S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. In 2011, Elena Kagan, an audio producer, was working at a job or shed a little too much time on her hands. I would literally spend all day scrolling the Internet and just like refreshing, refreshing, waiting for a new post, like there wasn’t enough Internet for me to read. And then one day in March. Something interesting happened. All of the sudden, I started hearing people around my office giggle. She immediately started looking around online, trying to figure out what they were laughing at. Everybody was posting the lyrics to a song called Friday Kids.
S2: Friday. Friday. Everybody having a looking forward to know.
S3: Just a few days before this song ends. Then 13 year old girl who performed at Rebecca Black had been completely unknown. But now that was changing in real time. Eleanor was discovering this video alongside tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. Eventually, millions of other people. Friday was on its way to becoming one of the biggest viral phenomena of the 21st century. In the video, Black, who has long, dark hair and looks as young as her age, reenacts the very detailed, very straightforward lyrics of the song.
S4: Seven a.m. waking up in the morning to go dance.
S3: She wakes up, she goes downstairs, eats her cereal. She obsesses about what seat to take on the ride to school, and eventually she winds up at a house party. At first glance, the whole thing sounds and looks passably professional. But then you start to notice all sorts of weird things about it. There’s a monotone affect of Black’s voice and the robotic effects layered over it. The rap first that comes in just when you think of the song is winding down. There’s the way everyone in the video is trying unnaturally hard to have fun. And most of all, there are the lyrics.
S4: When it was incomprehensible, I could not process what I was watching.
S3: I could not process what I was hearing. I couldn’t tell if it was a joke or not. I wasn’t sure if this was somebody somebodies earnest creation or if this was something being put out there to troll us that.
S3: I think like going back to 2011, like that is truly how I felt was bafflement.
S1: Government was a common response to the song, but it was also a gentle one in its heyday. Friday was teased, mocked, parodied, ripped apart. It was a meme that brought the whole Internet together in a kind of astonishment that range from furious to amused. Even though it was so bad, I personally couldn’t find it in my heart to actually, like, hate it. At the end of the day, in my head, I was singing. Yesterday was Thursday. Tuesday is Friday. The idiocy of those words was just bringing me so much joy and laughter in Illinois’s reaction. You could hear the seeds of something and ironic enjoyment that in the years to come would stop being ironic. She and her partner have a ritual in which they wake up every Friday morning to Friday. It started as a troll, a way to get Eleanor out of bed, but it turned into a tradition. I would put on the front like I was very annoyed that he was playing the song in the morning and then. But but then, you know, I do love it, as Eleanor’s relationship to Friday suggests. In less than a decade on this earth, the song has been on quite a roller coaster ride. It’s been an object of hate and an object of love and everything in between. And if you think it’s been bumpy for the song and its listeners, buckle up.
S5: My name is Rebecca Black. And when I was 13, I sang a song called Friday.
S3: This is Decoder Ring, a show about cracking cultural mysteries. I’m Willa Paskin. Every episode we take on a cultural question, habit or idea. Crack it open and try to figure out what it means and why it matters. In a three month period in 2011, Rebecca Black’s Friday was ued 167 million times, making it the most watched YouTube video of that year. But Friday was not popular because people liked it so much. Dubbed the worst video ever made, it became the most disliked song to that point in YouTube’s history, and it turned black into a maligned viral sensation. The object of online abuse, disdain and bullying. Nine years after Friday arrived, we’re going to try and understand why it caused such a hullabaloo. The story of Friday is one about the messy swirl of feelings and assumptions that shape how we value music. It’s about how suspicious we are of change and how weird the present looks on its way to becoming the future. So at the end of something and the beginning of something else and that something else was not just the weekend. So today undercoating, was Rebecca Black’s Friday really so bad?
S1: One Friday first went viral. Nobody knew what it was. It was like the entire world was starting in media res in the middle of the story. Was it for real? Was it a joke? How did it exist? Why did it exist? Who wrote it? Who produced it? Who was Rebecca Black? We didn’t know any of these things, but now we do. So we’re gonna start with where the song that seemed to appear out of nowhere came from. Rebecca Black was born in 1997 and she grew up in Anaheim, California, the home of Disneyland. She has a brother and her parents got divorced when she was pretty young, but not before putting her in a dance class, which she loved.
