“December was Christmas/ January was New Year/ April was Easter/ And the Fourth of July/ But now it’s Thanksgiving.” In the latest YouTube virus, 12-year old Nicole Westbrook extols everyone’s favorite tryptophan fete in “It’s Thanksgiving.” She's the latest would-be tween sensation, following Rebecca Black of “Friday” fame.
Westbrook's video, released Nov. 7, already sits at a healthy 10 million views. While this is a sliver of “Friday,” which garnered 167 million hits last year, the songs stand as testament to a sadistic facet of human nature: exploiting young girls for glorified, intentionally awful hilarity.
Don’t get me wrong, the song and accompanying video are mind-numbingly terribad, and YouTube screeds seem to be the only solace the web community has. Basically, Westbrook and her flock of friends are having the Thanksgiving feast of the decade, taking free reign of a suburban home with vocal harmonies provided by a tattooed black man dressed as a turkey.
Highlights include Westbrook’s jaw-dropping rap breakdown and a turkey leg used extensively as a microphone. All in all, the video is a horrifying non-spoof deserving of the 150,000-plus dislikes it had at the time of this writing.
Who’s to blame?
It’s easy to place it on the wannabe pop princess for infecting our ears in the first place. It’s even easier to blame her parents, who shelled out money to have the song and video produced, thus immortalizing their daughter's awkward and (one day) regrettable teenage years on the Internet.
There's another culprit lurking behind all of this brain-melting hoopla, though. Remember the turkey-garbed singer? Meet Patrice Wilson, co-founder and CEO of Ark Music Factory. He's a genius.
The Nigerian producer got his start with a lackluster rap career, then channeled his talents into Ark. The self-proclaimed Music Factory enables parents willing to fund their babies a big ol’ slice of the American dream. Wilson co-writes and produces a slew of would-be Internet sensations and is featured in many of the songs and videos under the name Fat Usher. For $2,000-$4,000, he writes and produces a song and, more often than not, the video itself in collaboration with the artist, Ark then retaining the publishing and sales rights to the song.
This seems like a tepid business model, but the “hits” keep rolling in. Even his lesser-known protégés, like Abby Victor, have outrageously awful videos hovering in the 4 million views range, all with songs that will never make it on the radio. This venture succeeds for a reason still being tapped by the music industry: YouTube. Rather than letting the songs speak for themselves (believe me, they can’t), YouTube does most of the work. The immediacy of the site, aided by sites with viral content sharing mediums like Reddit, makes it possible to have a hit that doesn’t see fame on any other medium, bolstering few iTunes sales but instant notoriety.
“I’m getting a lot of criticism saying I'm exploiting rich kids and their parents," Wilson told The Los Angeles Times, “but find me another company that would do all this at a cost this low. I don't promise anyone fame. In fact, if someone approaches me with their only goal to ‘get famous,’ I tell them they're not in this for the right reasons.”
The price can’t be beat, but even with poor video production quality and no structural integrity to the song, Wilson continues cranking out videos and proudly rapping alongside kids.
I don’t expect Nicole Westbrook’s Thanksgiving song to become a timeless holiday favorite, even with a severe lack of songs dedicated to turkey day, but circulation of the video is sure to be rejuvenated each November. While we grimace, someone's laughing all the way to the bank.
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