Sunday, 13 March 2011

Black Friday

A few years ago, a friend of mine was planning his daughter's seventh birthday party. He asked everyone in the office if they had any music he could borrow that would keep ten sugar-infused preteens amused for a couple of hours. He didn't admit it at the time, but I know deep down that I was the only person in our team likely to have the kind of music he had in mind.

So I brought in a variety of CDs, carefully chosen to suit the limited, but oh-so-specific needs of his demanding audience. The party was a big hit, and in the months that followed, whenever I got some new music, I'd make a copy for my friend's daughter.

About a year later, I came back from one of my lunch-hour record store trips, excitedly clutching a brown paper bag full of wonderment. As I rattled through the various titles with my friend, I asked if I should burn some disks for him to take home. He looked at me with an expression that blended pity with embarrassment, and said "Thanks, but, er, Abby's kind of grown out of that stuff now." She was eight.

At that point, I had to make peace with the fact that much of my music collection was going to go unappreciated by my friends, peers and contemporaries. My shared playlists on iTunes and Spotify may be a constant source of mockery, but I wear my pop preferences with pride.

I know that good pop music is just as worthy of my time as anything that features a three-minute guitar solo. And just because someone writes their own songs, it doesn't automatically qualify them as worthy of my time. Artists like Pet Shop Boys, Madonna and Lady Gaga have proved that popularity and credibility aren't mutually exclusive concepts.

Unfortunately, because great artists make pop look so easy, everyone seems to think that it is. Find a pretty girl, cobble together a few lyrics about partying, crank the autotune up to 11 and laugh all the way to the bank.

Which is the only logical explanation for the existence of 'Friday' by Rebecca Black. The latest 'discovery' by the musically moribund Ark Music Factory, Rebecca's debut single manages to get everything wrong. And leaves you wishing you'd been born profoundly deaf.

Cynical, tuneless and inane to the point of surrealism, Rebecca's would-be party anthem promises "fun fun fun" but is about as carefree and enjoyable as watching a kitten drown. As she pumps her fists in the air from the backseat of her friend's convertible, the impending weekend she's singing about seems less appealing than a nuclear winter. And then there's that voice. Imagine the guys who 'Autotune The News' getting Stephen Hawking to read out the Tweets of a 13 year-old girl.

Universally recognised as one of the finest pop songs of all time, ABBA's 'The Day Before You Came' sees Agnetha sorrowfully recalling the tedium of her daily life prior to her lover's arrival in her life. Perhaps that's the sense of stultifying ennui that the writers at Ark were trying to convey when they wrote:
"Seven a.m., waking up in the morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal
Seein’ everything, the time is goin’
Tickin’ on and on, everybody’s rushin’
Gotta get down to the bus stop
Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends (My friends)
Kickin’ in the front seat
Sittin’ in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?"
Hopefully the one without an airbag. 

If any good can possibly come of this aural travesty, it's the fact that weekends will now forever be tainted by memories of Rebecca Black. As I write this on a Sunday evening, the week ahead suddenly doesn't seem quite so bad. 

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