My 13-year-old stepson and I spent last night laughing at the viral video by Rebecca Black that's been making the rounds the past few days -- it's called "Friday," and I'm not even linking to it because it's so bad. (You can easily find it on YouTube and several other sites.) The song is short on substance and long on AutoTune -- not surprising, really, as the singer is an eighth-grader, and the video is a vanity project that, according to news reports, set her mom back about $2,000.
A little digging on my part revealed a few more equally horrendous videos produced by this same vanity company, all featuring girls who look perhaps a little better than average, singing really bad songs on such topics as passing notes in the hallway and buying the jeans Ashley Tisdale wears.
Don't get me wrong -- I'm not bashing these kids. My friends and I used to sing similar songs with similar premises; my friend Tricia and I were particularly good, in junior high, at writing lyrics to parody popular songs of the time, and let me tell you, they were hilarious. (!) But here's the difference -- there was no YouTube then; we didn't even have video cameras. It's possible that a cassette audio recording exists in some box in my garage, but I can assure you no one will be hearing it.
All this brings me to my key question: What is wrong with Rebecca Black's parents?
My kids, 22 and 19 now, and they grew up participating in two activities that tend to attract stage parents -- hockey and music. Scott was a solid athlete and Caroline was a solid singer and dancer, but at no point was I tempted to pull out the camera and try to make either one of them a star. Of course I was proud of them, and photos of them and their equally adorable and talented friends adorned my Facebook wall.
But while I enjoyed watching them participate in the activities they loved, I also was pretty good at facing facts -- there were a lot of talented kids out there, and I knew that no one else likely would be quite as dazzled by my progeny as I was.
Rebecca Black's mom has to be pretty naive to realize that the parents who are sitting next to her in the bleachers cheering Rebecca as she sings "The Star-Spangled Banner" at school athletic events are the very same parents who talk behind her back about how untalented Rebecca is. (This I know. My daughter, probably because she is a pretty nice person, was chosen homecoming queen of her high school. After the ceremony, I walked into a restroom at the school to hear two women I knew fairly well -- ones who had been cheering for my child moments before -- sniping that Caroline didn't deserve the title and had "campaigned" for it. Meow.)
Rebecca's mom also is naive not to realize that many, many people now know who her daughter is -- including really bad people who should not know who anyone's child is, or how to locate that child. It's creepy enough that the rapper in the video, who looks a tad on the lecherous side, has at least 20 years on Rebecca.
And what's the attention -- most of it negative, no doubt -- doing to this child? Check out this link. In an interview, she talks about crying while reading Internet comments suggesting she cut herself. And she actually seems like a pretty realistic kid, who says she feels she has "talent on some level," but is not the best singer and not the worst.
None of us is a perfect parent, and chances are Rebecca's mom just became caught up in the excitement generated by having a pretty daughter who can carry a tune. She obviously loves and supports her child, and that's more than all too many kids can count on. But it's time for her to step back and try to rein things in a bit.
It's too late to undo the sad fact that Rebecca Black is now a household name, but I hope moms of other 13-year-old aspiring singers will take note and put down the video camera. If our kids have the chops to gain worldwide fame and attention, let's sit back and watch them do it -- on their own -- after they turn 18.