Rustin Cohle was right when when he channeled Nietzsche’s Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence on HBO’s True Detective by saying, “Time is a flat circle. Everything we have done or will do, we will do over and over and over again—forever.” In the digital age, this saying can easily be applied to the conversations that happen on social media, which typically come and go in a cyclical nature depending on the season and what, if any, celebrity gossip is dominating our headlines. The people we claimed to love and hate in 2015 will have another shot at clogging our feeds in 2017, just like the people we are talking about this year will again be all over the place in 2018. Everything and everyone eventually comes around again, but rarely do things happen the same way twice, which is precisely why, after five-and-a-half years, we as a culture are about to become obsessed with Rebecca Black all over again.
Before you ask, the answer is “yes”; the Rebecca Black I am referring to in the paragraph above is the same person who took the world by storm with the release of “Friday” in March 2011. Then just 13, Black immediately became the go-to punchline of culture commentators and social media comedians who could not resist a target as obvious or easy to mock as “Friday.” The song garnered over 116-million plays before it was initially removed from YouTube in August 2011 due to a legal dispute with Ark Music Factory, but the re-added clip uploaded in September of that same year has garnered an additional 99-million streams as well. That’s over 200-million streams on YouTube alone, and despite the hate spewed online, the song has also sold over half a million downloads since release.
Songs like “Friday,” despite whatever numerical success they may find as a result of their fleeting viral popularity, are not the kind of tracks that launch a career. If anything, these songs earn the artist(s) or group(s) responsible a place in history that positions them for appearances on VH1 shows about the pop culture of yesteryear, not to mention as viable candidates for future ‘Where Are They Now?’ segments on sites such as Buzzfeed or The Huffington Post. Like Baha Men’s “Who Let The Dogs Out?” and Lou Bega’s “Mambo Number 5,” Rebecca Black’s “Friday” was always thought to be the kind of song that future generations would mock older generations for enjoying on any level. Even Black herself eventually mocked the song.
With all this in mind, consider me just as shocked as anyone else to be starting off the last half of 2016 by telling my friends and anyone else following me on Twitter that Rebecca Black could possibly be responsible for the next legitimately good pop radio smash. The now 19-year-old has just released a new single titled “The Great Divide,” which you should probably experience in full before this article goes any further:
If “The Great Divide” were released in any year other than 2016 I would say that its chance of success are equal to that of any other unknown talent, but in a year where groups like the Chainsmokers are making it big on dance tracks that feature vocals from talent the world has never heard of, the latest single from Rebecca Black feels primed for Top 40 competition. Everything you hear on the radio today, especially as far as female-driven pop is concerned, is born out of some element of dance music. The blending of synth waves and soaring vocals has become a signature of almost all pop songs at the moment, and “The Great Divide” plays into that without succumbing to the fate of sounding like a cheap knockoff of everything else being promoted at radio today. This is owed greatly to Black’s vocal delivery, which shows tremendous growth over her early work. She’s no Rihanna or Beyoncé just yet, but she is well on her way.
In a world where so-called viral sensations have an increasingly fleeting shelf life, Rebecca Black has proven the odds wrong by reemerging half a decade after her first taste of fame with a single worthy of praise and adoration. She is still going to have to work incredibly hard to separate her new work from the digital infamy of her previous successes, but songs like “The Great Divide” are going to help her accomplish that feat in no time at all. With the right producers and publicity push, I see no reason Rebecca Black could not reach the levels of pop stardom she has so clearly been chasing for the majority of her still very young life. Even if she fails to do this, at least she will be able to say she didn’t let the internet get the best of her, and that’s more than most can ever claim.