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LeBlog’s Cheesetastic Classics: Rebecca Black vs. Foreigner

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When I introduced LeBlog’s Cheesetastic Classics by pairing it with one of my “Nope, Not a 1-Hit Wonder” articles I included a poll at the end of the piece asking you readers whether you thought its subject, Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch,” deserved the Cheesetastic Classic label. The result was historic for LeBlog, in that every single vote was cast with the same response. Hill’s touchy-feely ballad was declared awesomely cheesy by 100% of the participating readers. No previous poll here at LeBlog shares this distinction. This got me to thinking. Did the simple yes/no nature of the poll lead to this unanimity? Would future Cheesetastic Classics tend to be identified with such certainty? My solution to this quandary is to present candidates for LeBlog’s Cheesetastic Classics in competing pairs, giving readers the chance to vote for the most recent entry. Let’s see how that works!

As you know if you read the Dan Hill article, a Cheesetastic Classic for our purposes here is defined as a song, most likely of some renown at the time of its release, which is both painfully trite or corny and undeniably wonderful. Ideally, these two qualities should collide head-on in your brain while you’re listening. Since we’re still so early in this activity, I can only guide you by sharing this vaguely specific definition and saying that “Sometimes When We Touch” is the inaugural inductee onto our list of cheese. Let’s move forward with those instructions and see how today’s entry turns out.

Up first is what will probably be one of the more recent competitors in this series of contests, Rebecca Black’s 2011 paean to the end of the school week, “Friday.”

There is just so much in this song and its video that makes the brain go kaboom. Where do I start? How about the weirdly inconsistent quality of the production on the video? The graphics and blue screen are both worthy of the late ’80s while some of the other photography is perfectly acceptable for its 2011 release date. The decidedly modern use of auto tune is easily identified, but is applied inconsistently enough to make me think it’s mostly there to correct Black’s flat, vocal fry-like, valley girl singing voice. The song, which was written for Black by Clarence Jey and Patrice Wilson of ARK Music Factory for a $4,000 fee (with song rights and video), includes some of the most obvious and uninspiring lyrics you’re likely to hear, listing out not only bullet points from a typical morning, but giving us all a quick lesson in the order of the days of the week from Thursday through Sunday, with no attempt to acknowledge the humor possible in needing to share this information. The inclusion of a short rap by songwriter Wilson pops up out of nowhere and then is not reprised in any way later in the song, adding to the simultaneously simplistic and utterly random nature of the whole thing.

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Look, like I’ve already indicated here, there’s a lot about “Friday” that deserves criticism, but the pile on which happened in the spring of 2011 was not entirely fair. Clearly, the chord progressions, repetitions, and general partying (partying – Yeah!) tone of the recording succeeded in making the song a bit of an earworm, and this positive quality has to be blamed for making it memorable enough to then inspire the social network backlash it was on the receiving end of. It is also why I think that whoever declared “Friday” as the “worst song ever,” as happened around the web at the time, had probably not heard a whole lot of pop songs. Which songs are worse you ask? Lots of them. Songs you don’t remember because they had no structure and no humor. One of the goals of pop music is that it be fun, and Rebecca Black’s “Friday” delivered on that.

But does the song belong in our list of Cheesetastic Classics? Today we’ll be considering it opposite a prominent faux classic rock act of the late ’70s and ’80s…Foreigner.

“Juke Box Hero” faces an opposite hurdle to “Friday” in being proclaimed a Cheesetastic Classic. Its fans will likely object to it being identified as cheesy at all, adhering firmly to its decent rock ‘n’ roll credentials. They’re not entirely off-base. “Juke Box Hero” sports some of the signatures of traditional stadium rock and the musicianship on display is impressive enough to convince any fair listener that the boys in Foreigner do take their craft seriously. But that’s kind of where they take a misstep into the land of cheese, isn’t it? In attaching epic status to the song’s central character’s unrelenting drive to make it to the top as a juke box hero, Foreigner appears to think that this aspiration is extraordinarily serious. Plenty of hard rock acts of the era made similar, and in fact even more ludicrous, claims to epic-ness by comparing themselves to things like bronze age warriors or space age revolutionaries.

