While most 14 year-olds are concerned with everyday things like getting good grades and surviving the wretchedness that is puberty, teen songstress Rebecca Black has spent the better part of this year absorbing heavy artillery fire on the frontlines of the social media war. After her supremely catchy (or, depending on your opinion, totally annoying) song “Friday” launched into the viral stratosphere back in March, an army of haters mobilized to take shots at her from every corner of the Internet; just google “rebecca black friday worst song ever” and 222,000 results pop up. A tsunami of negative feedback this immense would cause many full-grown adults, let alone a 14 year-old girl, to change their name and skip town. When you add in the fact that her relations with the company that she partnered with on “Friday,” Ark Entertainment, soured to the point that they found themselves a Hermione Granger lookalike to replace her, no one would’ve said a word edgewise had Rebecca Black chosen to drop out of the limelight forever and press the “reset” button on her life.
Instead, Rebecca Black released “My Moment,” which is pretty much the Millenial equivalent of the old playground rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones / But words will never hurt me.” In the parlance of our times, the song “is what it is”; however, the video treatment is problematic in the way it depicts a group of adults whose only concern seems to be how to most efficiently monetize the phenomenon that is Rebecca Black.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Rebecca Black hater, not by any stretch. I met her in Las Vegas a few months ago at the O Music Awards and she was not only incredibly genial, but she possessed an inner assuredness that made her seem like the most confident person in the room (and this was a room, mind you, that Chiddy Bang was also walking around after winning a Guinness World Record). However, while “My Moment” is a perfectly okay pop song for this day and age, the video is problematic because it’s essentially one big #humblebrag brought to life.
Where the song largely succeeds in its quest to be a t(w)een empowerment anthem (“Weren’t you the one that said that I would be nuthin’?/Well I’m about to prove you wrong” and “Haters/Said I’ll see ya later”), the video is overly preoccupied with presenting Rebecca Black The Business instead of Rebecca Black The Person. In the video, we see Rebecca constantly surrounded by adult hangers-on: two shadowy Svengali producer types, a group of overly emo studio musicians, an army of frantic stylists, a team of twentysomething dancers, a gaggle of paparazzi and, most glaringly, her family. Sure, it’s a nice touch to throw props to the parents that stood by her and (presumably) helped her cope with the barrage of negative sentiments thrown her way over the last few months, but in the context of the video, her parents are little more than enablers in her ongoing quest for media attention and, as she sings, her “paper.” After all, in the video’s closing moments, they drop her off not at a friend’s house for a sleepover or at the school dance after a long day of “training,” but rather into a frenzied mass of paparazzi!
Naturally, Rebecca Black is neither the first nor the last teen to crave the limelight (which she name checks in the chorus of the song, natch). However, for a generation that from the womb has been raised with omnipresent webcams and digital cameras, as well as one that is obsessed with documenting their existence through Facebook and Twitter updates, there’s a mildly gross “I’ve been on MTV and you haven’t, na-na-nah boo boo” feel running through this video. Again, it’s not like I want to begrudge any of Rebecca Black’s triumphant “successes” (all of which, save for her cameo in Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”, appear in this video); rather, it’s more that I wish that there were some scenes of her celebrating her victory in the Hater Wars with a group of her peers at a pizza parlor (or wherever it is that “kids these days” hang out) instead of an entourage of people on her payroll. The capitalist in me is all for striking while the proverbial iron is hot, but the wary media observer in me has seen seemingly harmless brushes with the spotlight transform into an all-consuming fame obsession more times than I can count. For Rebecca Black’s sake, here’s hoping that “My Moment” is just that: A moment, one in which she can file in her scrapbook and look back on fondly once it has passed.