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10 Years Of “Friday”
It’s hard to remember the exact moment Rebecca Black’s “Friday” went viral because it was uploaded on February 10, 2011, but then became the viral sensation we remember it as the weekend of March 14. This is how things used to work online. Content didn’t so much drop as it did bubble up.
The internet entered a period of deep metamorphosis around 2007-2008. Myspace had reached almost 50 million unique visitors. Facebook allowed anyone to sign-up and dropped the “is” prompt from status updates. Aggregators like Reddit, Digg, and StumbleUpon started appearing. Tumblr was capturing a huge section of young people who would have previously used Blogspot or Wordpress to blog. YouTube had started its partner program. P2P sharing apps like Kazaa and BitTorrent were being replaced by streaming alternatives like Spotify, Grooveshark, putlockers, and Netflix. The internet was becoming something felt more like a living entity and less like a static electronic piece of paper.
And then, in 2011, Rebecca Black’s “Friday” dropped and the internet woke up and it hasn’t gone back to sleep since.
The original upload of “Friday” was watched over 166 million times before a legal dispute between Black and the extremely sus production company behind the song, ARK Music Factory, resulted in the song being briefly pulled from YouTube. It was, at one point, the most disliked video on YouTube. Now it’s only the 12th most disliked.
One of my favorite theories about the popularity of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” was written by a former boss of mine, Scott Lamb. In a one-year-anniversary retrospective of “Friday” written in 2012, he called it “the Uncanny Valley of Songs” and wondered if there was something actually a little cathartic behind the song’s meteoric rise:
"Friday" started going viral on a Thursday. The next day, the Tōhoku Earthquake struck Japan. "Friday" got 1.3 million views that day. There's probably no relationship between the two, but if there were, maybe it'd be something along the lines of the fact that the news of the quake squeezed everything else out of the news cycle, and we all needed something to distract us, and something specific to be angry at. For all of the pondering over lyrics and production values, about high culture mixing with low, I think the thing that made "Friday" popular was kind of dark and sad: We wanted see someone seemingly that vapid and that un-self aware, and we wanted to hate them for just a little bit.
Lamb argues that “Friday” achieved a perfect mix of bad and good that made it virtually irresistible. The song’s hilariously dense Wikipedia page notes that the song uses a I–vi–IV–V chord progression, which has been used in songs like “Unchained Melody”. The man behind the lyrics of the song, ARK Music Factory CEO Patrice Wilson, spoke to Gawker about how the song came to be. "I wrote the lyrics on a Thursday night going into a Friday," Wilson said. "I was writing different songs all night and was like, 'Wow, I've been up a long time and it's Friday.' And I was like, wow, it is Friday!" Alright lol.
The first time I watched the original video I had the same knee-jerk reaction that everyone else had — I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. The mid-00s internet’s favorite past time (besides sharing photos of Heath Ledger’s Joker) was ridiculing teenage girls and I was still recovering from a particularly nasty edgy internet shitlord phase I went through in my late teens. From what I can tell from extremely embarrassing old posts of mine I discovered recently, my political awakening appears to have happened sometime between 2010.
But a funny thing happened after the first time I watched “Friday”. I kept playing it. It started as a meme between me and my friends. You’d be minding your own business, someone would play the song from their laptop, and everyone would groan. But it didn’t stop at just a prank. It was played at parties. We blasted it at our end-of-the-year formal my senior year. I’m pretty sure we were still screaming along to “Friday” by the time I graduated that May.
Looking back, I now understand that what I was experiencing while hearing “Friday” was actually how all viral content — and now most of modern culture — feels. The internet surfaces things that are either earnestly chaotic and messy or designed to feel like they are. That’s what makes a viral song like “Friday” or even a podcast like Joe Rogan’s feel intrinsically different from, say, a Maroon 5 song or NPR. This is also the central appeal behind someone like Donald Trump and his raging Twitter feed. Things that usually go the most viral typically aren’t meant for mass consumption which is why they’re so compelling.
This kind of high-low viral thrill was present on the internet before “Friday,” but I think with “Friday” a huge chunk of the population learned how exciting that kind of content could be. Is it bad or good? I don’t know! Play it again.
