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Modern Guilt

Rebecca Black’s “Friday” video — and, more importantly, the widespread negativity towards it — spread like wildfire across the internet last week, and other important contextual setup that I don’t care to add. Basically, the song is a vapid, auto-tuned mess made by a company who specializes in promoting acts that consistently remind me of rich parents hocking their kids to companies because they have the money to make viral video. It summarizes everything that’s wrong with modern music. Except that it doesn’t.

Many of the comments I’ve read about the video focus not only on how awful the song is, but also on how it represents the downfall of modern music. It has auto-tune. It stars a fabricated idol singing about friends and weekends and other stuff that lacks the depth of pop music of the past. And clearly, to someone who’s outgrown pop music and thus hasn’t kept up with it, this is trash and symptomatic of a larger problem.

Let’s put aside the fact that the song is terrible. Because yeah, it is. And frankly, my arguments against this line of thinking can summed up perfectly in the “rose-colored glasses,” argument. People who haven’t grown up around this kind of music clearly see it as foreign, and will quickly dismiss it and go back to longing for the pop music of the past. Like many people who are bemoaning the loss of the morals in society, they assume a downward trend in in quality when the changes are really exposure and options.

But propping “Friday” up as the representation of “modern music” obviously ignores quite a few factors. First, there’s all the progressive and indie stuff that garner high MetaCritic scores that exists outside pop music. Second, “Friday” isn’t even actual pop music; it’s made a relatively small company for who the song is an outlier in terms of its popularity. Though it’s tempting to group them all together, Rebecca Black is ultimately not in the same category as Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift. If you’re to beat on a straw man, at least make sure it’s the right one.

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