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Blackened "Friday," jazzin' for dollars, The (English) Beat in Akron

By malcolm Published: March 23, 2011

A few weeks ago I touched on Canton band Lovedrug’s “I Am Lovedrug” campaign which solicited fan donations to help fund the recording of their upcoming album. Well, local jazzman Josh Rzepka I also using the tiered fan donor/pledge model to get his third CD, a jazz quintet album to be recorded at SUMA Studios in June. He’s chosen Kickstarter.com which uses an all-or-nothing model, i.e. Rzepka has set a goal of $7500 if in the remaining 30 days he doesn’t reach the goal amount (he’s currently at $3904), no donors are charged any money and he is essentially starting again from square one. Rzepka’s a good dude and talented trumpeter and composer trying to realize his dream. If you want to check him out to see if he’s worth any of your money, he’ll be performing at The Massillon Museum as part of their Rhythms Music Series. Rzepka will be playing tunes from
both his jazz CD Midwest Coast with a trio (guitarist Bob Fraser and bassist Dallas Coffey) and selections from his classical CD “Josh Rzepka: Baroque Music For Trumpet” with pianist Chris Toth.

If the recent announcement of the Journey, Foreigner Night Ranger three-fer at Blossom this summer didn’t get you thinking about your old acid-washed jeans and the impressive hair height you were once able to achieve, then Musica is offering another chance to step through the Wayback machine when The English Beat comes to town Saturday night.

The current version of the band retains lead singer/songwriter Dave Wakeling (the other English Beat mainstay Ranking Roger has a U.K. version which goes by their original name The Beat) and that means not only do you get English Beat hits such as “Mirror In The Bathroom,” "I Confess," “Save It For Later” and "Hands Off...She's Mine" but they also play songs by the post English Beat pop band General Public which brought us danceable hits including “Tenderness” and “Hot Your Cool” as well some of Wakeling's solos stuff. From what I’ve heard from folks who saw them
last time they came through Akron, the band puts on a good show and Wakeling is a friendly guy who enjoys telling the back stories of songs and is quite gracious with fans.

Black Frrr-iiii-daay
So assuming your spend hours trying to stay plugged into the latest and greatest viral videos, music and whatnot you’ve probably heard/seen 13 year old kid Rebecca Black’s video and song “Friday,” written and (brutally) produced by ARK Entertainment, a company of three dudes who offer “an array of services including song writing, production, engineering, Artist Development & Consulting support as well as access to a network that represents just about all areas of the music business.”
The song and video featuring the sweet-faced real Anaheim,Calif. teenager “singing” (it’s hard to tell if she has actual talent because the vocals are so auto-tuned she sounds like a So-Cal C-3P0) singing empty lyrics such as “Kickin' in the front seat, Sittin' in the back seat, Gotta make my mind up, Which seat can I take?” over an 80s flavored synth-pop groove and featuring a rap verse
about speeding by school busses from some dude with a mustache who has no business hanging out with young teenagers. The video has more than 33 million hits (10 million more than Lady Gaga’s new video) and has been called the worst song ever, the most (ironically) awesome song ever and everything in between. Naturally, there have also been the unfortunately now-standard anonymous Web jerks raining down verbal hate upon young Ms. Black including disturbing messages such as “"I hope you cut yourself, and I hope you'll get an eating disorder so you'll look pretty."
Appropriately, the stream of vitriol has confused Black and made her cry (welcome to “fame,” kid). The tune and its reaction have gotten Black a few television interviews and kudos from music industry entrepreneur $imon Cowell who said he “loves” the song and the fact that it has drawn
such intense ire. Nick Jonas has even been covering “Friday” as a sing-a-long and on solo piano, no less at recent Jonas Brothers concerts (are people are still going to those?).

From a strictly critical and analytical standpoint, in the great pantheon of pop songs “Friday” probably ranks somewhere between Gerardo’s “Rico Suave” and Kevin Federline’s “Popozao,” but here’s the thing. The catchy piece of computerized fluff is also kind of inscrutable. There’s absolutely no pretense of “art” involved. It’s a fluffy pop song by a real live 13 year old girl singing about anticipating the weekend (Black said her other song choices was about adult love which she has yet to experience). Though the song is now a trending Twitter topic, and has sold more than two million in Itunes, Black is not a product of label hype telling us she’s the next “great” artist, and she wasn’t showered in hipster blog love. She’s no Ashley Simpson riding her famous sister’s coattails to 15 minutes of fame she’s a real kid singing a dumb song.

According to Forbes.com, Black and her mother who shelled out $2,000 for the track now stand to pocket a cool million bucks. Black recently said she will donate a portion to Japanese earthquake relief, so she’s not only a real kid, but a big hearted real kid. This whole kafuffle seems to be a case
where the discussion, analysis and critique of the product and the power of social networking and what it all may mean is the growing, churning storm while the actual product, a goofy pop song, is the calm, catchy eye. In other words, more folks are talking about “Friday” and its implications than
actually enjoying listening to it and the 2 million fans (presumably) who purchased it will likely have dumped it from their mp3 player by mid-April to make room for the next Justin Bieber single (of whom Black is a huge fan).

Don’t be surprised if “Friday’s” success starts a trend of songs by random
average kids written and produced by faceless music factories. It’s not a new phenomenon. Back in the 60s there were companies advertising in magazines that would take your “poetry” and turn it into a song and there have always been music studios/factories willing to take anyone’s money to
produce a song. But “Friday” is a post-download era hit that made Black and instant if brief “star” with no A&R or marketing department propping her up as anything other than a girl with a song.

Right now, there are probably thousands of kids begging mommy and daddy for a song for
birthday/Christmas/Quinceañera/Bar Mitzvah present and probably quite a few mommies and daddies considering the potential profit margin. I’d guess in the next several months we’ll see YouTube inundated with increasingly more professionally made videos and songs by fresh-faced regular kids who sing-speak like robots regaling viewers with plainspoken tales of walking to school, playing X-Box or listing their favorite snack foods.

I don't have kids...can you tell?

Oh wait, I almost forgot……CHARLIE SHEEN!!!

What: Josh Rzepka
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 26
Where: Massillon Museum, 121 Lincoln Way East, Massillon
Tickets: $12.50 members, $15 non-members, $10 students, $17 online
Information: http://www.massillonmuseum.org

What: The English Beat with Human Nature and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 26
Where: Musica, 41 E. Market St.
Tickets: $20
Information: http://www.akronmusica.com/

Here Ya Go....By Friday, on your way home from work...you'll be hummin' it.....yeah, you will.

Josh Rzepka on TV

The English Beat - Mirror In The Bathroom

The English Beat - Save It For Later

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