July 21, 2011

A Rhetorical Analysis of Rebecca Black’s “My Moment”

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Editor’s note: Rhetorical analysis is of lyrics and fictional character Rebecca Black portrayed in music videos for “Friday” and “My Moment.”

If for a moment one can imagine Hamlet as a 14-year-old girl, born from the schaudenfreude of millennials, then perhaps one can understand the tragic story of Rebecca Black. It has been many Fridays since Ms. Black failed to upset the establishment and “got down.” In her second single “My Moment,” gone is the auto-tune and gone is the spotlight’s glow. It is a sobering moment of clarity for Ms. Black, who, despite being pushed to the brink of career suicide, bravely chooses to endure.

Ms. Black, now a professional singer, opens with a conspicuously sinister laugh—a rebellion against the conventions of melodramatic pop songs—as her new “celebrity” life is now marked by two middle-aged men fiddling with audio levels. In her first verse, she quickly establishes that “the one” whom she addresses, the tormentor who said she would be “nothing,” is herself. Ms. Black foreshadows an action of devastating consequences, one that will “prove you wrong.”

As Ms. Black’s furor bubbles, she tells herself that she won’t be stopped, and instead will “keep on dreaming.” Herein, Ms. Black reveals her dark intentions. After being drenched in the vitriol of the Internet, her dream is no longer that of hope, but for her musical life to enter an eternal slumber, or death. This “one wish” is inevitable. The dual ideas of wishing and inevitability reinforce a theme established in her debut: Choice was never an option.

With her “head up” in heaven’s clouds, Ms. Black wishes to be seen by “nobody.” Like Hamlet, who famously said “To die, to sleep/To sleep, perchance to dream,” Ms. Black can no longer suffer the slings and arrows of snarky bloggers.

Before this idea settles, in cascades the chorus. Ms. Black croons that this is “my moment, my moment,” or as it is defined, her “very brief point of time.”  After spewing generic Hollywood buzz words “flying high” and “limelight,” Ms. Black returns to the title of the song—this time with a slight change. Instead of definitively saying that “this” is her moment, Ms. Black now “feels” like it is her moment. With infamy and moderate fortune, why, she asks, does it feel so empty?

In the third act, Ms. Black delivers her Shakespearian soliloquy. In the next 10 lines, while her handlers apply makeup, the lyrics strip her naked. It is an intricate interplay of questioning and confession that flips between the words “you,” “I,” and “friend.” In this soul-cleansing exchange, Ms. Black reveals that it is a fear of celebrity that paralyzes her.

The chance to act is now. “Your life,” she reminds herself, “Is in your hands.” But, it becomes clear that merely entertaining the dark thought is “as far as” she can go. Instead, Ms. Black will “trust in herself,” “forget everyone else,” and “believe.”

Now begins a highly controversial sequence—a frenzied, interpretive dance.  Taking arms against her sea of troubles, if you will, Ms. Black dances passionately with a troop of 20-something semi-professionals. While her moves better resemble those of a drunk hamster trying to swim, with every slow motion cut and distorted angle, Ms. Black is pulsing with life.

In the song’s bridge, Ms. Black, having chosen to endure infamy, blows a goodbye kiss to her inner demons and, for the first time, acknowledges her haters. Like in “Friday,” this stanza is merely a charade. Using the words “paper” and “’bout,” she playfully teases to the halcyon days, where urban diction reigned supreme in her lyrics—a snide “diss” to the despot CEO of Ark Music Factory. She reminds the listener that she “said” she’s “doing big things/Things you never dreamed of.” This, it is clear, is a wink to having stared into the undiscovered country, the abyss, and chosen to bear the heartache which pushed her to the edge.

In arguably her most honest line, Ms. Black says that she’s “’bout to blow up,” suggesting that she can no longer contain this façade. The music stops. And, like Hamlet’s final scene, the dancers fall to the ground. To Ms. Black, this is her finale. She is stabbed with the poisonous blade of stardom. But, as scholars note, notoriously absent from the pile of corpses is Ms. Black.

In the epilogue, Ms. Black rides backseat, passenger side in a limo. No longer does she “see her friends” and no longer does she question which seat she should take.

Surely, she will not be riding bitch. It is the first glimpse of a new celebrity, one who welcomes paparazzi light bulbs and the brutal cynicism of her generation, and releases a generic pop song on a Monday.

Three minutes since “Friday” ended, she is finally awake. To embrace her outrageous fortune is a noble action, one of brave conscience. It is Ms. Black’s great moment. TC mark

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