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The difference here is that those were intentionally theatrical and over-the-top acts who, ridiculous as they were, were attempting to draw a parallel between their rock ‘n’ roll and other forms of bravery or heroism. What Foreigner was doing with “Juke Box Hero” was claiming that being a rock star was in and of itself somehow brave and heroic. And…I don’t know…maybe we bought into it for awhile there. While you can argue that a great and important artist like a John Lennon or Bob Dylan is, in fact, a hero, it would take some real cajones and a severe lack of self-awareness for Foreigner to lump themselves in with such socially relevant geniuses. The self-congratulation at the root of “Juke Box Hero” paired with the middle of the road stadium rock adorning it makes the song a true slice of American cheese, wrapped in plastic as a single. Still…maybe my argument doesn’t hold water with some of you. Maybe you think Foreigner’s rock ‘n’ roll credentials are unassailable. I’d listen to that argument.

Here’s where you get to make your own voices heard. Is “Juke Box Hero” cheesy enough to be a Cheesetastic Classic? Is “Friday” really classic enough? You tell me.

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Posted on July 13, 2016, in Cheesetastic Classics, Music, poll and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. You guys know I have a lot of cultural blind spots when it comes to music. I had never heard this Friday song before now. You say it was big? I’m not sure how I missed it, but apparently I did. I listened for about 10 seconds and wanted very desperately to turn it off. But I decided to let it play a while longer to see if it improved. After 20 seconds, I decided that I had heard enough. Judging by the first 20 seconds, I did not enjoy the song. It may be cheesy, but there’s nothing tastic about it. Thumbs down.

    Jukebox Hero, I know well enough to sing along. My high school buds loved that song. Is it cheesy? Yeah. A bit overly serious? Yeah. It may be knocking the door on cheesetastic, but I think it falls short of whatever that is. I think there are probably cheesier songs on Foreigner’s Greatest Hits. I imagine you will likely ask me to name one, so I’ll toss out Waiting for a Girl Like You. But really, they are all drenched in queso.

    I voted “no” on both, so you won’t have a repeat of last time.

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    • daffystardust

      “Friday” didn’t actually make it into the top40, but was an internet sensation to the point that I am a little surprised you’d never heard of it. It was famous enough that the cast of Glee actually covered the song on their show. I’d encourage you to push through your initial nausea and listen to the song in its entirety. There’s no question that most of it is pretty bad, but it’s in a way that actually gets under my skin a little like some of the watchable Razzie nominees. It’s a bit of a car crash.

      I went back and forth several times on whether I should make the poll an either/or or whether I should allow readers to vote yes or no on both songs. In the end, I decided to allow optimum freedom in voting and I appreciate that you exercised that right out of the gate. There will be plenty of over the top ballads which will make it into these articles and also plenty of stuff from the 70s and 80s, which is why I decided on presenting these songs early on. New songs and upbeat songs will not be spared of candidacy.

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      • Glee is another pop culture blind spot. I half watched it a couple of times. I think I sat through the Rocky Horror episode. But it never got its hooks in me.

        I like the freedom to vote either way. I was expecting an either/or choice and hoping for a third option of “neither”. I’ll be interested to see how the dual-poll thing works out. The whole premise is kind of an experiment and I’m just interested overall to see where it goes.

        In the article, you summed up the arguments for and against considering these songs cheesetastic classics. I think you rightly pointed out that they are on opposite ends of the gooey spectrum. Friday is arguably too bad to be a classic. In Razzie terms, it’s the bad movie that’s just bad. Jukebox Hero skirts the line, but may not be quite bad enough.

        Looking forward to seeing where things go from here.

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  2. I vote no for Juke Box Hero, because I think it did put the idea in kids heads that playing music would be cool I mean, today we would have Rock Band (game) Hero…

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    • Thanks for participating, Matt! I’m all for encouraging kids to pick up music, but there’s something about “Juke Box Hero” that just sounds really self-important to me.

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      • Is there a particular line that rubs you the wrong way? I always viewed the song as being from the point of view of the fan who sees the rock stars as heroes. In this case, the fan has become a rock star himself, but he’s remembering the way he viewed becoming a rock star from the beginning as a heroic endeavor.

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        • That’s a perfectly reasonable reading of the lyrics, and probably very close to what the songwriter would tell you. Something about the delivery strikes me as over-wrought and self-congratulatory, though. As if “rockin'” was some sort of noble quest bigger than anything else the artist could imagine. I’m okay with art for art’s sake, but you’ve gotta be careful about how you thump your own chest in the process. For some reason I love ego from an artist in an interview, but I feel like it should be set aside when he’s doing his work. Just my personal taste.

