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November 2, 2011 7:23 AM   Subscribe

In part five of Jon Ronson's Escape and Control, he talks to Patrice Wilson, the man behind Rebecca Black's "Friday" (YT) and finds himself part of the Ark Music Factory assembly line.

Escape and Control (YT) is a new series of videos featuring "stories about people who are trying to control the internet."
posted by beaucoupkevin (22 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've been following Esc and Ctrl on the Guardian... as always Ronson brings up some good stuff, the Arab Spring one is a particular eye opener.

That song is something else... As I've already commented on the vid I'm not sure if that's the worse song I've ever heard or the greatest... "All the way from Great Brit-en! All the way from Great Brit-en!"
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:34 AM on November 2, 2011


I find this strange. Jon Ronson speaks of Patrice Wilson boasting that he can "do it again" and then Wilson is so positive about his music and the girl is so positive about him and her involvement in the Friday video....

Do none of them realize the song became well known due to it being possibly the worst song ever to emerge from a genre positively studded with overproduced vapid garbage? Why aren't they more embarrassed about this? The clear admiration in the girl's eyes when she's talking about Wilson is sickening.

Also, "there is no song about Friday out there"? "There's no... weekend song that everyone can feel good about"? This guy....
posted by IAmUnaware at 8:00 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do none of them realize the song became well known due to it being possibly the worst song ever to emerge from a genre positively studded with overproduced vapid garbage? Why aren't they more embarrassed about this?

If you define success by the amount of attention and, more importantly, money a song generates, they have no reason to be embarrassed at all.
posted by Bromius at 8:03 AM on November 2, 2011


Is there more coming? I expected it to go into the protracted legal battle over the song. I was also disappointed that there was no mention of the girl in pink's post-Friday life.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:03 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


That song. It gave me an image of Patrice as the kind of guy who will be shaking your hand an simultaneously scanning the party for someone more important than you to go talk to.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:06 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Patrice wins for creepiest salesman who has never heard songs about Friday before of all time.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:08 AM on November 2, 2011


Okay, well, if a million different people came up to me and said "You are such a stupid piece of shit that I'm going to contribute a dollar to your 'stop me from being such a stupid piece of shit' fund", I would feel really crummy instead of thinking "AWESOME NOW I HAVE A MILLION DOLLARS AND ALL THESE PEOPLE KNOW WHO I AM".

I guess the lesson I'm supposed to be learning here is that I don't understand what makes people happy.
posted by IAmUnaware at 8:18 AM on November 2, 2011


How very Mr. Show
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:20 AM on November 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


His expressions while listening to the song is amazing.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:23 AM on November 2, 2011


Is there more coming?

Possibly, he announced the series as essentially unplanned but on the subject of people trying to control the internet... the first few are about astroturfing re Israel / Palestine but he seems to have moved on from there.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:28 AM on November 2, 2011


People are enthusiastic about being famous or associated with fame even when the source is of questionable taste. This is news!

This is certainly not the naked conceit of network television for the past decade.
posted by es_de_bah at 8:30 AM on November 2, 2011


I love Ark Music, and especially the Rebecca Black anthem. They attempt to take autotuned vocal doodles and polish them up into production line pop, and while they achieve a superficial plastic quality that's reminiscent of the Top 40 sound, they don't quite finesse out the rough edges in the lyrics or composition. Is this due to recklessness, a lack of talent, sheer arrogance, or just time constraints? I don't know, but the bizarre compositional choices, lazy rhyme schemes, absurd repetition, and feel of being a live, improv skit, all add an odd dada quality, and an unintentional satirical edge. In effect, it's both a cynical attempt at manoeuvring into mainstream pop, and earnest outsider art.

The best pop music always plays an interesting game around questions of authenticity - we know that a popstar's image has been created by committee, we know that the lyrics may well have been produced by a machine, but we want to believe in the underlying authenticity of the artist themself, channelling their soul somehow through what is otherwise fairly shallow subject matter. Wittingly or unwittingly, the Ark Music Factory is the ultimate extension of this game, as vanity projects betray the true and honest intentions of the singers and producers involved, a triumph of enthusiasm over talent, simply because they lack the skills to disguise these qualities.

