Editor’s Note: Each week in “Apparently This Matters,” CNN’s Jarrett Bellini applies his warped sensibilities to trending topics in social media and random items of interest on the interwebs.
A new tween music video, "It's Thanksgiving," has more than 8 million YouTube views
The holiday-themed clip features Nicole Westbrook, 12, singing about food
Video and Rebecca Black's similarly mocked "Friday" were both produced by Patrice Wilson
Wilson: "The haters hate. They have every right to hate. It's OK. I don't get offended"
Before we begin, I need mom and dad to go to YouTube and watch Rebecca Black’s music video for “Friday.” Otherwise, the rest of this column will lack context. So go have a look, and then, if you two actually manage to stomach the whole thing without jumping off a bridge, please, dear parents, continue reading.
That said, if her song does inspire you both to take a flying leap, I call dibs on dad’s motorcycle. And whatever’s in the fridge.
Now, as most of us know, the annoying tween smash hit “Friday” went viral back in March 2011 and, to date, has over 40 million YouTube views. Which, if you’re competitive and keeping score, means that the seven-minute clip of your dog licking his netherworld has an impossibly long way to go.
Even worse, now it seems everyone in America can’t stop talking about a new followup song to “Friday” called “It’s Thanksgiving.” Our PR intern, Lorenza, first brought it to my attention the other day. Since then, the video has been forwarded to me no fewer than 8,000 times, and I sort of want to beat it out of my head with a turkey leg.
Like “Friday,” the new song features a tween girl chirping, Auto-Tune style, over synthetic dance beats. The lyrical formula is pretty much the same: “It’s Friday/Thanksgiving, we’re gonna have a good time!” although in the new video she sings into a turkey drumstick.
And, like “Friday,” the video has been mocked mercilessly by the people of the Internet.
The person you need to blame/thank for all this is Patrice Wilson. He’s the guy who produced both “Friday” and “It’s Thanksgiving,” and he has cameos in both videos. And he’s the one making cash money at the expense of your sanity.
However, I’m also here to tell you that (sigh) he’s actually a pretty good dude. And I really hate when that happens. Tim Tebow.
So, on Monday I set up a little Skype interview with Wilson to find out just who he is and also get the real story behind “It’s Thanksgiving.” Immediately, I liked the guy.
Pato, as he’s called for short, video-chatted with me from a car in Miami while he was down south holding auditions. Yes. Auditions. Which suggests there’s plenty more tween-sanity on the way. I’ve already started hoarding Pink Floyd albums for the apocalypse. Rick Grimes, you’re our only hope.
But, in all honestly, I really don’t mind Wilson’s uber-cheesy songs. The music certainly isn’t for me, but neither is wearing pants. So, to each their own. Especially since, at the end of the day, Pato just wants people to be happy.
(Hypocritical Note: This does not change my opinion on “Gangnam Style.” That song still needs to be taken out in the backyard and shot.)
The truth is, if you know a little bit about Wilson’s story, it’s easy to understand why he enjoys making music for kids. And if for some strange reason you happen to like it, too … that’s OK. It’s music. If it feels good, we shake.
The ever-smiling Pato grew up in Nigeria, and got his start singing in church. While his father was busy as a chemical engineer his mom opened a Christian school, and he was raised with strong religious values that excluded all secular music. I’m pretty sure that includes Gwar and possibly Rick Springfield.
Eventually, Wilson moved to Eastern Europe to study. There, he sang professionally and worked as a youth pastor in Slovakia. Thus, likely accomplishing more good for the world on any given day than I’ve done in my entire life. Though, to be fair, I’ve never tried.
Wilson later came to the United States and, after studying at a bible college in Minnesota and then running track at Whitworth University in Washington state, he started his own little production company with some equipment he bought from Guitar Center. To make extra money he’d charge $10 an hour for people to record in his home studio.
By 2009 Wilson had moved to California and managed to get his little company up and moving. All he needed was a Rebecca Black.
One day, Black’s mom came to Wilson asking him to audition her daughter. He ultimately decided to give the girl a song he’d written called “Friday.” Wilson also produced the video and (after being asked) appeared in it, sort of strangely, as the rapper in the car. The complete hot mess soon exploded on the interwebs, mostly due to people e-mailing each other with:
“Whoa, this video sucks! You totally have to watch it 600 times!”
“I know! I’ve already watched it 1000 times because I hate it so much!”
As the YouTube trolls became meaner and filthier, Wilson actually offered to take down the video. But he and Black’s family eventually chose to leave it up.
Soon after his “Friday” success, Wilson left the production company he founded to start a new one, PMW Live. Then, about a month ago, Wilson was struck by a bolt of inspiration: He needed to write a song about Thanksgiving.
Mind you, when I get inspired I toast a bagel.
So, keeping to his formula of simple, repetitive lyrics that kids can easily memorize, Wilson wrote “It’s Thanksgiving” and recorded a demo in his own voice. But, he needed a new, young star to make it shine. And that’s when he offered it up to Nicole Westbrook, a 12-year-old singer/rapper he had already been working with on two other songs.
However, this time, instead of the client paying Patrice for his services, he solicited her. Wilson knew he had something potentially big.
His holiday jam/disaster/reason-to-doubt-the-value-of-life didn’t go completely gangbusters right from the start. It took a minute. Last week, when intern Lorenza passed along the video for “It’s Thanksgiving” it only had 28,000 YouTube views. Now it has over 8 million.
So, maybe someday I’ll brag to my grandchildren about how I was there from the very start. That I was an original, man! And then I’ll have them change my colostomy bag.
Anyway, it looks like Wilson has another bona fide hit. And, Westbrook seems to be ignoring the trolls. In a recent interview with ABCNews.com, she noted that “Patrice had told me it was so hard for (Black) because she gave into all the negative feedback. I’m just not like that. I’m staying as far away from that as I can.”
Wilson understands the vitriol. He told me, “The haters hate. They have every right to hate. It’s OK. I don’t get offended. As we read the comments, sometimes I laugh. Freedom of speech.”
To record a song and video with PMW Live costs anywhere from $5,400 to $7,000. But you still have to audition, keep it PG, and, I suppose, possess something that resembles talent. I think my kitchen table has a shot.
But once you’re in – and once you pay – Pato’s team handles everything from start to finish.
“I make great songs,” he says. “It’s not by luck. It will always happen so far as you have the right recipe, which I do.”
Of course, when I get creatively inspired I don’t need a recipe. I just need a toaster.