“She has no talent and her lyrics are stupid”

March 24, 2011

The comments in the title say it all. I agree with AloBrineta. Well put for a 21-year old from Croatia not even speaking her first language!

I was introduced to thirteen-year old YouTube celebrity, Rebecca Black’s “Friday” by my thirteen-year old, and she agrees too. In particular, we are dumbfounded by the inanity of the days-of-the-week lesson, although we also can’t figure out how thirteen-year-old kids can drive to school and are not sure that middle schoolers really “‘party” unless, Simone’s eleven-year old brother Gabriel suggests, that is more centered on Wiis or video games or watching YouTube.

“Yesterday was Thursday. Today it is Friday. We we we so excited. Tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwards.”

Interestingly, Lada Gaga disagrees, tweeting recently that Rebecca Black is a “genius.” But Gaga, Gabe, Simone, me, we’re all participating in mocking this girl, like she has been all over the internet, which explains her fame (as well as the $2000 she paid to Ark Music Factory to make the still-growing hit) as it does that of so many other YouTube celebrities and I would like to look at this mockery, more so than to Black, who is not herself nearly interesting, talented, or smart enough to carry the weight of so much digital verbiage, including my own. Given that (minus Gaga) the rest of us are as equally talentless (at making pop videos) and ill-equipped to write lyrics as is Rebecca, how does the fact of YouTube (and its bottom-feeding viral starmakers) relate to an internet culture of insulting those not even worthy of or ready for abuse? Let’s look at the tawdry-mockery-YouTube-cycle:

  • YouTube moves the corporate-made concoctions of nearly talentless youth performers faster and further then had been true previously
  • YouTube allows fans to lip-synch, dance, and otherwise mimic, albeit with less talent, the work of their already rather talentless muses
  • affordable digital technology allows spurious starmakers to find these even less talented kids, and for 1/10,000 the corporate fee, do about the same thing
  • virally moving talentless, lyric-free images this time enjoyed not for the girl’s corporate-aided looks, the synthetic beat, or the skills or breasts of  background dancers but for
  • the paltry, laughable, truly talent-free skills of the self-same
  • who look like us, if we were doing this, but we’re not because instead
  • we’re laughing and cutting, the only real place of entry for everyday users responding to/mimicking a mainstream and user-generated culture that also turns against itself with cold mimicry as the pomo default to the
  • heartless, soulless, viral crap that fills our screens if not our dreams, always needing more and faster so, luckily
  • YouTube moves the corporate-made concoctions…

And the question is, what is the critic’s (and mother’s or teacher’s) role in this cycle? I’ve been writing recently about fan culture studies, and this field’s often insipid celebration of the things people and kids make (as often do, also, the critics themselves, participants in the fan cultures they celebrate). And while it is undeniably true that awesome, inspiring, creative, enabling work is made by everyday users and fans, it is equally true that fans make crap, and users make junk, and girls make stupid videos, and all this is particularly true if they have nothing better to look at, and no one better to teach them, and it all happens in a sea of mockery where it’s easier to ridicule or mimic than to try, and quicker to insult or undermine than to support, and so the answer is that critics (and teachers) of digital culture need to circulate examples of better models, like Transformative Work and Culture recently suggested to me in a comment from Melanie Kohnen who I met at my video-book showing at SCMS and who wrote on this blog in response to my negative evaluations of normative online spaces (like YouTube). And however was she to know that it is exactly there that I just submitted my critical reflections upon fan studies and fan-vids (by Fred’s fans)! A different sort of circle, I hope.


4 Responses to ““She has no talent and her lyrics are stupid””

  1. Jillian Says:

    I think part of the explanation of videos like this and the rabid response to them is that praise and criticism have become our currency in a capitalist culture where so much is free. Rebecca Black didn’t write this song or produce this video because she has something she wanted to express, she had something she wanted to sell and in the age of YouTube her worth is measured in hits (both negative and positive). She wouldn’t be as successful if she actually had something to say. Who’d bother spending time on that when you could look at a puppy with its head stuck in a sock? I think as mothers and teachers we need to encourage children to create and consider things that are meaningful, not marketable.

  2. Wow. Quite frankly I feel like I just wasted 3:48 of precious time that I will never get back. My question is though, from a parental standpoint (not being one quite yet) wouldn’t some view RB as clean-cut, non-controversial with no artistic merit whatsoever (antithesis of Gaga) and therefore better for their kids to watch? This video is a perfect example of how on youtube anything goes, there is no professional standard or quality control filter. Pro’s: Freedom of Expression and Ability to Create your own Opportunities…Con’s: Rebecca Black.

  3. MP:me Says:

    I’d rather my daughter watch provocative if sometimes raunchy and even inappropriate Gaga (because she is working through hard ideas, “has something to say,” and has talent and originality) then waste her time on pure (but benign) RB. I think that is what Jillian means above, although I also know Jillian has different ideas then I do about exposing girls to sexual materials (so would love to hear her on this).

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