The “Friday” Fame Blame Game

Miley Cyrus and the rest shouldn't fault YouTube for giving us Rebecca Black

While Miley Cyrus starred in a sitcom, we don't think of her as much as a comedian as a singer. She got us chuckling, though, with comments attributed to her in the Australian press, taking a swipe at auto-tuned "Friday" crooner Rebecca Black.

“It should be harder to be an artist,” Cyrus reportedly told The Daily Telegraph. “You shouldn’t just be able to put a song on YouTube and go on tour.”

We're not here to defend the annoying "Friday," even if the ferocity of some of the criticism directed at 13-year-old Black is disturbing. But it seems absurd to essentially slam YouTube for being a platform to unearth potentially talented unknowns, who, unlike Cyrus, don’t have the backing of Disney, a dad in the music business and a self-proclaimed “fairy godmother” named Dolly Parton.

The 18-year-old former “Hannah Montana” star's words also might be seen as a dig at Justin Bieber, whose discovery via a YouTube video helped turn the Canadian teen into an unlikely superstar on the Web and far beyond (latest newsflash: he's a hit in Belgium!).

Fame has always carried a price. But the nature of the toll seems to be changing in an online world where the chance a viral video will bring instant celebrity is tempered by the possibility of a speedy and vicious backlash when everybody with Internet access is a potential critic.

As Time magazine notes, Black's much-mocked "Friday" is now the most hated video in YouTube history, with 1.3 million "dislike" clicks and counting, amid nearly 70 million views. She beat out Bieber's much slicker and even catchier earworm "Baby," which has amassed about 1.2 million dislikes out of a record 500 million-plus hits.

In the unlikely event Bieber falls out of the favor with the teenybopper set tomorrow, he will have enjoyed an amazing run that, whatever your feelings about his pop confections, has been fueled by a lot more than YouTube and a haircut. You’d think that Black’s 15 minutes for her 3-minute, 48-second goofy mess of a song would be over, but she’s notched nearly 30 million views alone in the last week. We’re guessing those who hit the “dislike” button are a vocal minority, even if it seems doubtful Black will build a credible, lasting career out of a divisive novelty tune.

"Friday" may be a joke to many – it's inspired parodies galore and Stephen Colbert vowed this week to sing the tune, backed by The Roots, on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” if enough money is raised for charity by, yes, Friday. But the potential power of YouTube to help us finds the next big star amid many viral misfires is nothing to scoff or laugh at – even if you’re Miley Cyrus.

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Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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