Music education always & always looking forward.

A Meme-ified Motif: Descending Major Second in Rebecca Black's "Friday"

For however annoying it may have seemed in its heyday, it serves as an enduring intervallic reminder.

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We currently live in a time where memes are considered to be major political discourse. Short video snippets and blatantly copyright violating images superimposed with texts seems to be so powerful that major tech companies are investigating if such things may have influenced American Presidential elections, and there are major criminal investigations into whether politicians may have colluded with hostile foreign governments to influence elections. Good lord. Even more terrifying, there are legitimately people out there who rely on memes to make political decisions.

Memes were all good & fun in 2007, when most of them involved unwitting cats and hilarious phrases. And while I admit to getting a little too excited about particular memes, it is a little scary that so much of our societal discourse revolves around them.

Anyway. Before presidential elections were decided by Russian memes, Rebecca Black was a teenager who wanted to make music, and her debut single (which she anticipated would be a prelude to a possible future singing career) was intended to be a fun experience for her. The production & performance of this song is amateurish, but she was 13 and had only a limited amount of middle school musical theater training when the song was released and she became a target of hatred worldwide.

It seems so silly to have been so upset about such a small thing in retrospect, doesn't it?

Introduction: Rebecca Black was a teenager living in the Los Angeles area. In 2010, her mother learned of an LA recording studio. ARK Music Factory was where Black recorded the vocals and accompanying video to the song “Friday”, written by LA producers Clarence Jay and Patrice Wilson. The song was uploaded to YouTube on February 10th, 2011 and was met with 4,000 initial views. After other media outlets and comedy shows learned about the song in March of that year, the song went properly viral, and for all the wrong reasons. Denizens of the internet were horrified at the overpowering use of auto-tune in the song, the goofy lyrics, and the overly earnest video. The song was soon released as a single by ARK Music Factory and ended up charting in the US, the UK, Canada, Ireland, and Australia. It was cited by multiple media outlets as a sign of the times, an indicator of how social media has the capacity to create overnight sensations. The song peaked on YouTube’s Top 20 Most Viewed Videos in 2011, but was taken down multiple times over copyright disputes. Comments made to the YouTube video were also heavily scrutinized, as material threats were made toward Black, some even recommending self-harm. “Friday” became something of a cultural lampoon that year, but was also covered in concert by Katy Perry and Black’s favorite singer at the time, Justin Bieber.

Analysis: At :44 in the embedded Spotify link above, the chorus of the song begins, and in it Black covers a descending major second between the two syllables of “Fri-day”. This interval sung within this word is heard countless times throughout the rest of the song.

Considerations for Teaching: Rebecca Black’s story is one worth re-telling, in the context of modern media as well as in the larger societal discussion around bullying. Worth noting also is that Black was a teenager when she became the subject of such cultural vitriol. That being said, the song contains no inappropriate lyrics and actually discusses what is a pretty normal day for young teenagers at school. The song would be totally appropriate for young students to learn & perform, and even as a basic song to analyze, due to its simple I-vi-IV-V progression.

Also, it’s definitely not the worst song ever.

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