S6: I grew up as a feeder kid.
S1: Her childhood was pretty normal, which means like a proper millennial. When she felt awkward and out of place, she found solace in the Internet and particularly YouTube.
S6: I felt safe. So many of us were dealing with bullying and dealing with feeling like an outcast and, you know, being different. It allowed me to fall in love with the idea of being able to be whoever I wanted.
S1: But Rebecca always wanted at least one thing to perform. By middle school, theater was her social world, and she hoped it would be her future, too.
S6: This is something I’d love to do for the rest of my life. In my world, like I was going to do middle school, graduate high school, apply to like NYU and Juilliard and like Berklee School of Music and like those kinds of things.
S1: She and her peers, like lots of affluent college bound kids, knew getting into these schools was competitive. They were always looking for things that might help them give them experience. And then one of Rebecca’s classmates did something over the summer that sounded like a leg up. She starred in a music video.
S6: I just thought it was really cool. And I wanted to try it out for myself, you know, because at this point, we’re not gunning to be America’s next pop star. Like, that’s not you know, we’re like trying to just feel like we’re doing what we can in our own little, you know, charter school. And she just told me, you know, who it was. It’s like I go check it out.
S1: The place Rebecca was told to check out was a company called Ark Music Factory.
S3: Karch Music Factory was founded in 2010, just a year before Friday was released by a man named Patrice Wilson and producer and writer of Friday.
S1: Patrice’s his father is Nigerian and his mother is Irish. And he had a musical childhood growing up in Nigeria. But he got into music professionally only by happenstance. He was going to school in Bratislava in the 1990s when Ibrahim Magu, a singer from Mali who is popular in Slovakia, spotted him on the street.
S7: There were not many, you know, black people in in Bratislava, Slovakia. So I’m walking on the streets one day, coming back from grocery shopping and he pulled over. You know, he stopped by and he said, hey, you know, your black dealer. I’m like, yeah, I’m black. So you must do music. I’m like, sure I do. He’s like, do you rap? I’m like, Yeah, IRA. I was more of a singer. I would say no other rapper. I said, I’m going to go to school.
S1: He ended up going on tour rapping at concerts until around 2000 when he decided to try and make it in America. He enrolled in a Bible school in Minnesota but left for New York, hoping to break into the entertainment industry. It was hard after a year or so of couch surfing and going on auditions, he decided to try college again. He applied to a school that he thought was in Washington, D.C., but turned out to be in Washington state, which he realized on a cross country bus. He went anyway. He met his wife there and he pretty much stopped making music. But a few years later, when they moved to L.A., he thought it might be time to get back into it.
S7: I listened to a song by Ludacris and he said, if you want to make it in music, open up your own label. Sign yourself to yourself.
S8: Look inside yourself to yourself.
S3: The label Petrie’s started Ark Music Factory was not a typical record label.
S1: The relationship between artists and record labels is notoriously complicated, but at their simplest, a record label signs and artists and gives them money to cut a record. A record deal. But Petrie’s didn’t have any cash. He couldn’t afford to put up the money to sign artists in the typical way. So instead he decided to start a company where the artists would pay him. It’s not quite as shady as it sounds.
S7: Somebody has to do the investment in the music, the videos. Well, it could be the artists. They can invest. They can own the rights, you know.
S1: The idea was that art music would be like a one stop shop. You pay them a couple of thousand dollars and they do it all, write you a song, get you a studio, produced the song, take photos, record a video and even submit all of that to more legitimate record labels. You’re paying for all of these services and also the company’s expertise. And you got the rights to the song, which isn’t always the case with a real label. Petraeus wrote the songs and he hired a producer off of Craigslist, a man named Clarence J. Petraeus and Clarence hoped. Develop a variety of talent. Good enough to take to labels who might legitimize art, music and in Patrice’s case, even give him a recording career of his own. From the very first audition they held, it became clear their company really only appealed to one demographic.
