Last Thursday, a YouTube video called "Rebecca Black - Friday" had 3,000 views. On Friday, it had more than 7 million. When I passed out listening to it last night it had 9 million. As I listen to it today, it has 12 million. And tomorrow it will be so yesterday.
Let our children's textbooks show that in the winter of 2011, the millennial generation received their title in history thanks to a 13-year-old California girl and a renowned producer named "trizzy66." This upload is our mightiest metaphor for the merrymaking of the measureless mediocrity that makes up the 21st century.
The song tells the story of a young woman who wakes up at 7am on a Friday morning only to be faced with the weighty decision of picking which seat to take in her friend's convertible. For some presumably artistic reason, 45 minutes later, the middle schoolers are speeding on a highway looking forward to the weekend parties (note: though in the car, the indecisive Miss Black is still grappling with this whole "which seat do I take?" predicament). The lyrics, clearly based off of a Maya Angelou poem, feature the words "partyin'" 17 times, "fun" 20 times, and "yeah" 22 times.
The grammatically-gifted girl informs the listener that:
Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday / Today i-is Friday, Friday (Partyin') / We-we-we so excited / We so excited / We gonna have a ball today / Tomorrow is Saturday / And Sunday comes afterwards / I don't want this weekend to end
Now there's nothing deplorable here. But its overnight sensationalism is highly representative of the cultural climate and this most tangibly connected but emotionally disconnected demographic. The cute star and catchy song seem so void of value or substance or charisma that the result is this vibrantly vapid wasteland of emptiness masked in bling.
And speaking of bling, the "rap" portion that follows the previous verse is enough to make Wiz Khalifa look like Langston Hughes:
"So chillin' in the front seat (In the front seat) / In the back seat (In the back seat) / I'm drivin', cruisin' (Yeah, yeah) / Fast lanes, switchin' lanes / Wit' a car up on my side (Woo!) (C'mon) / Passin' by is a school bus in front of me / Makes tick tock, tick tock, wanna scream / Check my time, it's Friday, it's a weekend / We gonna have fun, c'mon, c'mon, y'all"
Hip-hop has traveled from the godfathers' cries for gender and race equality or rags-to-riches tales to a distortion of the American Dream wherein success is a Pimped ride racing death to reach a middle school house party.
It's Bieber Fever. It's McDonalds. It's The Jersey Shore and Hummers and Miley on salvia. It's creepy dudes with high-end technology making money from underage autotuned white girls and a crude caricature of black progress. It's the preteen girl lip-synching to Vanessa in High School Musical 4 as her dad looks up her latest illegal nudie pics -- perhaps the most disturbingly overlooked and fastest female fad to hit high schools in the past few years.
Just this week, we've gone from Carson roasting Lucy to The Situation roasting Trump. Stephanopoulus went from a White House cabinet member to hosting a "network news" special on the star of the worst/most-watched sitcom on TV. Can't success lie somewhere between winning world wars and #Winning Twitter followers? Can't romance lie somewhere between June Cleaver and two pornstar girlfriends? Is it really time for us to throw ourselves a party?
By 2008, Americans learned that greed actually isn't that good. Capitalism got stretched too far for families. The gap between the rich and the poor are reaching their extremes. We're outsourcing jobs to China and getting rid of union workers for machines. This is the natural progression if the goals are cash and convenience. Uncle Sam's invisible hand has curled into an obese fist. We are watching the American Dream on crack.
It's not black and white. But it is our inability to understand and acknowledge the shades of grey that defines this time in history. After all, it was our last President who told our current Vice President, "Joe, I don't do nuance."
I remember when my dad picked me up from school on a Tuesday in 5th grade because two towers near my house had been blown into the ground. I remember Newsweek calling us "Generation 9-11" and Time marking the moment "the end of the age of irony." But from what I've seen, it was hardly that irony had ceased to exist (Urban Outfitters 90's nostalgia tees can't sell themselves) but a devastating decrease in America's ability to comprehend it.
How could we? What can shock us? How can Colbert top Beck? How can Britney top Black? We don't know whether to laugh or cry anymore. Things are so bad they're good or so good they're bad. We have become a parody of ourselves. A perversion of our Founding Fathers. We are satire.
Tomorrow's Friday. A 20-year-old in Baghdad will try to make it back home in the hopes of being able to attend a community college while a 20-year-old at UCLA will ignorantly mock Asian immigrants on her webcam. A 13-year-old girl in Japan will drown before her mother's eyes while a 13-year-old girl in Anaheim Hills will beat on, high on the highway, borne ceaselessly into riches, red cups, and re-Tweets.
Follow Cody Brotter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thecodyland