Friday, March 18, 2011

On Rebecca Black and Kids Music

You have probably seen the banal viral video being circulated where a young teen named Rebecca Black fills us in on her thoughts about Friday, including that it comes after Thursday but before Saturday.  If you haven't, you can find it here:

While the video clip has been professionally produced, the lyrics and tune of 'Friday' sound exactly as though they had been written by a twelve year old.  One of the things that makes the song so funny is just how literal it is, as exemplified by the bridge:

Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today it is Friday, Friday
We we we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today
Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes afterwards

If my thirteen year old daughter sang this to me in the loungeroom as something she'd come up with, I'd think it was a pretty age-appropriate effort.  Not terribly imaginative, but not ludicrously bad.

So I was pretty horrified to learn that Black did not write the song.  It was written by a bunch of so-called professionals at a company called Ark Music Factory.  Black was merely the singer cast in the video (see this story on wikipedia).  Black did pick the song from those offered to her, but chose it because she said she understood it, as opposed to the others that were about 'adult love'.

It is interesting, I think, that had Black had sung some equally stupid but much more familiar lyrics about making up and breaking up, the shock factor would have been less, despite the fact she is thirteen.  We are so used to hearing such mind-numbingly similar and uninsightful songs about love that we probably wouldn't have even noticed the lyrics.  

Aside: I love this video by Axis of Awesome on how to write a generic love song:

We are so used to teens dressing for and singing about sex - not explicitly, but still very blatantly.  Well, as much as I dislike having Rebecca Black's song stuck in my head, I'd definitely rather that my pre-teen be singing about days of the week and following a role model that looks like this:

where the worst thing you can say is 'hey, those kids aren't wearing seatbelts',  than the other teen singers who they are exposed to (eg. Miley Cyrus):

I think 'Friday' highlights that at the moment, children go from listening to Hi-5 and the Wiggles, to Britney and Miley Cyrus.  There are no Rebecca Blacks singing about important primary school questions like where to sit on the schoolbus, or longing to escape from school on the weekendso you can have fun with your friends.  (Or fun, fun, fun, fun, as the case may be.)  Kids have to go straight from Dorothy the Dinosaur to jumping on a plane to get slutty in LA.

Personally, I'm not a huge believer in playing kids 'kids music' - such as the Wiggles - since I think there is just too much merchandising and the songs are a bit repetitive, and I really do not want them playing on repeat on my car stereo.  I don't look down on people who do this, particularly if it gives them their hands free for a few moments to cook dinner or whatever.  But I personally don't want to have to put up with listening to it if it can be avoided.

I also try to steer clear of Mozart for much the same reasons.  There is no passion in Mozart, just perfectly restrained phrasing.  I am certainly am not going to pay $20 or $30 for Baby Mozart, which is some crappy recording of Mozart on a synthesiser.  Just on that point, the 'Mozart effect' is a bit of a myth.  It was a 10 minute effect found on the ability of college students to perform spatial tasks, not some way of developing your baby's brain.  If I'm going to stick classical music on, I'll stick on something I'd enjoy listening to like Rachmaninov, or Jacqueline Du Pre performing Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor.   

We put on any kind of music in the background that we enjoy listening to, and sometimes sing her nursery rhymes, or Dad gets out the guitar and some tabs - playing anything from Cat Stevens to System of a Down.  I give her maracas to play with and try to hold her and dance to the beat.  Will this create any musical appreciation?  I don't know.

But just personally, I'm hoping my baby will avoid the Wiggles, Rebecca Black, Miley Cyrus, and Mozart, and decide that what she really wants to groove to is Eskimo Joe and the Smashing Pumpkins.  If not, well, that's what headphones are for.


  1. Eamonn's favourite songs? Start Me Up and Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones! He also likes REM. I have to say that the exception to the no awful baby music rule that we make is the Rockabye Baby CDs - rock music made babyfied. I find them hilarious and quite easy to listen to, and I tend to pop one on before E goes down for the night. Current favourite is U2, but we started with AC/DC :)

    Having said that, I agree - my SIL has severe Downs syndrome so I've watched her move from the teletubbies, to the tweenies (?), then pretty much one big leap to High School The Musical and Mamma Mia. And of course JLS, who I think won one of those talent shows on UK TV and she Luuuuuuuurrrrvvvess :)

  2. lol. There used to be Peter Coombe for the older kids. I have old cassettes of it. I play them for my daughter sometimes because I find them funny. The Wiggles aren't that bad. But then again I like some Mozart, Haydn, etc too. and even Christian music *cringe*. I challenge you, when your baby is 4 or 5 months older, to still not think it's better to put the wiggles on than listen to her sooking. I use it for when I have to cook dinner or I'm exhausted and need a break. That said though, when my parents come to visit and reach for the second wiggles dvd just because they enjoy watching her watch it, I'm very quick to say "um I think you've had enough TV for now miss, why don't you play with your toys". ;)

  3. We have a no tv except sporting events for Bethany at the moment (till she's two) which I hope will encourage her to learn to entertain herself. But I am stocking DVDs that I don't mind so much (astroboy, monkey magic, sesame street, the goodies, round the twist) for when she's a bit older.

  4. We have the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra's nursery songs album, the ABA's Merrily Merrily album and a Finnish kids' album. That's about it in the way of "children's music" and we've survived for almost 2 years so far... We don't have a TV, but we have been known to look at a Sesame Street song or two on YouTube. But, other than that... there's SO many other things to do!

  5. James Taylor is GREAT 8-year old music - wholesome enough for kids but beautiful and interesting! Love your blog!