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No. 3: “Friday” (Rebecca Black)

What song comes before Saturday and after Thursday? Why, the “worst song ever,”according to countless critics, bloggers, and online viewers across social media. The inane lyrics, nasal vocals put through Auto-Tune, and hilariously awkward acting in the music video made Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” one of this year’s most unexpected obsessions.

For those of you who somehow managed to avoid the Internet sensation, Rebecca Black was a 13-year-old girl whose mother paid $2,000 for a song and video to be made for her. The cheesy video became almost instantly omnipresent. Everyone had an opinion, from Lady Gaga and Simon Cowell to Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly. But the online masses put Black under some of the fiercest and most widespread scrutiny in recent memory. “Friday” surpassed Justin Bieber’s “Baby” as the most hated video on YouTube. Black even had to be pulled from school after multiple death threats forced the FBI to get involved.

Discovered on YouTube
What may have first sparked the viral sensation: when comedian Michael J. Nelson (who had 19,000 Twitter followers at the time) and TV show “Tosh.0” (known for featuring the most ridiculous videos on the Net) both posted links to “Friday.” Since then, the video has amassed more than 200 million views (before it was pulled, per Black’s request, then reposted).

Despite the criticism that young singing hopefuls may endure, breakout stars like Charice Pempengco and Greyson Chance are just a few of the successes discovered via YouTube.  The most notable success was, clearly, Canada’s Justin Bieber, who was discovered by Usher when the then 12-year-old Bieber posted YouTube videos of his singing. Bieber is among the biggest stars in the world, so the music industry has been scrambling for the next YouTube sensation-turned-superstar.

Back to black
So what was the ultimate payoff for all the abuse Rebecca Black has endured?  A few of the opportunities afforded to the viral star included: a seat at the MTV Video Music Awards, the hit TV show “Glee” covering “Friday,” a 2011 Teen Choice Award trophy for Choice Web Star, a performance on “America’s Got Talent,” a role as Katy Perry’s best friend in the “Last Friday Night” video, and a duet with Perry onstage during the pop star’s Los Angeles tour. Black’s song has even been a catalyst for greater good: “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon made a bet with “Colbert Report” host Stephen Colbert that if he raised $26,000 in one week for Donors Choose, a charity that supports schools in need, Colbert would sing “Friday” on Fallon’s show. Fallon raised the money in three days, and Colbert gave a confetti-, cheerleader-, and fireworks-filled performance with the Roots.

But there have been issues, namely the original video being pulled from YouTube due to copyright violations, and claims that Ark was exploiting the teen’s image and song. Originally posted on Ark Music Factory’s YouTube channel, Rebecca Black slapped the company with an unprompted takedown notice after Ark attempted to charge $2.99 per view. The video, with its hundreds of millions of views and comments, was then pulled down and re-uploaded to Rebecca Black’s own channel, which had, thus far, seen only a paltry 6 million views. Ark has now relinquished attempts to claim all of Black’s success, and is instead just looking for fair compensation.

Black has shown an almost heroic resilience in the face of her harshest critics — no small feat, considering she’s at an age when most people crumble under social pressures. Never missing a step, the singer released two more music videos and recorded a full-length album, released in November. Her second song, “My Moment,” has received more than 29 million views in four months, and the surprisingly catchy “Person of Interest” gained 1.5 million views after just three days.

As the flames of the “Friday” bedlam  dimmed, Rebecca Black stood her ground to attempt a legitimate pop career. While 2011 might be the only year of worldwide fame for Black, she’s done a lot more in 365 days (52 Fridays) than most of us will ever do in a lifetime.

Tiffany Lee is a Los Angeles-based writer and an assistant editor for Yahoo! Music. She has been published in several print and online publications, interviewing actors, designers, and musicians; has worked at record labels small and large; and had a weekly show as a college DJ. On the side, she designs jewelry and blogs about fashion, arts, and culture at KidViskous. Follow her on Twitter @tiffanycanfly. You also might’ve seen her in a few music videos, but she doesn’t want to talk about it.

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