night and I just-just-just-just-juuuuuuust got paid!” Things evidently were happening faster in 2000 than in, say, 1956, when Little Richard announced that it was Saturday night and he just got paid.

Of course, the only person who ever got all his work done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe:

Perhaps we should leave it at that.

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From the “Spoke Too Soon” files

Well, so much for my capacity for prediction. Last week in this space I speculated that the new Rebecca Black video, being shot that week in Malibu, was for the oft-rumored remake of “Friday.”

BZZZZZZZT! Wrong. I managed to overlook this tweet which identifies the new song as “Sing It.” The video has wrapped and will be up, she says, “pretty soon.” And while I don’t have the key to the Wikipedia lock, someone’s already updated her Wiki page with the new title.

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Fridays to come

Malibu beachThe last Rebecca Black report of 2011 mentioned that she was planning a remake — a re-imaging, if you prefer — of “Friday,” the very song that made her semi-famous, and said that she wanted it “to sound we’re on the beach with friends, someone’s got a guitar, there’s drums.”

So when the above shot of Malibu showed up in her tweetstream with a reference to “filming the new video,” well, I can put two and Tuesday together. Maybe.

Outside of, um, work, she reports that she tried her hand at archery, and, “well, let’s just say Katniss would be disappointed.”

Along those lines, there exists a Hunger Games District 12 Bow, probably not suitable for actual archery, and bearing a California Prop 65 warning. Evidently it causes cancer or something.

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Maybe I shouldn’t have done this on Thursday

“Everybody in the world really hates my ringtone,” sang Weird Al, and I of course have no idea what that’s like.

Maybe. I was at Target last night picking up a couple of prescriptions — $4 generics plus cute pharmacists, so don’t judge me — and as I slid the trusty Amex through the reader, a random Seattle-area (maybe) cold-calling clod dialed in, and out pops, at 8 out of 10 volume, “It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday…”

Now I’ve admitted to having this as a ringtone before, though I don’t get so many phone calls that it’s an issue or anything. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the stares of disbelief from behind the counter. Finally, someone broke through with a variation on Minnesota Nice: “Well, that’s certainly different.”

I probably ought to supplement it with some of the unearthly shrieks RB emits during this impromptu video. As for whoever that was from the 425, he/she/it left a blank voicemail.

Addendum: From the Rebecca Black Kitchens:

[M]y favorite burger is on a brioche bun with a beef patty, with 1000 island dressing, sauerkraut, grilled onion, and dill pickles.

Sounds plausible enough.

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Muffin going on

This may be the only time in history I get to combine a Rebecca Black update with My Little Pony shtick, and I’m not about to pass up that opportunity:

Especially, you know, since it’s Derpy.

(Via Equestria Daily.)

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Fun being thought about

What have we here? It’s time for the weekly Rebecca Black sampler, and we open with, well, a sampler:

Friday sampler by Steotch

The original has actually been sold, but you can get the pattern from Etsy. (Via Steotch.)

Not everyone, however, is having fun, fun, fun, fun:

Students at Kingsville District High School are trying to keep Rebecca Black’s lyrics out of their head by raising funds for the pediatric ward at Leamington Hospital. Every day between classes, and non-stop during lunch, Black’s pop-song “Friday” plays throughout the school. The only way to make it stop is for the student body to hit $1,000 in their fundraising. The money will be used to buy toys for children undergoing surgical procedures at the hospital.

Oh, those wacky Canadians.

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As the world turns Black

One year has gone by since “Friday” was first sneaked onto YouTube, eleven months since its transition from Just Another Video to cultural buzzword. Not the least bit in response to the chronology of it all, Virgin Mobile Live sent an interviewer to talk to Rebecca Black, and the following High Truths were revealed:

  • “Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal”: What cereal? She prefers Cocoa Pebbles;
  • She hopes to be in the studio in a couple of weeks to cut the next single.

And oh, she gets tongue-tied, even today, when you bring up the Biebs.

Meanwhile, this week’s nominee for The Next Rebecca Black is Lexi Sullivan, who’s recorded a track for Patrice Wilson, whose name you’ll remember from the credits for “Friday.” “Hot Stuff,” despite its so-Seventies title, isn’t particularly awful, and Lexi can sing, but I don’t see it becoming an anthem.

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Which clips can I take?

Bill Genereux of TechIntersect put together this little montage of the short (so far) history of Rebecca Black:

YouTube, however, apparently found nothing to laugh at in Genereux’s video compilation:

It includes around a minute of Rebecca’s famous “Friday” song before moving into the parodies & spoofs and the YouTube copyright algorithms tagged it as infringing. I filed a counter-claim that it was an educational fair-use, it doesn’t use the entire video, and provides a commentary on the work. Ultimately, they restored my video online.

Note that this was an automated takedown, not a DMCA request from a copyright owner. Still:

In the digital world, you are already presumed guilty until proven innocent.

Expect things not to improve after the election.

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More jop than pazz

Of late, the best thing about The Village Voice has been the annual Pazz & Jopp poll of critics, which has been going on since the Seventies, for most of that time presided over by the eminent Robert Christgau. Singles are ranked by number of mentions by the 700 contributors; hop of the teep — um, top of the heap — was Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” and deservedly so. (She probably couldn’t have had them all, but she did get 116.)

A total of 604 singles from 2011 rated at least one mention. Today being Friday, you know where this is going, so: yes, Rebecca Black’s debut single did make the poll. In fact, it tied for 51st with 11 mentions, alongside Beyoncé’s “Love On Top” and Drake’s “Take Care.” One of the mentioners was Marc Gilman, who opined: “Never mind the kitsch factor. ‘Friday’ had a hook that stuck like a talon.” Exactly so.

Although I must mention this singular mention, for “Anything but ‘Friday'” by “Anyone but Rebecca Black”:

Fun Is Fun (Fun Fun Fun), but Enough Is Also Enough. Let This Serve As A -1 Vote to Counteract Somebody’s Winking Support of It.

As Eric Hilliard Nelson would say, “You can’t please everyone.”

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Although technically it isn’t “Good” Friday

Once in a while, I will answer Rebecca Black-related questions on Yahoo! Answers, on the (mostly) honorable basis that I’ve already looked all this stuff up myself, and hey, why shouldn’t I share? Besides, the amount of misinformation being circulated is positively (or negatively) staggering; there was a brief flurry of suicide references earlier this month.

I was not, however, prepared for this: What does God think of Rebecca Black?

Several answers came in, but I seemed to be wandering in the desert. Then, just as I was about to give up in despair, a book arrived at my desk. The Last Testament: A Memoir by God [with David Javerbaum] (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011) actually addresses the question. From 1,400 Years of Sanctitude 22:14:

I have gleaned much from Numa Numa Guy; I have rolled my eyes at “Double Rainbow” (though I appreciated its numerous shout-outs); I have reeled in horror at 2 Girls 1 Cup, and I have seen Rebecca Black do her level best to help remove the phrase “Thank God It’s Friday” from the popular lexicon.

Which, you may be certain, He approves. Same book, 3:8-9:

The worst is Friday, for that is the day I am forced to hear myself endlessly and mistakenly thanked. Thank not me; thank Frigg, the Norse goddess of love, ye unwitting pagans.

It’s official: Rebecca Black is doing the Lord’s work. Expect a harp arrangement of “Friday” some time in the next millennium.

And by “the next millennium,” I mean last year sometime:

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