At this point, I’m tired of hearing and reading about Rebecca Black, but when I saw this video, it felt like another corner had been turned in the saga of Rebecca Black. Katy Perry played a partial cover of “Friday” at a show in Melbourne, Australia last week and, for me, it’s become one of the more fascinating aspects of the on-going “Friday” ordeal.
The cover is pretty typical: Perry sings a verse and the chorus and is backed by guys on acoustic guitars and a person playing the cello. Plenty of others, amateur and otherwise, have already done this (and have probably done it better, actually) on YouTube, so the cover itself isn’t notable. What is notable is that it’s Katy Perry, a current pop icon, singing this for a paying audience.
Perry isn’t the first celebrity to do a cover of this. We’ve seen it performed by Stephen Colbert and Nick Jonas; soon, it’ll be performed by the cast of Glee. What’s interesting about the Perry cover, though, is that her music exists in the same pop continuum that “Friday” would have if it were a real song; her cover of the song gives it some authenticity (by proxy) that has been missing up until this point.
Despite the audience singing the song back at her and her legitimizing it, it’s still a terrible song. We all know it and Katy Perry knows it; this is shown by her dramatic singing and the sarcastic comments she makes at the end of the video. I don’t have a problem with this and I don’t have a problem with Perry singing it for her audience, but it does make me wonder: is Perry brilliant or stupid?
It could go either way. There’s the possibility—and I dearly hope that this is the case—that Perry covered this song to poke fun at the music industry and pop scene. Really, there is little difference between what Katy Perry does and what Rebecca Black did; Perry’s songs are just as heavily produced and manufactured as “Friday” was. Sometimes you get Dr. Luke, sometimes you get Clarence Jey, but it’s all still cut from the same mold with the same intentions (appealing to what is currently popular).
If, by performing this song, she was making a veiled statement about the meaninglessness of content in pop music, then bless her soul. If not, and she isn’t aware of how similar “Friday” is to her own music, then her sarcasm is completely misguided. If she is continuing to poke fun at Rebecca Black, then her stupidity is the result of being consumed by the industry and being unaware of what defines her popularity. If she’s treating Black in this way, then she’s outing her own music as bullshit while her fans sing along.
I guess there is a third option here, too. It’s the one where Perry said to her management: “dudes, it’d be so funny if I, like, sang that “Friday” song. Right? Right?” This scenario is the most likely, but also the least interesting; it’s also the most worrisome, since it would mean that Perry is totally clueless. I like to think that she is smarter than that.
Regardless of her intentions, it remains that the song she sang to the audience is one that was designed in the same ways as her own and with the intention of appealing to her audience and their generation; yet, it was largely lampooned for being a copycat production and being poorly written and sung. I don’t think it’s possible to help Rebecca Black’s singing skills, but the other points can be applied to most of what is popular at the moment, even Katy Perry’s music. The question is, is Perry aware of it or is she, and her audience, blissfully ignorant?