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Rebecca Black is popular because she's awful

Somewhere in the second half of Rebecca Black's "Friday," the thirteen-year-old singer offers a breakdown of the order of days in the week: "Yesterday was Thursday," she helpfully informs us. "Today is Friday. Tomorrow is Saturday, and Sunday comes afterwards."

In that way and several others, watching the video is kind of like watching a Disney Channel special where squeaky-clean tweens explain rudimentary concepts to children (except for "Fun, fun, think about fun, you know what it is" — that needs no explaining), sort of like Miley Cyrus did back when she was doing Disney. Which, of course, makes it all the more ironic when the former Hannah Montana bitches about Black's sudden rise to ubiquity. "It should be harder to be an artist," she whined to the Daily Telegraph in Australia, inspiring everyone the world over to weep great tears of sympathy. "You shouldn't be able to just put a song on YouTube and then go out on tour."

Yeah! What she said!

But let's set aside for a moment the cognitive dissonance of having a famous father who pulls the strings of your career and then complaining about a fluke YouTube hit; there's a far more important element of dissonance here. That's right: the classic modernist/postmodernist dichotomy.

Fundamentally, Cyrus's remarks hinge on the Enlightenment-era assumption that order is good, chaos is bad. A modernist society is built on reason and rationalization, the idea that all things can be explained and one thing must necessarily lead to another, in "reasonable" progressions of what Jean-François Lyotard described as "grand narratives." Pop music's grand narrative, for example, is that an artist's level of recognition must directly coincide with that artist's value — i.e., an artist must have virtue to be famous, and to be famous, she must have virtue, and thus, if fame is a sign of virtue, then the duty of the famous modernist is to carry herself as a person of virtue, you know, as a role model for the modernist society. This is an idea that Cyrus and the people who surround her clearly buy; that's why people fucking freak out when they see Miley Cyrus doing bong rips. It's unbecoming.

Cyrus's gripe with Rebecca Black, then (although as a modernist, she's characteristically not self-aware enough to know it), is that Black's fame, her obvious badness, challenges the assumption that Cyrus's own fame makes her good.

The fact of Black's fame represents a refutation of that idea, and for that reason, it is a postmodern phenomenon — though it's certain it wasn't intended that way. Luckily, as postmodernists, we don't have to care about intention; Rebecca Black is popular because she's awful, and she continues to get more popular for almost no other reason than that it's ironic and hilarious to make her popular — again, because she's awful. It's no surprise, then, that Lady Gaga, the current reigning queen of postmodern weirdness in pop music (let's be clear: Only a true postmodernist would wear a dress made out of meat) is all about it.  "I think it's fantastic," she told a Google interviewer. "I say Rebecca Black is a genius."

She's clearly not — but then again, neither is Miley Cyrus. Now, who wants a spritz of blood and semen?