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Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every episode, host Willa Paskin takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians, and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means, and why it matters.
Rebecca Black’s music video for “Friday” was YouTube’s most-watched video of 2011, thrusting the 13-year-old Rebecca into a very harsh spotlight. Dubbed “The Worst Music Video Ever Made,” “Friday” was an almost universal object of derision. Produced by a boutique record label called Ark Music Factory, “Friday” almost seemed like cheating—it looked like a rich kid buying her way into stardom, but the truth is much more complicated than that. You’ll hear from Rebecca Black herself, as well as Patrice Wilson of Ark Music Factory, Nate Sloan of theSwitched on Pop podcast, Slate’s music critic Carl Wilson, and more. This is the story of how “Friday” came to be, and how nearly a decade after it went viral, it sounds so different than it did back then.
This episode was produced by Willa Paskin and Benjamin Frisch.