S7: The first addition was more like, what the heck is going on? You know, these are all kids. The people who are going to college could not pay. The older artist could not pay the younger artists, the parents or them. Oh, yeah, sure. We wanted to do the scene or want to do this. Definitely. Those were the people who could afford it.
S1: ARQ Music’s business model. They got paid when they signed. People incentivize signing people, whatever their musical ability.
S7: We tried to go it with being selective. But when you also starting a business, we can’t be too selective, as nontraditional as all of this is.
S1: It was pretty popular. Lots of kids wanted to star in a music video and enough of them had parents who were willing to bankroll it. One of the teenagers who tried out who Patrice actually thought was pretty good was named Alana Lee. She became one of ARQ music’s first artists.
S3: Are customers really recording a song and a video called Butterflies? Fly. Patrice posted butterflies to YouTube like he did with all the music videos in the aftermath of Friday. Art music will be painted as having the savvy knowledge about the workings of this video platform like it really knew how to use YouTube to amplify its intentionally viral fare. But the reality was more haphazard than that. Patrice hoped the videos would get views and butterflies actually did pretty well.
S1: But he mostly relied on YouTube to share the videos with parents, his actual customers, and to get the videos passed around between friends, frenemies and schoolmates building the word of mouth network that was keeping him in business. That’s how Rebecca Black came to art music. She went to school with the Lonna saw the Butterflies video and asked her mom if she could make one herself.
S6: My mom. She comes from the Hispanic world of mothers who really would die for their kids and would do anything for their kids to have any sort of opportunity, because it’s something that she had to fight so, so hard for.
S9: So when I said, hey, there’s this thing that, you know, we can go and I don’t really know anything about it. I kind of set it thinking like there’s no way. And she was like, yeah, let’s let’s look. Son of an e-mail. Let’s try it out.
S1: Sure. Her mother remained game even after she heard how much it cost. Four thousand dollars. Did the fact that it cost money, was that like a problem? Was that OK?
S6: You know, it’s something I’ve always wanted to ask my mom about because I come from a family of divorced parents. And my mom was actually just talking about this the other day to my therapist. My mom is someone who has always tried so hard to ensure my brother and I that everything is fine and there is not a problem. But I can 100 percent guarantee that, you know, even though she acted as if it was not a problem, that that put a huge strain on her.
S1: Still, they went ahead with it at this point. Rebecca was totally new to every part of the process. She’d never even been inside a recording studio. And she was really excited about all of it. But not, she says, because she ever thought it was going to make her famous.
S6: I remember them saying, like, you know, if if this video gets a hundred thousand views, if we uploaded to YouTube, like, you can start actually earning money off of it. And I was like, okay, sure, great. But again, like this this never happens to to somebody like me.
S1: I just imagine, like teenagers being like you telling me this is going to make me famous. And they’re like, yes, absolutely. That is what is going to happen. So like when there’s really no part of you that was like, who, maybe three or you really were like the sensible person.
S9: I just never thought that it would happen to me. Like what gave me the right to have that happen over everybody else.
S6: I mean, these are meant to be machines to churn, you know, out as many as as they possibly can. And so, like you, me, they send you a song. I mean, I couldn’t believe they even sent me a second song because I said no to the first because I was too afraid of singing a song about love, which was the first song for me. It was a song called Superwoman. It was that it was about being somebody’s superwoman, which literally like within the span of two weeks, I had broken up with my first ever boyfriend because I was too afraid to talk to him at school.
S9: So my whole first relationship lasted about three days. So I really was like, I can’t.
S1: I can’t. Sigma’s in turning down this song. Rebecca put Patrice on a pretty tight deadline. He was working hard, writing songs for all of Arc Music’s customers.
S7: So it’s about way. And I decided I’m going to call it a night. I’m like, well, this is just one more time. So I play a B and I make up a song. Friday, Friday. And I’m like, well, because this Friday in the morning, the song still sounded pretty good to him.
S1: So he sent it to Rebecca.
S9: I was like, OK, sure, great. This this works. This is true. I mean, I like to hang out with my friends on the weekends and I go to school. I really didn’t think that much about it because, again, like, nobody’s gonna see it.
