Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” is a song about a teen going through her average Friday. The song is grating. Black’s voice is blatantly auto-tuned, but the song was extremely popular in 2011, the year it was released. And believe it or not, the song’s video is one of the most viewed on YouTube. Why was this song so popular? I’m sure Black is a nice woman, but the song isn’t exactly “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Let It Be.” But maybe that’s the point.
The song and its video are easy to make fun of, which is what caused the video to go viral. Everyone wanted to watch this teenager mediocrely perform a badly written pop song. But I think there is something to be said about the fact that I still sometimes get this song stuck in my head and then proceed to sing it out loud to the annoyance of my friends and peers.
But this is not the only example of viral pop music. There always seems to be some new song that is violently catching one’s attention for its obnoxious level. Viral pop songs have been around as long as the Internet has. An example of early viral music would be “Shoes,” which was released in 2006. The song and video were made by Liam Kyle Sullivan, a young comedian who plays Kelly, a teenager obsessed with shoes. I remember this song being super popular when I was in middle school.
You weren’t cool if you couldn’t quote the song verbatim. These memorization skills might have been used more beneficially with school work, but a funny man dressed up like a teenage girl was apparently more important than learning how to use the quadratic equation.
Viral pop music has grown into a monolith over the past couple of years. It seems as if every couple of weeks there’s a new song that goes viral. A few of the greatest include “Gangnam Style,” a K-Pop song that was super popular, even though not many people understood the lyrics —that were in Korean — touted ambivalent feelings toward commercialization.
Another is that horrible song “What Does the Fox Say,” which made me want to divorce myself from civilization and live with a pack of wolves. We would be called the “Timber Wolf Gang.” I would change my name to Moon Moon, our gang would rule the forest, and we would smite anyone who dared asked the question, “What does the fox say? ” I genuinely considered this. It was that bad.
So is this where pop music is headed? Where was it 60 years ago when the term was coined? Turns out, there has always been crappy pop music. Back in the ‘70s there was bubblegum pop, dubbed so due to its typically sweet lyrics and super catchy melodies.
This genre was known for being heavily manufactured, just like a lot of pop music is today. Just look at these top-notch lyrics from The Archies, a bubblegum pop band from the 1960s: “Bang-shang-a-lang, bang-shang-a-lang/Bangshang-a-lang, bang, bang/ They’ll go bang-shang-a-lang, bang-shang-a-lang/Bangshang-a-lang, bang, bang.” I’d say these are about on par with Bob Dylan’s great work.
The Houston Press said in 2014 that one of the worst trends in music was the saturation of songs about “Poppin’ Molly.” The reporter suggests that the reason artists were doing this was because it sold more albums, believing that they have a greater chance of songs going viral.
Views on sites such as YouTube are directly correlated with album sales, so if people want songs about “Molly,” then they will get songs about it. I want more songs about unicorns and squirrels. Both of those topics are cooler, and one can still get high off of innocent cuteness.
Everything always seems to come back to sales. Can’t anything just be motivated by pure inspiration and art, not money? When it comes to viral pop music, it seems more often than not that people are in it just to make money, not to make something good. Also, young people are the one’s consuming this garbage, which begs the question, are their minds turning into blue raspberry slushies?
The authors of “It’s Not Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” said teens generally spend five hours a day listening to music. It is used as a tool for them and young adults to discover their identity and place in the world. Music doesn’t reflect intelligence or rates of violence. Heavy metal seems to be the only genre that may have a correlation, and that in it self is dubious. The good news is that teen’s tastes tend to mature and get better with age. So don’t be ashamed of all those Nickelback CDs you used to cherish as a teenager! It was just your dumb, immature brain grasping at what sounded good at the time.
So where is pop music headed? What are the trends that we will see in the future? How could it get any crazier? I suspect Miley Cyrus, the genius that she is, will do something mind-blowing in the next few years. But you don’t want my shitty opinions.
According to Spin, many music producers have a hunch that rock music will be a bigger influence in the next 10 years, with the guitar coming back to the forefront. One thing is for sure: there will always be pop music that will grate on people’s nerves, and that the world of viral will just get bigger and bigger.