LeBlog’s Cheesetastic Classics: Rebecca Black vs. Foreigner
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.
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.
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.