Devil Biblesby Brandon Edmonds / 25.03.2011
Rebecca Black is a thirteen year old girl from California whose mother was kind enough to pay for her to record a few songs at a professional studio. One of which, co-written by a South African producer in LA, called “Friday”, has gone viral. Very viral. Over 35 million views on Youtube and $1.4 million in iTunes revenue and counting.
The song has instantly become a damning cultural touchstone, “the worst song ever”. Online meanies have told Black to “cut yourself and die”. Parodies are proliferating as you read. Her seasoned Twitter trending status (it’s been a week) means it’s no longer cool to hate the song and the counter-intuitive “we love it” brigade of “Blackheads” (yes she has her own fan tag already) are fast running out of contrary momentum as attention inevitably wavers. But this is more than a meme. It’s a genuine nadir. The terminus of a dominant strain of machinated software pop. As someone commented somewhere: “Rebecca Black’s CD will drop on the 12/02/2012 – isn’t that the end of the world?” Yes. Yes it is.
Friday is truly the moment the slick apparatus of contemporary music-production (rampant auto-tuned inanity, a parade of overdetermined party anthems and “hero inside yourself” aspirational drek) stopped working. Got exposed for all to see by a song so bad it shows up what’s wrong with everything around it. A black mirror to larger forces debasing culture. The misguided cult of youth, the absence of social engagement or political awareness in pop, the triumph of marketing over experience, saleable concepts over hard-won ideas, and the privileging of pro-tools software et al over inventiveness. Smothering the voice in effects suggests the wider loss of genuine Voices in popular music: figures that can put 21st Century life in all its turbulent dismay to song.
One of the biggest books in the world (made from the skin of 160 donkeys) is the 13th Century Codex Gigas or Devil’s Bible. So called because of a creepy drawing of that fallen angel Satan. It’s said to be possessed of course. There are strange discolorations around the image as if singed by flame. The real reason is fame. The page where the devil appears tends to be looked at most. Over time repeated exposure to air has led to more pronounced chemical changes. Reinforcing the effect. Fascination makes you look, looking produces what you see: isn’t this the diabolical dynamic behind internet memes?