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Technology and “Friday”

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I’m a pop culture junkie. In another life I would have been a history major and would currently be getting ready to go to grad school in cultural studies with an eye to teaching course on popular music.* I read the AV Club religiously and trust them slightly more than I trust anyone else when it comes to what is good and what is not good in the worlds of music, TV, and film.** I treasure the junk of pop culture as much as I treasure the great stuff (like Led Zepplin*** or the Kinks) because I know they both matter and are equally reflective of our current society. It may have seemed like I was focusing inordinately on Rebecca Black’s video in class, but to me the phenomenon of “Friday” is no different than any other one hit wonder that has come before. The ease with which such a phenomenon can be created is new and interesting but junk pop culture isn’t new. It’s always been around, even in the 1800s they had “junk” pop culture. Advances in technology are fascinating and shouldn’t be removed from the argument but they, and the culture that surround them, need to be put into historical context before we go ape shit, otherwise we’ll get so wrapped up in how amazing we are and forget such gems as I’m Henry the 8th or anything created for the Eurovision Song Contest.
I think what’s important to remember isn’t that “Friday” was created. It’s really not that surprising that a song like that should come into existence, especially now that everything and anything can be auto-tuned to sound semi-decent. I think what’s important about “Friday” is the technology behind it. The fact that a song or a music video or an article or anything can be digested by one person and passed along to several dozen people in the blink of an eye is what’s important. If we focus too much on the single entity and ignore the broader idea because we’re so stunned that someone like Rebecca Black could become a sensation overnight we do ourselves and the technology a disservice. The reason I’ve refused (until tonight obviously) to listen to “Friday” is because ultimately it’s not the song that’s important. What’s important is that something like that, with anything not just with a song, can happen. Dissemination is the key, not what’s being disseminated.
Trashy pop culture is important. 80?s hair metal lead to a return to a more basic form of rock music.**** I love trashy pop culture. But sometimes the trash can disguise what’s really important and so it’s best to remember that trash has been around forever and isn’t always what’s most important about a particular phenomenon.
This argument isn’t fully formed by the way. Unfortunately I would need to do actual research to back up some of what I’m saying and that’s simply not going to happen. Again in another lifetime I would be working toward a Ph.D in cultural studies and if you disagree or feel I haven’t quite gotten something I welcome your comments. Midway between the first and second paragraph my argument changed so constructive criticism would be welcomed.

*And who knows, that could still happen. Life is weird like that.
**Not so much books because I’m very picky when it comes to books. Even more picky than I am about music and I’m hella picky about music.
***Led Zepplin are awesome, but unless the internet and several genres of music are destroyed permanently a phenomenon like Led Zep or the Beatles will never happen again. But let’s not get Nora started on her theory of popular musical division.
****This is currently the only example I can think of. Feel free to come up with your own.

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