S1: OK, so we’re going to leave Rebecca right there for now. Back in 2011, with no idea what’s about to happen to her. We’re going to dig into the song for ourselves here in 2020, where for a number of reasons, it seems to sound differently than it did back then.
S10: Anyone who who thinks that this song only caught on because it was, I guess so musically offensive, I think is completely misguided.
S1: Nate Sloan is an assistant professor of musicology at USC and the co-host of Switched On Pop, a wonderful podcast about how pop music works.
S11: Friday is absolutely plugged in to the most successful kind of formula of popular music. Traditionally in like an earlier period of popular music, after that chorus, you would go back to the verse. Friday doesn’t do that. It does. This gambit, which is very typical of twentieth first century pop music. It adds the section called a postcard.
S10: And we have this rapper enter the scene in the music video that’s driving Swing, which also felt like very much in keeping with the musical vocabulary of mid 2010 pop Fridays subject matter.
S1: Having fun was also very of the moment. The radio was dominated by female fronted candy colored anthems that were all about partying songs like Caches Tick-Tock and Katy Perry’s California Girls.
S3: Team is Friday also comes with the smooth, zero calorie aftertaste of a boyband album track.
S1: It sounds very of its moment, but its musical roots go back even further than that.
S10: And one of the ways that it sticks in your head is by using one of the the perennial chord progressions of American popular music. It’s called the one six four five progression. Sometimes it’s called ice cream changes. You can trace it back to the 1930s in a song like Blue Moon by Rodgers and Hart. You can pick it up in Stand By Me by Benny King. And then fast forward to 2018 19 and even Taylor Swift is using it in her song Meet.
S11: So this is just like one of the most durable chord progressions of popular music. And Rebecca Black is using it in Friday.
S3: Still, no one is saying Friday is perfect.
S1: It’s close, right? But what is like the no cigar part of it? Like what about it? Is it, like, actually distinguishes it from a pop song?
S10: That’s good. There are these moments that kind of betray it.
S11: You know, I think you can start in the verse with the very first melodic lines. Seven, eight, and waking up in the morning. Got to be fresh. Got to go downstairs. That is a one note, Melody. There is no deviation. It’s just like this rat a tat tat. And then you skip ahead to the chorus and there’s another little thing that’s off. It’s the way she sings Friday. It’s an effect on her voice. That is very common in popular music called auto tune. You know, the goal of auto tune is to be almost invisible, to just tweak the singer’s voice so suddenly that you don’t really notice. We’ve cranked it up. It starts to sound unnatural. And as she literally says the word fry, it sounds like her voice is being fried. So it’s this very kind of unintentionally funny moment, I think. And then finally, you get to the post chorus.
S2: And again, it just feels like this moment where they just give up fun, fun, fun, fun.
S11: It’s those little moments of ineptitude that make the song so, so enjoyable.
S1: Talking to Nate made me think that not only is Friday not that bad, it’s actually it’s not that badness that counterintuitively made it so infuriating. Friday is close enough to being good, but you can actually hear where it fails instead of in worse songs where the whole thing is such a mess, your ear doesn’t know where to begin making judgments. There’s one other thing that Freida is doing, musically speaking, that bears mentioning.
S10: This is a song that sticks with you because it’s it’s catchy.
S1: Catchy is understating it. And it’s hard to be as catchiest Friday. But catchiness is a key part of why the song was so divisive. One woman’s catchy is another man’s insane, making earworm, after all. In the days after Friday began going around the Internet, some people were already starting to take Nate Sloan’s view of it to admire how sticky it was, how simple but effective, how funny, how guileless. Meanwhile, others were just plagued by it, like it was this parasite that was doing something to them against their will. Just one of the many reasons it was not to be trusted. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So let’s return now to Rebecca Black, who in early 2001 has just recorded the song and is about to record the video that would change her life. As with everything else about Ark music, the process of making the video over Friday was both way more professional that it could have been and also kind of shoestring. They used a green screen, but the video shot at Rebecca’s dad’s house. They wanted a school bus, but they could only afford a convertible. Those are Rebecca’s real friends. And that’s Patrice in the video performing the wrap for us. February 10th, 2011, Ark Music uploaded the finished video to YouTube and sent it to a backup who watched it for the first time.
