REBECCA BLACK: LEARN FROM THE WORST

In the past several days, a new pop artist has emerged. No, it’s not Kim Kardashian whose new single is already out of the iTunes Top 100 after 2 weeks (as of this writing). None of the YouTube videos for her song “Turn It Up” even has a million views yet. No, this new pop star is an indie artist, has no real story, and no radio exposure, yet has already racked up 6 million views and counting. The song is “Friday” and her name is Rebecca Black. If you haven’t experienced this new viral sensation, watch it now:

Obviously, having experienced this ‘song’, the true music lover in you probably just curdled up and shriveled into a little ball in the corner. Indeed, the reason for its success (much like Chocolate Rain before it) is that people are watching it BECAUSE it’s awful. Indeed, I discovered it on Memeburn where they talked about it going viral ‘for all the wrong reasons’. So, OK, while these things are ultimately subjective, perhaps it is truly awful. As a Futurehit reader and musician, you need to ask yourself the right question:

WHAT MAKES THIS SONG PLAY
MORE THAN MY SONG?
The truth of the matter is that there are PLENTY of horrible songs that are stuck getting viewed only by mom and dad. Why does this one rise to the top? The answer is because it is written like a hit, and it grabs you like a Futurehit near perfectly. Mock the singing, lyrical choices and production all you want. Here’s how it hits all the high notes:

ENGAGING FROM THE BEGINNING
The combo of animated diary flipping combined with a simple vocal is actually a simple tactic to catch attention. The “yeah”s at the beginning may not be special, but they are vocals that draw a listener in. In my talks, sometimes people presume that the 7 second rule of engagement has to be a chorus. Here’s proof that it’s not. You just need to hear the person sing.

REPEAT WITHIN THE SONG
This song doesn’t do what a typical song might in repeating a chorus three times. Instead, you get two distinct lyrical choruses, each repeated four times, plus a bridge repeated twice. And look at these word counts:
Friday – 27
Weekend – 18
Partyin’ – 16
Fun – 16
Seat – 7
Not to mention the instant repetition of many words in the verses. Is it overkill? Sure, this one probably repeats a bit too much. But do you remember it?

LENGTHEN THE SONG
You might not thing a song at 3:48 has been lengthened. But most pop songs in this vein would not have put in a fourth chorus. This extra bit of repetition increased the song length by 32 seconds and subtly may have prevented you from discovering another song. Blocked out the competition. Imagine if your chorus was actually melodic and good. Wouldn’t you be better served by that extra chorus? You bet.

WALKING BEAT
Where most songs nowadays are either a 95 BPM ‘slow jam’ or a 120 BPM ‘club jam’, this song nestles in at about 113 BPM. This is very close to a standard walking beat/heart rate. Therefore this song naturally feels more comfortable to the listener sitting at a computer and therefore engages “comfortably” musically even when other elements may not.

MORE ONE-HIT WONDERS WILL BE CREATED
Need I say more?

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6 Responses to “REBECCA BLACK: LEARN FROM THE WORST”

  1. Michelle March 15, 2011 at 8:42 pm # Reply

    Guaranteed that will be a song on Glee. Lol . It def sticks in your head and actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The kids will love it. Reminds me of Hey Mickey.

  2. Matt Blick March 16, 2011 at 9:38 am # Reply

    Thank you So much for this post and the tone of it (exemplified in the title). I came across this through CD baby and thought they, I or everyone in the world had lost their minds.

    OK everyone back to work!

  3. Sean Ross March 18, 2011 at 10:44 pm # Reply

    When I was doing A&R, my boss often used to say of certain demos, “It’s not a hit, but it sounds like a hit.” Those songs did have the feel of a hit (usually some other recent hit, in fact), but not the heft of a true hit. Inevitably, some label would sign those songs and they would get some airplay, but would never sell or go on to become real hits.

    Jay is right that “Friday” has certain elements of a hit record. What separates it from most of those demos is that odd combination of craftsmanship Jay cites with a lyric that’s far more pedestrian than anything that was ever in the box of demos. It’s not consistently mediocre–like those near hits–or consistently inept.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. The CMO Site - Keith Dawson - Rebecca Black's Lessons for Marketers - March 23, 2011

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