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Yes. This is happening. I’m defending this.
 

My articles (especially my Notes on Notes music shit) usually are ideas that have been bouncing around my head for a long time until I feel like I have something interesting to say. But this video came up and the immediate backlash got me thinking. For all I know, this might be a knee-jerk reaction to the negativity, but I don’t think so. After first hearing this song, I was not immediately disgusted like most people. In fact, I was sort of intrigued. And before you even ask, no I’m not high, no I’m not crazy, and yes, this is a new sweater. Thank you for noticing.

Music animals clip art

A little backstory first before I get into whatever it is I’m doing here. “It’s Thanksgiving” is a song written by Patrice Wilson, the man behind Rebecca Black’s infamous “Friday,” which I’ll admit I didn’t particularly enjoy (I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t find anything interesting about it). The two songs are practically identical. In one song, Black is singing about how much fun Friday is and how she can’t wait to have fun with her friends over the weekend. She lists the days leading up to and following Friday. In “It’s Thanksgiving,” Westbrook talks about how much fun Thanksgiving is and how she can’t wait for the day to come. She then lists other holidays and the months they occur on. It’s really as basic and simple as you could possibly get. And no, Patrice Wilson, that is not a challenge. Please do not try and prove me wrong with a song that features a young singer reading the dictionary.

So yeah, very similar lyrical themes. And on top of that, the song’s structures are identical. A laid-back intro where the singer vocalizes a bit, then a verse that shifts into a prechorus that then leads into the chorus. Repeat until you hit that magic 3-and-a-half-minute mark. Both of which are so mind numbingly simple you can’t help get it stuck in your head. I can definitely understand being frustrated that you can’t get “It’s Thanksgiving / oh oh oh / We’re gonna have a good time” or “It’s Friday, Friday / Gotta get down on Friday” out of your head, but is catchiness really a negative thing when it comes to pop songs?

They both have a similar  EDM kind of sheen that can be found in most current pop music, with no memorable melody or harmony to speak of other than the vocals. The music exists as support  for the performer. There’s not much to even say. It’s texture.

Also, both songs feature rapping in the chorus. The only difference being Friday features a rapper who quickly appears to do a few bars and then leaves. On the other hand, “It’s Thanksgiving” features Westbrook doing the rapping all on her own. She doesn’t do very well. So that’s one point in “Friday’s” favor, at least it has a rapper that seems like he’s done it before.

Patrice Wilson’s job is to produce a song that appeals to as many people as possible.  And it worked on “Friday,” regardless of how many people were listening to the song with an ironic detachment. It was a hit. So he wrote the song again with “It’s Thanksgiving.” I mean this in the least cynical way possible, by the way. I’m fairly sure that’s just what is going on. I hate to break it to you, but a lot of your favorite things were commissioned and created with only money and mass-appeal in mind.

There’s nothing wrong with what he’s doing, but I have a feeling most people will understand the situation immediately if they know “Friday” and understand the context of the song. The best hope “It’s Thanksgiving” has is for people to share it with their friends based on the sheer audacity of Wilson changing a few minor details to what was dubbed “the worst song ever” by many and then releasing it again. That takes some balls. And from what I’ve seen, it is working. The song seems to have a similar viral appeal. More power to him. It’s kind of hard to hate the man or either of the songs since they are accomplishing exactly what they were created to do. That would be like getting mad at the Terminator for terminating people, or getting mad at Teen Wolf for turning into a wolf and dunking on all the idiot jocks.

Music animals clip art

So the real question now comes up. If “Friday” didn’t do anything for me, and “It’s Thanksgiving” is practical identical, why in the world would I like it? Maybe “liking” it isn’t the right word. But I appreciate it in a way.

For me, it comes down to the difference between Westbrook and Black. Both of these songs exist as a platform for the singer. The backing track is sparse in order to let the vocals stand out more, and the video is the same way. It serves as a vehicle for the young starlet to smile and show how much fun she hopes to have on her day of choice (Friday or Thanksgiving).

What interests me is Westbrook’s voice. Her singing style is soft and breathy, which is quite a change from the bubblegum pop clarity in Black’s vocals. Combined with the studio effects on Westbrook’s voice like double tracking, autotune, and a chorus effect, it gives the vocals a very spacey, kind of dreamy feel. With Westbrook’s already low-key vocals, the song takes on a whole new dynamic. Instead of the pure pop attitude of Black on “Friday,” suddenly there is this melancholy singer talking about her opinion on the day of Thanksgiving. I’m not saying that makes the song good or that you should change your opinion, but it gives it at least some depth. It’s unexpected. Why is she so sad about Thanksgiving? Why does she sound like a lovelorn 80’s singer?

She seriously does. If you added a gated snare, and some 80’s sounding synths, you’d have yourself a decent Chillwave 80’s throwback kind of song. Or if you add in only one line about a significant other leaving her on Thanksgiving or something like that, suddenly you’ve got yourself a solid, cohesive song that could resonate with a certain group of people. Someone should do that (not it).