S6: I just remember my first reaction watching myself back was like, oh, my God, I am so awkward. And they showed I think the first person I showed it to is my dad. And we watched it together, like in full.
S9: And we were both just kind of like, OK, well, that was cute. Okay. And yeah, I mean, I showed my friends and then I was that was definitely it, like in my book. Like it went online and I was like, okay. And I moved on.
S1: And for a while that really seemed like that was that the video, like so many videos, just sat there with a few thousand views and a few comments. It seemed like it really was gonna be what it was intended to be, a learning experience.
S6: Rebecca had in middle school one day I got some comment posted that they’d seen the video on TouchPoint. And that they hated the song and that the song sucks. But they said the song’s gonna be big. And I was just like white cashpoint.
S1: Oh is a now long running TV show that premiered in 2009. In it, the comedian Daniel Tosh roasts viral videos and Internet culture. But the show also had a popular blog, and in March 11th it had published a post titled Songwriting Isn’t for Everyone that It Embedded Friday, which is aggregated from a popular meme site called The Daily What the song was. Also getting attention on Twitter, making the rounds with a viral tweet, describing it as the worst music video ever made.
S6: So I immediately, like as soon as I got home, I, you know, ran to my computer and I scroll down to the comments. And that was immediately when I was like, oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. This is not happening. For the first like hour or two, I was definitely just with my mom trying to, like, let that first emotional kind of shock pass through. And pretty and pretty soon after, you know, she got on the phone with the company that was responsible for all of it. And they asked me if I wanted to take it down. And my mom was very much like, this is your decision. What do you want to do? And God knows why. But I said no. And I think something told me, like, if you do that, then all of a sudden everybody else wins. And you’ve just immediately given up any sort of little bit of power you had. And so I kept it up. And then the next few days, it was just kind of like watching this thing blow. More and more out of proportion and just not stop.
S1: Lots of things go viral. But few things go viral to the extent that Friday did, the song just kept accruing views. It became omnipresent, off-line as well. It made the Billboard charts. In fact, a billboard had been factoring in YouTube views then as it is now. It probably would have been a top 10 hit. Just about every media outlet in the world wrote about the song, and Rebecca hit the talk show circuit.
S8: She appeared on Good Morning America and The Tonight Show an its overnight sensation thing. Feel pretty good.
S1: Oh, it’s so crazy. The weird music video in May of 2011, a cover of Friday appeared in a TV show Glee in June.
S3: Rebecca Cameo in a Katy Perry music video. Perry, it was Rebecca’s hero. And the video was for a song titled, Appropriately Enough.
S1: Last Friday night in it, Rebecca leads Katy Perry, who is dressed in full 90s nerd drag.
S3: She has headgear and everything through a massive house party. Ha ha. Rebecca Black is a nice girl.
S1: If some of this sounds good, a lot of it was really bad. What’s clear in hindsight about the reaction to Friday is that in 2011, we were pretty much nowhere when it comes to an awareness of online bullying. It gets better. The LGBTQ anti-bullying campaign has started some months before, but the general conversation around these issues was relatively rudimentary. The concerns that are so pervasive now just were not then. And a 13 year old girl was deemed fair game by just about everyone, not only Internet commenters, to get a sense of what I’m talking about. I want to play you a clip from the interview. Rebecca did it with Good Morning America’s Andrea Canning.
S3: Just a few weeks into Fris vitality.
S12: I’m going to read you just some of the comments that people have been saying online. And they’re not nice. No. Her song Friday is the worst song I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Even deaf people are complaining. OK. It doesn’t bother me. I hate her voice. It’s gonna be stuck in my head for life. Friday. Friday. Friday, OMD. What’s the meanest thing you’ve read that maybe hurt you the most? I hope you cut yourself and I hope you get an eating disorder. So you’ll look pretty. And I hope you go cut and die. Have you cried at all throughout all of this? Or.
