Before there was Boyce Avenue, Christina Grimmie, and Sam Tsui, budding singers in YouTube were a rare thing. In the early 2000s, people were taking their baby steps into the internet, and YouTube was simply a place where everyone could share videos of themselves just for fun. Only a few videos of the thousands that were uploaded went viral, and those that did and knew what to do with their fleeting viral fame turned themselves into the first YouTube celebrities.
And then there were YouTubers like Rebecca Black and Double Take.
Out of all the viral videos of the early 2010s, the most notably disliked music videos were done by these two: Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” and Double Take’s “Hot Problems.” Both were so bad in many aspects that both have been dubbed the worst music on YouTube ever. But which one was truly the worst music video of that time?
Rebecca Black’s “Friday”
In 2011, Rebecca Black released her first single “Friday” on YouTube, which went viral for all the wrong reasons. At the time of the release, Black was a 13-year-old girl whose mom supported her daughter’s dream of a music career and agreed to pay Ark Music Records $4,000 to produce “Friday.” Unfortunately, the music video was met with a lot of harsh criticism.
How Bad Was “Friday”?
Let’s start with the video itself. According to Black’s mother, less than half of the $4,000 was spent on production costs for making the song and music video. This was back in 2011, when technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now, eight years later. And when you consider that bigger singers spend tens of thousands of dollars to produce their own music video, one could say that “Friday” was made with a low budget in mind.
I’m not going to nitpick everything wrong with the video (from Rebecca Black waking up in the music video with perfect eye makeup to the fact that the co-founder of Ark Music, Patrice Wilson, is driving to a teenage party as he sings a few verses in the bridge), but overall, it’s a very awkward-looking video. Her co-stars, the other kids in the cars, danced awkward and unnaturally, and looked too young to be driving. But that’s alright, seeing as it was obvious that all the cars used in the music video were not even moving.
In terms of the song itself, the lyrics were so overly simple. Repetition is nothing new in teen pop, but there’s a difference between saying the same catchy phrase over and over again and singing a song that has no significant value in the lyrics.
It was so bad that Yahoo! Music called it the worst song ever. Other critics pointed out the heavy-handed Auto-Tune usage that affected Black’s voice. As of writing, the “Friday” music video has 951,000 likes and 3.4 million dislikes on YouTube. At that time it was released, Justin Bieber had recently released the music video of his song, “Baby,” which was the most disliked video on YouTube. For a while, “Friday” surpassed “Baby” until the former was taken down due to copyright disputes between Black and Ark Music. “Friday” currently stands as the seventh most disliked video on YouTube and the fourth most disliked music video.
Fortunately, while Black recognized why music critics didn’t like her work, she ignored those who mocked her and sent her non-constructive feedback and went on to make more music. If you look at the timeline of the music she’s released, you can see how she improves and matures in terms of vocals and lyrics. Her later songs and music videos have garnered more favorable reviews since then.
Double Take’s “Hot Problems”
Around a year after “Friday” was released, duo Double Take released the “Hot Problems” music video on YouTube. Double Take consists of high school students Drew Garrett and Lauren Willey. The two were interested in careers as songwriters and wanted to entertain their friends with their lyrics. The video was shown on the blog Tosh.0, which made its way to other social media websites, news sites, and until the song had its own release on iTunes.
How Bad Was “Hot Problems”?
Double Take knew that neither of them could sing and tried to do a “talking singing” song, so you can imagine how bad it was compared to Rebecca Black, who, based on her other songs, could actually sing. And if the music video of “Friday” had bad special effects, “Hot Problems” looked like it was done by somebody with a basic Movie Maker program and a dashboard camera.
The video looked like Double Take rented a limousine, drove around the popular streets in Hollywood, and awkwardly danced as they “talked-sang” until they finished the song. For added detail, they used some mirroring effects post-production. It’s awkward, to say the least, and if they were trying to go for a two glamorous hot girls style, they failed at it.
“Hot Problems” had a lot of problems with the critics. It was also hailed as the worst song of 2012 and of all time by ABC News. It currently has 13,000 likes and 26,000 dislikes on YouTube. It’s not as popular as Rebecca Black, but critics who saw it often compare it to just how bad “Friday” was. Double Take released two more singles within the same year, but these also received overwhelmingly negative feedback.
The Take: Which One Was Worse?
It’s unfair to say that “Friday” was worse because it had more attention, thus more dislikes. Had “Hot Problems” had the same amount of viral spotlight on it, it would be easy to see which one was worse. But for now, this is simply my take on the comparison between the two.
Personally, I thought “Friday” was not as bad as “Hot Problems.” First, based on her later music, it’s clear that Black can sing; she just lacked the maturity and Ark Music used too much Auto-Tune editing on her voice. Unlike Double Take, who knew they couldn’t sing, Black showed potential. Second, “Friday” may have gotten more attention because it was clear that Black was taking her music video seriously. And third, despite the negative attention, critics couldn’t deny that it was catchy and had that “so-bad-it-was-good” feel from “Friday.” “Hot Problems” had overall bad reviews and was just an attempt at songwriting by two high school students. “Friday,” on the other hand, was written by Ark Music’s co-founder himself. It’s overly simplistic, but it’s relatable and fits in with teen pop compared to a song about conceited “hot” people claiming they have it hard as anyone else.
Do you agree or disagree with my take? Let me know in the comments!