Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Problem with Exposing Rebecca Black

The mishandling of Rebecca Black is the latest, and perhaps singlehandedly, the furthest reaching example of where the music industry and its organizers have failed their audience and (dare I say) talent. The premature and permanent musical expenditure of Ms. Black - coinciding with a supplementary dose of viral harassment - is of serious concern, especially when the product of such hasty treatment is a 13 year old girl-child. The anti-hit single, Friday, should be known as the commodity sadistically written by Patrice Wilson and produced by Clarence Jay. The acceptance of ARK Music Factory to entertain the ambitions of this unprepared youngling, and their subsequent work-shy composition have ruined what should have been a work-in-progress. The de rigeur dismissal needed was foregone, and instead replaced by the old ‘college try’; this implicates the authors, as well as the financiers. Equally at fault are the exploitive television icons, such as Stephen Colbert et al, who have fed their own egos while concurrently driving the online battering that Black is undoubtedly aware of. The drive for hit singles, the idea of internet stardom and the utilization of music as a vessel for corporate gain have contributed to the subversion of music as an art-form.

The hit-single phenomenon and the attempts to artificially create instantaneous musical success can only be seen as a byproduct of a disingenuous and greed-driven model. From the insincere visual offering, to the banal lyrical content of Friday, there is the semblance that the luminaries were trying to make their creation onto the airwaves by complete stultification of the mind. Or by a disgusting degree of familiarity; don’t we all recognize and love Fridays? It’s not an entirely novel device either: Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night is by no means challenging, with its repetitive chorus and mechanical recommendation to spend it up as an aide-mémoire for club conduct. Admittedly, the latter does enjoy a higher degree of juxtapositional complexity. However, if there exists a challenger who wants to substantiate their claim about a so-called ironic recipe behind this latest concoction, I admire their understanding of the concept to begin with. Tommy Wiseau would have done a better job with her music video. “You’re tearing me apart, Monday!”

On to the concept of internet sensations; I have much experience in the field, being one myself… I suppose my 313 (last I checked) subscribers and 300, 307 views sans promotion isn’t quite as extraordinary as the Star Wars Kid, Numa Numa or the One Night in Paris videos (the night-vision assisted coital showcase by the beloved heiress) who share 900, 700 and 400 million views respectively, and counting. In the case of the former, the young Canadian (native of Trois-Rivieres) filed a harassment lawsuit against four of his former classmates, citing cyber-bullying, and an out-of-court settlement was agreed upon. Gary Brolsma, the star of Numa Numa fame, enjoyed the favourable reception of his terse, yet widespread online recognition. The obnoxious scion, the talent and garment-stripped Paris - in direct variance with the fate of Black - has been presented with additional and gratuitous support; and as tormenting as her sexual showcasing may have been, I purport that she was aware of its eventual release. We can see conclusively that Paris has not been victimized; her public romping has invigorated her infelicitous career as a social elite and paved the way for various supplementary celebrity exhibitions. A secondary example of her willingness to give?

Unfortunately in the latest case, we see the most militant campaign to tear down this young songstress by unsophisticated and surreptitiously unidentifiable users, whose online contributions include: flaming, name-calling and the frequent usage of the ‘dislike’ button. Their zealous detestation has reached pandemic proportions, and Friday has netted a superlative number of ‘dislikes’ and hateful comments for any viral video. To give you an idea of the magnitude: her video has earned 216,557 likes, 1,706,960 dislikes and 1,696,413 comments, the majority of which are pure evil. We must now accept that any degree of online identity for Black, which is now structured into the lives of modern teenagers, is virtually terminated. She is not to blame. I have not browsed for the possibility of a Rebecca Black Facebook page, but only because I’m frightened by what lies behind the binaric curtain of separation. In the case of Justin Bieber, who receives an offsetting dosage of admiration and contempt (the latter for his follicular options), we have been presented with a pop-star who has showcased the modest amount of talent and market value necessitated for entry into the business. The kid can still sing, he can still dance, woo an audience of young girls, can respect meter/play the drums and can also play guitar, though cursed as a lefty. Lady Gaga, the contemporary queen of pop superstardom, can extemporize at the piano, is said to have been classically trained (to what level I don’t know) and has demonstrated at least a talent for quasi-neoteric composition. She is another example of an artist who fits-the-bill and needs little support from the industry nabobs. Black is but a template for tasteless art and for a feigned experiment in musical persuasion; every angle of perception fortifies the claims against her artistic readiness. The internet is but one avenue of exposure; Black may now have the capacity to fill a venue, but she doesn’t have the expertise to win over a paying crowd. She has but one miserable song attributed to her name, and it has already ruined her.

