Sunday, March 18, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Okay, this is going to take some participation and some independent thought on your part (two things you are usually not confronted with when cruising the internet) but I think we can do this, together.
First, watch this video by teen android Rebecca Black:
Now, watch this video posted by online music critic The Needle Drop:
Now that you’ve seen/experienced both, I want you to seriously think about which version you think is “better,” or which one communicates with you, or whatever you think music is supposed to do for you.
If you decided not to watch either one in its entirety, but listened to enough to get the gist of it, you are on the right track. Ultimately, they are both equally meaningless until YOU receive the noises and your brain assembles these noises into concepts that you either like or hate (or feel complete indifference towards). To me, they represent polar extremes of what music means to its consumers. Interpretation is everything.
The smarmy comments on the slowed down version reveal something about how a certain subset of music listeners values music, which is to say they like music that they can project their own thoughts and feelings into. These people want to feel like they are part of an experience created by noises generated by a person they will probably never meet, so interpretation is a key element of music listening to them. Hence, they will find a deeper meaning or experience in a slowed down version of a song they would normally classify as “horrible.”
On the other hand, the tweeny boppers leaving positive comments on the Rebecca Black video are experiencing it on a purely visceral level: the beat is good, the lyrics speak to them, the voice is perfectly tuned, the singer is cute, and there’s a non-threatening rapper/eunuch character who does a drive-by rap (yet never enters Rebecca’s uber-white neighborhood party life). They like it for what it is, and if they don’t like it, it will probably be for some of the same reasons other people like it (beat, lyrics, whatever).
I would argue that both versions of the song are completely vapid. The original is disposable teen pop with no heart, but the slowed down version is equally disposable crap that listeners transplant their own feeling into. Both are excellent examples of art hijacked by technology.
A lot of the reaction to this video I’ve seen online is along the line of: “Is this a joke?” But I really don’t think it is, or should be considered one. Irony can only be expanded so far until it becomes authenticity, and I think this is what evades the type of person who dismisses Rebecca Black’s “Friday” but says the slowed-down version is “musique I’ll die 2” (sic). They’re part of an era where everything is enjoyed on an ironic level, which means anything enjoyed on a genuine level somehow lacks credibility. The person who has a mullet hairstyle and goes to Wal-Mart thinking it looks good is not inferior or superior to the hipster ironically wearing one for his trash-metal side-project (well, maybe a little superior). Viewed objectively, they are identical until we attach context and interpretation. If you ironically listen to “Friday” twenty times on your computer, you’re still listening to it twenty times. You don’t get that part of your life back. Even though you do not really “like” it, you are contributing to Rebecca Black’s singing career.
And here the distinction needs to be made. Rebecca Black made a song (kinda) and a video, and you watched it on Youtube. Who is winning here?