At least there’s a bit of a contrast in mood in “It’s Thanksgiving.” When Rebecca Black starts to sing after the poppy intro, her vocals are exactly what you’d expect. Westwood’s surprisingly emotional vocals contrast the cheesy synths as well as her smiling, care-free, party attitude she shows in the video. Since her vocals are the forefront of the music, that was enough to keep me at least slightly interested all the way through the song considering how much her vocals and performance were the focal point of the song. Unfortunately, the song does nothing to reinforce this contrast either through music or lyrical themes, so it ends up being no more than an odd quirk of an otherwise forgettable song. For me though, the “stock” sounding backing track just made her vocals stand out even more. Although this quirk was not enough to really make this song worthy of repeated listens for me, I think the context makes this vocal performance even that much more fascinating.

Think about it, this young lady dreams to be a pop star. She went so far as to get her parents to hire a guy to write and produce a song for her, and then make her a video. She’s probably practiced singing in front of the mirror all her life, singing along to adults much older than her who were channeling the emotion of their adult life into a piece of music that resonated with her. When it comes time to step into the booth to sing a song some guy wrote Thanksgiving, she does her best impression of her favorite singers, who were singing about their love and heartbreak and other such adult things. Over a song about how she likes Thanksgiving. That she hopes will make her a star. She’s putting adult emotions she most likely does not understand over a songwriter’s attempt at creating the most emotionless song possible. Those vocals along with the music and lyrics tell an emotional, bizarre story if you’re familiar with Patrice Wilson’s work. Sure, none of that is intentional or present in anything but the vocals, but that’s more than enough to get me through a few listens.

Here’s the thing about these songs. While their lyrics might be easy to make fun of, the lyrics are not what make them bad. We can forgive a song with bad lyrics if it can connect with us on a musical level. Just like a good song is the sum of all its parts, a really bad song is bad because of all of its parts. The song’s themes are where our initial dislike of the music comes from. They immediately come off as dishonest. The upbeat backing track combined with both the song’s refusal to talk about anything that is not fun or celebration make it difficult for anyone to connect with them musically. Even optimistic jerks like me. Music is like any other form of art. It needs conflict and contrast. Drama. Dynamics. “Friday” lacks those aspects in every facet. “It’s Thanksgiving” is much more enjoyable because it can add a tiny bit of that emotional contrast that “Friday” was so clearly lacking. It’s a much better song, people.

The production of these songs are another place where they fail. They take the trends of pop music and they dumb them down even further. You could say a million things about the lack of dynamic variation, the predictable structure and chords, but the lyrics are just a much easier target for ridicule, which is why they receive the brunt of the hate. But I think what really gets peoples’ goat is that these songs are written as vehicles for hopeful starlet pop stars. I think people feel insulted. Not that they have to listen to predictable pop music with simple lyrics, but that they are being pandered to with formulaic music designed to appeal to the largest audience possible. People on the internet do not like to be pandered to. They do not like to be told what is popular. Combine that with both songs’ overly sentimental tone, and you’ve got yourself a couple of songs that are very easy to be cynical about.

Ironically, in the case of “Friday,” this backlash ended up making the song a viral hit, and now I can type Rebecca Black and assume that everyone reading this will know who she is. So her and Patrice Wilson’s goal of gaining notoriety ended up working in spite of the internet’s rage.

So take a listen to the song one more time if you want. I swear to god, there’s sincerity in there if you concentrate on the vocal performance and ignore what’s being said. She made the choice to contrast the song’s sappy emotional tone with melancholy vocals. Maybe it wasn’t a conscious choice, but it was choice all the same. It makes the song far better than its partner in crime, “Friday.” And the fact that that sincerity is able to shine through, past all of the song’s studio trickery, inane lyrics, and predictable structure says a lot about Nicole Westbrook’s ability as a signer. Wasn’t that the point in the first place? To give her a chance to show off her stuff? On that level, I’m not ashamed to say I think it’s worthy of a few minutes of my time. Just don’t let her rap next time.

Excluding the context, this is nothing more than mediocre pop music with simplistic lyrical content, but it features a memorable vocal performance. No, it’s not good. But no, it’s not the worst song in the world. In fact, I think there’s plenty in there worthy of consideration and discussion. Or maybe I’m just crazy.

Hey, if you enjoyed this article, check out the other ones in this series why don’t you. Click on these words down here if you like cool clip arts and music words. Even if you hate it you can always enjoy some cool clip art animals rocking out. They alone are worth the price of admission (free)!

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Notes on Notes: Soul and Solos

Notes on Notes: An In-Depth Analysis of Bohemian Rhapsody

Notes on Notes: It’s Time to Change the Way We Talk About Music

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