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A linguistic analysis of Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’

April 1st, 2011 12 comments

Edit: New readers are advised to check the date of posting before taking anything too seriously…


In recent months I’ve grown bored of this whole programming thing. It’s time for me to start focussing on my true passion – linguistic analysis of popular music.

I was first introduced to this fascinating subject by my university lecturer Allan Moore, whose insights into the hidden depths of popular songs were quite enlightening.

My first post on this new subject will be an analysis of Rebecca Black’s latest hit, ‘Friday’.

‘Friday’, or, Roads to Freedom

Rebecca Black, or, the protagonist

‘Friday’ starts with what is ostensibly a description of Black’s morning routine. Obviously, there is much more to the lyrics than what is visible on the surface. The first question we must ask ourselves is whether the protagonist of the song is Black herself, or a persona created purely for the purposes of the song. The ‘truth’ is not important – only our perception counts, so I won’t attempt to answer this question.

The protagonist wakes up at 7 a.m. Is that normal for the youth of America? It’s hard to say, but it is obscenely early, and it looks like Black is highlighting the plight of school children across the United States, under this oppressive regime.

‘Gotta be fresh’: what does this mean? ‘Fresh’ in the sense of clean or awake, or ‘fresh’ in the more hip-hop sense of the word? The use of such an ambiguous word at the start of this song sets the tone for the rest of it.

The protagonist goes to the bus stop, but then sees her friends. We assume that she was planning to take the bus, but was this just a ruse? Is the ‘bus stop’ a metaphor for meeting friends? Here comes the first dilemma of the day – should she sit in the front or the back? Clearly this is a metaphor for the classroom – should she sit at the front of the class or the back? We all know the ramifications of these alternative positions. In a normal classroom there is always the option of the middle-ground, but in a car this is reduced to the stark choice of front or back. Look a bit further, and you’ll find an oddity. Black doesn’t ask ‘which seat should I take’, but rather ‘which seat can I take’. It turns out there is no choice involved here – the protagonist is at the will of the fates (much like her school life).

We then get to the crux of the song – the evocation of ‘Fridayness’. Just like the Crunchie bar is designed to evoke ‘that Friday feeling’, ‘Friday’ is all about the truth and beauty of Friday. To really get the point across, Black repeats the word ‘Friday’ multiple times in the chorus. She also highlights the ambiguity of this strange day of the week. Is it the weekend? Or the precursor to the weekend? With the line ‘Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend’ it’s hard to tell.

Now it’s 7:45. A.m or p.m? Who can tell? Have 12 hours passed already, or is this still the morning? I think what is happening here is some kind of quantum superposition of the two states – the actual time doesn’t matter as much as the day. We are reminded slightly of the post-modernist masterpiece ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’, where school time and play time merge into a state of general ‘beingness’.

‘Cruisin’ so fast, I want time to fly’: we have now moved from quantum physics to general relativity. By including these references so close to each other, Black is almost mocking the current lack of a unified theory of Physics. This is followed by more Physics/Buddhist thought: ‘I got this, you got this’. We don’t know what ‘this’ is, but the fact that Black and her friend both have it at the same time tells us a lot about her holistic view of the world.

Skip forward a bit, and we get to the most genius part of the song, repeated here:

Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today i-is Friday, Friday
We-we-we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today
Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes afterwards
I don’t want this weekend to end

Black is truly putting the day of Friday in its context – after Thursday, before Saturday, and two days before Sunday. The lyrics here are split – we hear about Thursday and Friday, then a break, and then Saturday and Sunday. So Friday belongs with Thursday, and Saturday with Sunday. The past is the present, the future the future. This is the kind of depth that is all-too lacking in most modern pop music.

We now move to the secondary protagonist of the song, who I believe to be Black’s alter ego. This character is driving, thus removing the dilemma of front seat/back seat (there can be only one driver’s seat). Then on to ‘It’s Friday, it’s a weekend’, which contrasts with the other lyric ‘Lookin’ forward to the weekend’ – setting up a conceptual dissonance that is never quite resolved.

Conclusion, or, why does my heart feel so bad?

We have only scratched the surface of ‘Friday’ in this analysis, but I hope I’ve given you an idea of the depth of Black’s music. It’s all too easy to see this piece as just another Bieberfied tween pop song with no artistic merit, but as you will now see, this could not be further from the truth. So, go forth and enjoy this beautiful Friday!