S1: What’s notable to me here isn’t just the awful comments. They are awful. It’s the way canning and trying to appear concerned and sympathetic amplifies those comments. Instead of shielding Rebecca from them. Giving us this context with Rebecca OFF-SCREEN, she reads them to this 13 year old girl’s face, mawkish Lee, trolling around for some kind of reaction.
S6: I just remember this overwhelming feeling of just suck it up. Smile. Stay strong. Nobody can know that you’re hurting. Just laugh with them. And as soon as I started doing that, people saw me as kind of in on it. And that at least felt better than feeling like the butt of a joke. All of the actual leg pain and embarrassment and shame that came with all of that just kind of got swept under the rug for a good few years.
S1: So I want to take a step back now to try and contextualize the reaction to this goofy little pop song, the overreaction, really the thing you have to understand is that Friday was not just a song. And one of the places you can see that most clearly is YouTube. In 2011, YouTube had only been around for six years. But in that time, we’d gotten used to it regularly, serving up a very specific kind of viral meme, ones that were homemade, like this extremely low fi bet, ultimate dog tease that just a close up of a dog whose owner is making these Dufy voices. And I thought, I know who would like that. Me. So I aided. Oh, no. This video, plus a home movie of two infant twins yakking in each other in their twin language were two of the absolute most popular YouTube videos of 2011 only behind Friday.
S13: The tone in which people appreciated YouTube videos was that it was cool that people were making their own art in their bedroom.
S1: Carl Wilson is Slate’s music critic.
S13: Was this kind of like folk expression in, you know, in an Internet key? And then this seemed like cheating on some level? Oh, this is weird. This like rich kids parents paid for this. That was definitely a lot of, like, suspicion. There was this idea of like, oh, people are trying to buy their way into some kind of like Internet popularity, which again, now is completely routine, but at the time felt like it was somehow going around the rules.
S1: Friday had a totally different approach to YouTube and vitality than the one that had dominated the platform and the Internet. Up to that point, it was commercial, intentional, semi-professional things that YouTube has only become more of in the years since its use of YouTube. Friday also raised all sorts of questions, ones that we’re still asking about how we evaluate talent and dispense fame in this new digital age. In other words, it wasn’t just a song. It was a change. And I think that helps explain the intensity of the reaction to it. People weren’t just responding to what Friday sounded like. They weren’t just responding to a song with the smooth, zero calorie aftertaste of a boyband album track and a demonically catchy hook. No, they were responding to it as a harbinger of the future. But before we get to the future, we’re going to have to stick with Rebecca. In the past the years, right after Friday in particular, and there were difficult ones. There was a lot of opportunity, but a lot of isolation. Rebecca’s parents were there for her. But also as overwhelmed and confused as she was. She started being homeschooled. The family’s relationship with art music quickly fell apart and lawsuits started flying. Rebecca got a new agent and manager and her first single after Friday got 50 million views. But the following ones petered out. In this period, she released one song that charted Peaking at 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2013.
S3: It was called Saturday. It was more sophisticated than Friday. But the video referenced all of Friday’s highlights, the cereal bowl. The house party riding around with friends in a convertible. She was only 15 and she was already rating her own viral past.
S1: Petraeus was trying pretty much the same thing, releasing Happy, the official sequel to Friday.
S3: Among other songs, neither this nor any of the other songs, Stop Ark Music Factory, which is caught up in multiple lawsuits, went defunct. Petraeus started a new label which tried to do what Ark Music had done, inadvertently creating so bad.
S1: It’s good viral videos on purpose. He had some success, but the shtick had become really calculating and heartless. And YouTube, which had once been the engine of online vitality, was ceding that title to other social media platforms. It got harder and harder to make a living. He got divorced and his mental health suffered seriously. Today, he makes music, but he’s still in Friday’s long shadow. Do you still like Friday, like as a song?
S7: I really like the song. I still listen to the song now to see what I did back then vs. what I’m doing now. How do they make such a catchy song? I wasn’t thinking about, oh my God, people are going to hate this or be going to like it. It was like I would say, just came naturally.
S1: Rebecca has done a better job putting Friday behind her and she started by walking away from it completely.
S6: I just was doing everything based off of what somebody else told me to do and I was just miserable. So there came a point where everybody that I was working with management, all of that I let go of all of them and I just stopped. I mean, my parents and I agreed, like, I’m going to go back to high school. I’ll figure it out.