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        • I can see that. And if I thought about it long enough, I’m sure I could come up with an example where I felt the same way about something. Foreigner is definitely doing some boasting in Jukebox Hero. It just never quite pushed my buttons.

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        • Birdman! Birdman strikes the same arrogant tone with me. Saw it a second time and it didn’t grind my gears quite as much, but I still found it to be a lot of style covering up very little substance. And what substance was there was self-congratulatory.

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        • Hmmm…I didn’t feel like the characters in Birdman were depicted as being particularly heroic or noble. They were all pretty mixed bags.

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        • The characters were mixed, but the message was clear. The movie was a glorification of The Artist and a condemnation of the vile Critic or really anyone who wasn’t involved in the artistic process – an endeavor which elevated even the a lout like Michael Keaton’s character to near-sainthood. I like art. I’m pro-artist. But the implication was that Alejandro González Iñárritu saw himself as The Artist and his work as unassailable. If you didn’t appreciate it, you were represented by the most reprehensible character in the movie, the theater critic who promised to destroy Keaton’s play regardless of its merits. Mix in high and might social criticism of pop culture and social media and I found it to be a pretty toxic cocktail.

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        • daffystardust

          I have always felt that artists who engage in any way with critics were foolish. It’s not part of their job. As someone who is now in the producer’s chair I have to interact with critics every now and then, but there will always be a line that I will maintain. Their opinion, no matter what it is, is really none of my business. Because of this attitude on my part I judged the Keaton character for even having that conversation with the mean spirited critic. Dude. Finish your drink and walk out of that place. Nothing good can come from having that conversation. Do your job and try not to get distracted by things that are outside of that.

          Inarritu has said that Birdman is about ego. I see Keaton’s character’s inability to maintain that line and only worry about doing his actual job as just one reflection on his out of control ego.

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        • That’s the way I interpret the lyrics as well, it’s just that the way the juke box hero line is delivered has always been funny to me, which causes me to become corny.

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        • It’s corny. But I think every Foreigner song I ever liked was corny too.

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        • Wow, that’s cool beans!

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  3. What’s more fascinating about “Friday” is actually the revelation behind Ark Music Factory’s business model. Of course they specifically went for rich families! What I do wonder is how they did manage to convince so many (relatively speaking) to dispense the $4000 so readily. It either speaks volumes about Clarence and Patrice’s salesmanship or how dysfunctional those families were. Maybe a bit of both, really.
    In the end, I guess “Friday” was both AMF’s blessing and curse. I’m sure the money was good. But once the whole operation became exposed, it’s no wonder both Clarence and Patrice took the money and went their separate ways.

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    • daffystardust

      I don’t think that $4,000 was actually too much to spend, considering that it included rights to the song and video and full production on the recording and video. You could easily spend more money than that just on one day of shooting a video. Yes, there was some legal wrangling between the Blacks and ARK which resulted in the video being pulled from YouTube for a while, but when it comes down to it I don’t think they charged too much for what they were providing. If you want to argue that their quality was low, I’d say yeah you get what you pay for. If you want a better song you pay someone like Diane Warren quite a bit more than $4,000 or you Write Your Own Song.

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  4. Well, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard “Friday” before, and to quote the guy in the background in that episode of “Family Guy” when Brian the dog sang Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” (VERY cheesetastic song), “I didn’t like that at all”. I much prefer Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok”.
    Now, Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero”? Oh, you betcha; I’ve been applying that juke box hero line for many years now, substituting juke box for something like “I’m a car parking hero” (emphasising the words as it’s done in the song), so that’s totally a part of my life.

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  5. I’m a Facebook hero. I like Juke Box Hero. Cheesy? Maybe so. I still enjoy it. Friday is pretty awful. This was the first time I heard the entire song. Ugh. That girl’s voice in the chorus is almost nails on the chalkboard bad.

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    • yeah, that’s the balancing act we’re trying to perform here. The song should be undeniably cheesy, but also pretty great in some way. Most of our voters couldn’t find enough to like about “Friday” to include it, which I totally understand.

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  6. I would have to reluctantly vote for foreigner. I hate ’em, but at least they were actually musicians. Rebecca Black, however, at least had less claim to responsibility for the awful song: she didn’t write it, she didn’t produce it, she didn’t choose the song, but was rather chosen to sing it. She’s just a kid. The members of Foreigner have no such excuse.

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