So I think it’s fitting that Black has decided to celebrate the anniversary of “Friday” by reimagining it as a hyperpop song. If you aren’t familiar with the genre, it’s the loose term for music popularized by 100 Gecs, Charli XCX, and the late producer SOPHIE. Spotify has a very good hyperpop playlist they update regularly. It’s a lot of fun! My favorite hyperpop artist right now is ericdoa.
Stylistically, it’s a mix of trap, 90s rave music, industrial, mid-00s emo, and anime theme songs. It’s a genre defined by that high-low culture of the internet. Some of its biggest stars are trans or non-binary and everything about it is fluid. It fully embraces the inherent camp of a digital life, where identities are temporary and aesthetics are being violently remixed constantly. It’s cyborg music, constantly fighting against or working with various algorithms you can’t fully control. It’s music that early viral stars like Black brought into existence and it feels good to see her continuing her journey through our bizarre and often-grotesque and confusing digital future.
Really Good Single-Purpose Twitter Account
I did not know that people still used Whisper! I’m also not 100% convinced these are even real? Either way, they’re very funny. Although, if you’re going to click through and check this account out, just a heads up, a lot of it is real wild.
Really Good TikTok Account
Probably a no brainer for the Drag Race fans out there, but Bob the Drag Queen, who won the show’s eighth season, has an incredibly good TikTok account. My favorite video on the page right now is the broom prank video that is so simple, but also extremely funny.
Really Good Bat Instagram Account
Statler the very old one-eyed bat has been a fixture of the Garbage Day Discord’s wholesome animals room for a few weeks now. If you’ve missed this, Statler is 33 years old and lives at a bat sanctuary in Texas. He can’t really fly, but he seems incredibly nice. A video of his caretakers helping him simulate flying went viral earlier this month. The sanctuary has an Instagram that’s definitely worth a follow too.
If you’re looking for more bat and/or bat-like animal Instagram recommendations, I’ve been a huge fan of the Wings, Paws, and Claws flying fox rehab account. Bats! They’re adorable. They’re like little umbrella dogs that love cuddling in blankets and eating fruit. I love them.
Mario Speedrunners Continue To Manipulate Of The Laws Of Space-Time
This happened last year, but I wasn’t aware of it until I saw it in a viral tweet earlier this week.
Back in September, DOTA_Teabag, a Mario 64 speedrunner experienced a glitch that had never happened to any player in the game before. Mario was suddenly teleported up into the air in a way that should have been impossible.
The speedrunning community is a hilariously serious-unserious place. Which meant when this brand new glitch happened another popular Super Mario 64 player named pannenkoek2012 literally put a $1000 bounty on finding out an explanation for it. You can watch the “upwarp” happen in the video clip below.
Well, it turns out it may have been a literal particle from outer space that changed the bits inside of DOTA_Teabag’s copy of the game??? Here’s how it happened, according to The Gamer:
During the race, an ionizing particle from outer space collided with DOTA_Teabag's N64, flipping the eighth bit of Mario's first height byte. Specifically, it flipped the byte from 11000101 to 11000100, from "C5" to "C4". This resulted in a height change from C5837800 to C4837800, which by complete chance, happened to be the exact amount needed to warp Mario up to the higher floor at that exact moment. This was tested by pannenkoek12 — the same person who put up the bounty — using a script that manually flipped that particular bit at the right time, confirming the suspicion of a bit flip.
This is not the first time a Mario 64 speedrunner has possibly hijacked the laws of physics to slightly play a video game faster. In 2017, pannenkoek2012, the speedrunner who put the bounty on the ionizing particle glitch, harnessed the laws of quantum physics to, uh, play Mario.
And outside of the realm of Mario, in December, I wrote about a Japanese speedrunner who was using a hot plate to cook a copy of Dragon Quest to hack the cartridge to start at level 99.
Excited for the eventual moment where a speedrunner plays a video game from the 90s too fast and tears open a hole in our universe and the 8th-dimensional aliens that run our simulation shut the whole thing down.
Some Meme Discourse
Let’s Talk About The T-Pain Foot Song Thing
This was sent to me by a reader named Keith. It’s a song by a rapper named MrSunChips and it’s called “Feet Pic”. Interestingly, it’s not about a man buying feet pics, but instead, about a woman who would like to see the titular feet pic. An interesting twist!