S1: There was one exception. Even after everything that happened, she kept posting on her YouTube channel. And then after she finished high school, she made a deal with her parents that she would try music again.
S5: Damn, this was the one thing that I always wanted to try. And I never got to do it on my own terms. And people decided what they were going to do for me. And now I’ve been kind of left to pick up the pieces. But I want to try to do this on my own and I want to do it in a way that feels good to me and is the way that I would have done it if I would have been able to foresee everything that was going to happen, which is, you know, learning how to write music and hopefully write good stuff.
S1: Rebecca says that for a while, being the Friday girl meant people in the industry didn’t want to get in a room with her, but she persevered. And that’s the thing about something like Friday, as awful as the experience may have been. It gave her a name. It might not have been worth it, but it was a leg up. A bruised leg up, but a leg up all the same. In 2019, she released three singles, including this one, a song called Sweetheart in the video. Rebecca takes out her cheating lover with the help of some friends. It’s dark and grown up and contains no references to Friday. Don’t call me.
S14: It on. Barry.
S3: These days, when Rebecca, who I should say is all of 23, does hear about Friday, it’s mostly nicely.
S6: I mean, the amount of people that ask me to sing the song for them or record a video doing it because they played in their office every Friday, very ironically, is amazing to me.
S1: So I have to say, having listened to this song like a gazillion times or this episode, I am confident that it is not the worst song ever. I’m confident in the fact that it is very, very far from being the worst song ever. But the fact that there was a moment when it was widely described this way is what is so fascinating about it. To me, Friday at all of nine years old is this incredible artifact of its exact time. It’s a throwback to a moment when YouTube was still amateurish and the primary driver of viral culture, a throwback to when people thought striving to go viral was some kind of social faux pas, a throwback to when we were reflexively cruel to 13 year olds who didn’t know their place. A throwback to when being a huge viral smash was not completely synonymous with success. A throwback to when a wannabe musician might imagine the best way to break into the business. The best way to get experience would be to pay some gatekeeper 4000 dollars to make them a snazzy music video. Now, of course, the gatekeepers are the ones chasing after the teens who are buying beats for 20 dollars online and trying to start a dance craze on Tick-Tock. You know, for everything about Friday, that is so of that ancient time, 2011. It also pointed clear as day towards those teens, towards right now, towards a pop culture that is constantly trying to make something weird enough to go viral. And if you need an example of what I’m talking about. Have a listen.
S11: This is in Stark.
S1: Wilmore’s X’s old town road, like Friday is a funny bazaar, totally inauthentic song made by a teenager. No one had ever heard of that on the strength of its viral success. Went on to become the longest running number one song in history. Old Town Road is a better, more purposefully produced and made song than Friday. It has in Little Isaacs a more confident and charming performer than a 13 year old Rebecca Black. But it also exists in the world. Friday helped create one or oddball, catchy viral pop is appreciated and not reflexively distained. Rebecca. For her part, is still trying to make Friday itself something she can appreciate, which means taking it in another direction.
S6: It sounds completely different than it sounded. There’s no like buzzy auto tune or anything on it. It’s much more of like a 90s meets Courtney Love. One is everything.
S1: She plays it at shows and people seem to like it. And to me, that’s what Friday is really all about. How infuriating the present is as it becomes the future until the future arrives and then everyone just wants to sing along.
S1: This is Decoder Ring. I’m Willa Paskin. You can find me on Twitter at Willa Paskin. Do you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode? You can email us at Decoder Ring at Slate ICOM. You haven’t yet subscribe and read our Feed and Apple podcast or ever you get your podcasts and even better, tell your friends. This podcast was written by Willa Paskin. It was edited by Benjamin. Fresh Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin and Benjamin Fresh. Cleo Levin is our research assistant. Thanks to Merritt Jacob, Amanda Hass, Carrie Bataan, Amanda Dobbins, Amos Farshad, Matthew, Perpetua, Forrest Wickman, Michael J. Nelson and everyone else who gave us help and feedback along the way. See you next month.