And when it comes down to it, these guys do know how string together a catchy melody, even if they do repeat it to the point of nausea. What I'm saying then, is that this is punk rock for the 21st century.
posted by iivix at 8:53 AM on November 2, 2011 [6 favorites]




iivix: this is punk rock for the 21st century.

PUNK IS DEAD.

Or, They're simply a modern vision of song-poems, expanding beyond taking your money and sending you a novelty record into the realm of promoting the trite shite and hoping it becomes a(n ironic) earworm.

There was so little honest appreciation of the song, most of the publicity was bad publicity. But hey, any publicity is good publicity, right? Except when you want an extended career in music. "Favorite Animated GIF" is not a real award (possible image in question).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:38 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, there's definitely a line between Ark Music and song poems. Though really, song-poem producers were relatively above-ground about what services they were and weren't providing to customers.

Part of what's funny about the fight over Friday is that it's never happened before. Friday was the first song Ark Music did that made enough money that the singer started getting angry.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:52 AM on November 2, 2011


I watched this post then saw Friday for the first time. I think I'll stick with Blind Man's Penis
posted by Foam Pants at 9:52 AM on November 2, 2011


It also shows how truly unprepared Ark Music was to deal with an actual hit. Wilson's erratic behavior - raising the song's price on iTunes, trying to charge for YouTube views - shows his limits as a self-promoter.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:54 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


In effect, it's both a cynical attempt at manoeuvring into mainstream pop, and earnest outsider art.

To be fair, this isn't really a new thing - a lot of 'outsider' art is produced by people who believe that they're operating in a mainstream context, and expect success. In fact I'd even say that this is a qualification for outsider artist status - Jandek isn't an outsider artist, Daniel Johnston is.

His expressions while listening to the song is amazing.

Yep, gave me a serious case of the giggles.
posted by jack_mo at 10:56 AM on November 2, 2011


To be fair, this isn't really a new thing - a lot of 'outsider' art is produced by people who believe that they're operating in a mainstream context, and expect success. In fact I'd even say that this is a qualification for outsider artist status - Jandek isn't an outsider artist, Daniel Johnston is.

Hmm, I'm not quite sure I buy that. First, Daniel Johnston actually is pretty mainstream. And I don't think he's under any delusions about his place in the world. He knows he's not a pretty singer.

And I actually think that Patrice Wilson is pretty clear on his place in the world. As I said above, he's not a great businessman, but I don't think he doesn't get the basic appeal of "so bad it's good."

And what about Henry Darger?
posted by roll truck roll at 11:14 AM on November 2, 2011


> To be fair, this isn't really a new thing - a lot of 'outsider' art is produced by people who believe that they're operating in a mainstream context, and expect success.

That's true. The interesting thing is how effectively the technology available today (autotune, soft-synths, sample packs, mastering plug-ins) has enabled outsiders to create something that, superficially at least, resembles the mainstream. Which in turn has shifted the dialogue (with Rebecca Black at least) from "not pop" to "bad pop" (or, perhaps "so bad it's good pop"), as the ideosyncratic composition and lyrical qualities reveal themselves through clean and high quality production. Think about The Shaggs by comparison, and it's difficult to hear past the terrible playing to hear the naive genius of the songs themselved. Now imagine The Shaggs produced by Ark Music Factory. That would be amazing.
posted by iivix at 2:51 AM on November 3, 2011


Watched the other episodes - it just struck me (because I'm particularly slow) that the point of astroturfing isn't so much to propagate one point of view - although it does do that, despite the fact that it's often so obviously fake - but rather to delegitimise authentic grassroots testimony, which can now be dismissed as "lefty astroturf".
posted by Grangousier at 4:00 AM on November 3, 2011


iivix: The interesting thing is how effectively the technology available today (autotune, soft-synths, sample packs, mastering plug-ins) has enabled outsiders to create something that, superficially at least, resembles the mainstream.

Wait, what? Mastering plug-ins? I'll be damned, there's a lot of 'em.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:34 PM on November 3, 2011


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