The 14-year-old viral punchline's new song attempts to shame the universe that made her famous
Is hatred as strong as love? The curious case of Rebecca Black would suggest so. In March, the then-13-year-old's music video for "Friday" bubbled up from the YouTube warrens to one of the site's most-watched clips ever—rivaling anything produced by, say, Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga. The consensus was that the track may be "the worst song of all time "—prefab pop, delivered in grating near-monotone, communicating solely that Black has seen calendars: “Tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwards.”
The track made Black—an Orange County, California schoolgirl whose parents had paid a company called the ARK Music Factory to write, record, and produce the song—into both a joke and a celebrity. Black soon found herself on talk shows, making guest appearances in other artists' works, and starring in fawning hometown newspaper profiles. She also apparently received death threats.
With a mocking grin and an exaggerated buh-bye wave, Rebbeca Black extracts what she believes to be revenge in the video for her comeback single, released yesterday: "Haters, said I'll see you later," she sings. Indeed she will: For Black, most of the world counts as haters. The entirety of "My Moment" is a rebuke to them—err, us. Painting a portrait of her apparent success, the video shows her jamming in a professional recording studio, getting her makeup done backstage, dancing on the red carpet at her own premiere, and, in the only clear nod to the "Friday" video, chirping her lines from the backseat of a limo (which she shares with what appears to be her mom and brother). "Were you the one who said that I would be nothing? Well, I'm about to prove you wrong," she sings in the track's first lines. Later, she gets inspirational: "Your life is in your hands / So take it just as far as you can."
Black isn't alone among punchline Internet sensations in following an earnest, so-bad-its-good performance with self-empowering piffle. William Hung, the talentless but warm-hearted 2004 American Idol contestant, rode his wave of snicker-driven fame by releasing the full-length cover album Inspiration, complete with interludes narrated by Hung: "Even with a lot of talent in whatever you choose to do, you still have to put in this hard work," he said in one. A visit to the website of Tay Zonday, the stentorian-voiced nerd poet behind 2007's bizarrely popular "Chocolate Rain,"
reveals that he dropped a comeback song just last month entitled "This Is You." The first line sounds familiar in light of Black's latest: "This is your moment," he bellows. "Got something to say!"
But each of those meme-makers conveyed a good-natured, just-go-with-it playfulness once they blew up. Black, though, stands alone with "My Moment" and its sour defensiveness. In it, she does not laugh at herself. She doesn't think it's OK that we've been laughing at her. And she doesn't recognize that the fame that she covets—and now, in "My Moment," touts—comes directly and entirely from being a laughingstock. Rather, she wags her finger at those who laughed, as if we were all immoral to giggle at a song in large part concerned with which seat to take in a carpool.
Then again, she's only 14. Is this what the "Cult of Self-Esteem"—the parenting style detailed by Lori Gottlieb in a recent Atlantic cover story—hath wrought? Who knows. It's probably not good to speculate about the family dynamics behind the Black phenomenon. Still, anyone fishing for a posterchild for supposed 21st century bred-in narcissism must be thrilled to have Black's new single (chorus: "This is my moment, it's my time, flying high, lime, mine") to kick around. In Gottlieb's story, she writes of kids not being allowed to feel disoriented when falling on the playground, because their parents are so quick to swoop in. Later in life, those kids don't process setbacks in a normal way, apparently. The parable comes to mind reading what Black told the Orange County Register about her initial reaction to "Friday's" sudden notoriety:
"I think I broke down in tears just about then, and I thought, 'Well, this isn't good. I'm getting views, but this isn't the way I wanted them.'
"I really thought, 'Should I have not done this?' " Rebecca says. "'This is my fault, I should have gone with the other song.' I haven't ever gotten that much hate. I thought the world is going to hate me. My self-confidence had dropped down to the ground. I thought I'd get made fun of at school."
After an hour of self-doubt and sorrow, Rebecca wiped away her tears and went to find her mom, who told her that Wilson from Ark had called and said they'd been receiving offers for TV spots for Rebecca and dozens of other e-mails after the video started taking off that afternoon.
Yes, just one hour of self-doubt over being widely credited with creating one of the worst songs ever. After that: dollar signs in her parents' eyes, the board-room charting of her post-"Friday" career, and the release of "My Moment," a song that brings the embrace of no-publicity-is-bad-publicity philosophy to brave new heights. Is this the new resilience or the new tone-deafness? Either way, Black has managed to top herself when it becomes to being unintentionally annoying—only this time, it isn't even funny.