The song has been going lowkey viral over the last few weeks. Last week, T-Pain did a reaction video for it on TikTok and it’s a genuinely great video. Also, if you watch it, his buddy in the video next to him somehow harmonizes his laugh with the song.
A quick aside because I did not know the full extent of this, but a user named Rinn in the Garbage Day Discord mentioned that T-Pain is actually having an incredible second (third?) life on Twitch. Further proof that T-Pain fundamentally understands popular culture. Here’s an incredible clip of T-Pain talking about a time he hung out with Guy Fieri on his tour bus.
The Subs Vs. Dubs Debate Finally Reaches King Of The Hill
This was sent to me by a reader named Charles. Last year, Twitter user @crulge alluded to a fight happening among Japanese viewers of King Of The Hill about what is the optimal way to watch the show — subs or dubs.
According to this comicbook.com article, the main issue appears to be that the Japanese voice actor for Hank Hill doesn’t use a regional accent, but instead performs the character as someone who is just kind of lazy. You can listen to it in the video below:
When I spent some time working in Tokyo a few years ago, I asked the inevitable gaijin question of “which Japanese dialect would be like our Texas accent?” There were a bunch of different guesses, but a few of my coworkers thought it might be Hokkaido, which has a very specific dialect and I guess can sound a little folksy to people who speak in standard Japanese.
This Is TikTok’s Final Form
This was sent to me by a reader named Johannes. It appears to be a fancam listing various countries where it’s illegal to be homosexual. I went over to check out the original account and it’s interesting. It seems like it’s a young person who was combining a few kinds of popular content on the platform into one thing. The end result is, of course, extremely jarring and inappropriate. For what it’s worth, the user who made the video, @bz.ddie.edits, has apologized several times for the video. Though they did make a part two.
The reason I say this is TikTok’s final form, though, is because this is exactly what TikTok’s algorithm wants its users to do. The platform incentivizes the remixing of audio and video aesthetics and as long as those videos are viewed and somehow link themselves to other videos on the platform, they’ll be promoted. It’s similar to a strange kind of account that I’ve written about on Garbage Day before.
A reader named Sami alerted me to the existence of these very strange TikTok users that combine random audio, random videos, and use virtual avatars to make them look like TikTok duets. Sami sent me another one of these accounts the other day. It’s screenshot above. The videos take text from your typical clickbait chumbox stores, like “the man called for help, but the dispatcher hung up on purpose,” and then combines that with clips from popular airplane-movie-tier blockbusters, a random audio track, and then adds in a virtual influence at the bottom who is reacting to it.
Every platform creates its own unique version of video spam. On Facebook, it’s endless orange-skinned street magicians harassing women in exercise clothes, on YouTube it’s upsetting computer-generated children’s content, and on TikTok, it seems like it’s users just randomly mashing different popular video elements together, regardless of substance.
One More “Friday” Thing
While doing a little research for this week’s item on the “Friday” remix, I discovered that my friend Matthew Perpetua wrote the positive review of the song for Rolling Stone that everyone seems to have cited in their coverage over the years. So I DM’d Matthew this morning and asked him if he had any thoughts about the song ten years later. Here’s what he said:
I think “Friday” now feels like a relic of a very different social media ecosystem — one that we can probably look back at as a “simpler” or more “innocent” time, but also one that I think was a lot meaner, since the virality of the song was mainly in that it was a “fail,” and as toxic as a lot of things are now, that sort of mockery has gone out of style to a large extent. I think “Friday” is a legitimately good pop song and the weirdness of the lyrics – “fun, fun, think about fun, you know what it is” - has aged pretty well. I’ve always liked that particular line as this very neurotic thought delivered with an awkward smile. The amateurishness of “Friday” seems prophetic too - we’re now used to this sort of fly-by-night quality, first from Soundcloud and now on YouTube and TikTok. The biggest difference is that today you could just buy a beat for $25 and shoot your own TikTok and reach lots of people and probably not be ruthlessly mocked for wanting to have fun and get attention for it.
P.S. here’s “The Sludge”.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***