I am not certain what Nicole Westbrook — the 12-year-old “singer” behind current hilarawful viral sensation “It’s Thanksgiving” — will be eating when she gathers with friends and family tomorrow (though the song’s video seems to suggest it might be BBQ ribs), but I’m positive who she’ll be giving thanks to when she does: Rebecca Black .
That’s because Westbrook owes her entire career (all two weeks of it) to Black, the progenitor of pre-fab, pre-teen pop whose song “Friday” racked up 167 million views on YouTube last year, turning her into an instant star, allowing her to release four other music videos and making her BFFs with Lady Gaga and Katy Perry . And all of that in spite of the fact that “Friday” was widely regarded as being one of the worst songs of all time — thus striking a blow against critics everywhere and creating a brand-new, slightly troubling phenomena: The completely bulletproof YouTube pop star.
In the wake of Black’s success, the folks behind “Friday” — the ominously named Ark Music Factory and the song’s co-writer, Patrice Wilson — flooded YouTube with an endless string of equally squeaky follow-ups: Devin Fox’s “Hooked on You,” Lexi St. George’s “Dancing to the Rhythm,” Hannah Rose’s “Perfect You,” Abby Victor’s “Storybook,” creating a cottage industry despite the fact that it was never really clear who owned the copyright to the song or its video. None of them managed to capture lightning in a bottle like the original, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying. Wilson himself even penned “the official sequel to ’Friday,’ ” a song called “Happy” that came packaged with a video that poked fun at the “Friday” backlash.
Westbrook’s “It’s Thanksgiving” is the latest attempt at replicating Black’s success. On YouTube, Wilson is credited as both the track’s writer and producer, and PMW Live — for which he serves as CEO and president — is also prominently featured (Ark is not, and Westbrook does not appear on its list of artists). It’s not clear if the song will ever reach “Friday” levels of popularity, though Westbrook just landed a gig performing for Anderson Cooper, and in the two weeks since its video was first posted, it’s garnered nearly 10 million views.
But I can say with absolute certainty that “Thanksgiving” will never inspire the same level of vitriol that “Friday” did, mostly because “Friday” came first. After being bashed online last year, Black gave an interview where she seemed genuinely shocked by all the acrimony, saying “at times, it feels like I’m being cyber-bullied,” and there were reports that her father began serving as her security guard. In the year since the song broke through, she’s made several attempts at scoring a second hit, but has yet to succeed. And the world, for all intents and purposes, has moved on.
Which is why, when Westbrook (or her dad) is carving up the turkey this Thanksgiving, perhaps she should pass on praising Wilson and instead be thankful for Black, who suffered the slings and arrows so she wouldn’t have to. Admittedly, there was plenty bad to say about “Friday,” but now that they’ve all been frantically typed, what’s left to say about “It’s Thanksgiving”? Perhaps the most scathing comment left in the tank is that it’s not “Friday.” And for that, let’s all give thanks.