Let’s Revisit the “Friday” Video
Welcome to part 22 of our Internet Nostalgia series, which looks back at phenomena that captured the internet’s imagination and attention for a fleeting moment and then vanished as everyone moved on to something else. This series looks back at those olden times and what they told us about the internet and ourselves. If you have a suggested topic, email me at email@example.com. Last week: The Dress. This week: Rebecca Black’s “Friday” video.
The Story: Rebecca Black was 13 years old, and she didn’t write the song. That really has to be remembered before we have any discussion about her “viral” hit “Friday,” which was uploaded on February 11, 2011 (when she was 13), was discovered by most of the world in March 2011 (when she was still 13) and became so big that she dropped out of school to focus on her career in April 2011 (when she was also still 13.) Can you imagine being 13 and having a music video you made — actually, that a random music production company your parents had given some money to made — become a global sensation? Particularly when that global sensation has come about because everyone thinks it’s terrible and is making fun of you? Particularly when you didn’t even write the song?
“Friday” came about because Black’s parents, looking to support her desire to be a singer, paid $4,000 to a company called ARK Music Factory to write a song for her and create a music video for her. ARK Music Factor had launched its business the year before as a way not just to make cheesy teenpop, but specifically to find ways to game the YouTube algorithm and push videos up the YouTube search rankings. Videos, and songs, should be made as quickly as possible, with the only goal to keep showing up in search regardless of whether they were of high quality, or any quality, or not.
This worked with “Friday.” This worked too well. Once people saw it, it was almost too absurd to be real. But that was of course the goal: To be as chintzy and cheap as possible. ARK Music Factory knew that. Rebecca Black perhaps did not.