A lack of musical talent is not an uncommon characteristic and no practicing musician needs to be reminded of how difficult acquiring skill is. The unfortunate outlook of many young talents is one of corner-cutting, marketability and of expedient career-building. The insult felt by many serious musicians trying to garner attention through artistic means is not negligible, and they rightfully proclaim that music is an art form of the highest caliber. We see reduced support for the unripened talents in writing and painting who need to acquire their chops to have a career in the first place; what about a premature stint in the world of architecture? The popular music industry has become an arena for trial and error; a place where new artists exceedingly demonstrate a slim grasp of music theory, history, and business savvy. Even those who know their way around the business don’t always have the capital or influence to call the shots. With the ever-widening scope of online access we see what abuse can be assumed by precipitously introduced names . Hopefully in this case we do not lose sight of the victim, a vulnerable adolescent. I consider this a crime and an insult to the consumers. Furthermore, it compromises the integrity of the art-form and blemishes the history of its most pellucid genre. The pop idiom should not be shunned for its lucidity but for the attempted annexation of music from its original intent and its latest hollow efforts. No one need remind me of how art and film are used as vessels for corporate permeation; I am fully aware of the model and the notion is equally execrable.

Indigenous, classical and jazz music will always be at the zenith of musical creation, and the genres have inborn standards. Classical music has also had its financiers, except the aristocracy and elite of the day were interested in contributing to an ancestry of religious and spiritual art. The composers were well-versed in the theoretical and historical aspects of music (most were multi-instrumentalists) and many would have preferred a solitary life of musical creation, as opposed to being congested by self-agrandisement. Chopin embodied the mentality and is quoted as saying, “I’m a revolutionary, money means nothing to me.” The French virtuoso, and Chopin’s neighbour in Paris’ Square D’Orleans, Charles-Valentin Alkan, notoriously sequestered himself from the populace to pen some of the most sophisticated and passionate opuses for the pianoforte. Mozart was catapulted into early fame, and composed his first piano opus at 5 years of age. Although there exists a farcical imbalance between Mozart and Black, we understand that being musically inclined is not a whimsical choice, rather it is a privilege and responsibility. In fact, for most of us it is our life’s struggle. The regression of music standards has never stripped me of being moved by my favourite works, but I am ashamed to live in a society where the majority remain unaffected by the numinous and transcendent beauty of our euphonious past.

If our society has any chance of flourishing we need to prefer craft over trend and art over rubbish. A reduced admiration for the arts is an alarming exemplification of where we have been weakened by inculcation. No one needed Rebecca Black the artist, and the frivolous campaign behind her is a blunder that should not go unnoticed. Patrice Wilson, Clarence Jay and the parents of Ms. Black are infinitely guilty of stripping this young girl of her decency and so are we.

1 comment:

  1. Without trying to over-simplify things, this is just another in a long line of cases where the supposed "taste-makers," and "shot-callers" at the major labels & PR firms insult the public's level of intelligence and sophistication by offering up this drivel. I will also point out that, yet again, these same people are completely out-of-touch with what is truly considered "good music," and instead, prefer to force-feed this sonic gruel down our collective throats. However, as a Business Model, it works, and THAT is the travesty of this entire situation. This type of Business Model acts as a cancer withing the Artform, itself.