Despite ongoing turmoil and tragedy around the world, the Twittersphere seemed eager to return to its usual order of business this week: obsessing about pop culture and amusing itself with silly hashtag memes. But all the usual nonsense on Twitter didn't crowd out the continuing crisis in Japan, which takes the No. 1 spot on our weekly Top 10 Trending Topics on Twitter chart -- produced, as always, with our editorial partner What the Trend.
Much of the tweeting earlier this week involved passing around links to both mainstream and amateur coverage of the aftermath of Japan's earthquake and tsunami. (Among my tweets over the past week: a link to this astonishing Flickr photo of a street in Japan neatly split up the middle by the earthquake, as well as a link to this mesmerizing, deeply upsetting six-minute video of a Japanese town washing away in the tsunami. But later in the week, the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant became the Twittersphere's primary hard-news obsession. The apparent bungling, miscommunication and general cluelessness of the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), is calling to mind BP's Keystone Cops-ish handling of the Gulf oil spill last year. (By the way, yesterday Tepco started up an informational Twitter account in Japanese, @OfficialTEPCO.)
The second-biggest thing on Twitter this week? California 13-year-old Rebecca Black, whose Auto-Tuned masterpiece "Friday" became an unstoppable web sensation -- and ubiquitous object of ridicule -- earning both "Worst Song Ever" and "Worst Music Video Ever" designations from critics and non-fans alike. Earlier today it passed 16 million YouTube views.
I was kind of hoping it'd turn out to be some sort of performance-art-esque hoax (James Franco in drag?). But yesterday, The Daily Beast scored the first interview with Black and revealed that her mom paid $2,000 to Los Angeles vanity record label Ark Music Factory for a song/video combo for her fame-seeking daughter.
My colleague at What the Trend, trend analyst Liz Pullen, says that "Friday" reminds her of the Robin Sparkles music videos from the CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother." (As Liz explains, "On the show, the character Robin Scherbatsky was a teenage mall singer, like Tiffany, in Canada in the '90s." Please, if you haven't already seen the Robin Sparkles video for "Let's Go to the Mall!," click here immediately.
"When I first saw all the nasty comments," Black told Good Morning America this morning, "I did cry ... I don't think I'm the worst singer, but I don't think I'm the best." She also said she wanted to duet with Justin Bieber -- a terrifying prospect, as the combination of Bieber Fever and the Black Plague could easily overwhelm America's health-care system.
But never mind Rebecca Black's awful singing. The Twittersphere seems almost more obsessed with the song's lyrics, which include,
Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today is Friday, Friday (partyin')
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
One of the most widely retweeted tweets about the song's lyrics came from the (satiric and sacrilegious) @Jesus_M_Christ Twitter account: "BREAKING NEWS from Rebecca Black: Tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwards."
That only served to remind me of an email exchange I had with the photographer/publicist Jenny Hodges last September, in which she pointed me to a YouTube video titled "The Black Eyed Peas Have Officially Written the Worst Song Ever," a deconstruction of the hit "I've Got a Feeling," which includes the lyrics,
Round and round
Up and down
Around the clock clock clock clock
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
Friday, Saturday, Saturday to Sunday
We keep keep keep keep going up
We know what we say say
So I searched on "rebecca black will.i.am" to see who else on Twitter made the connection (I knew I couldn't be the only one). Among those who did: the hilarious songwriter/comedian Bo Burnham, who tweeted, "Can we stop ganging up on 13 year-old Rebecca Black for making crappy music and start ganging up on 36 year-old Will.i.am?"
How is this chart made? See Notes, below.
|1||Japan earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis||5||25,506||Tweets about the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, including the continuing nuclear crisis there.
See whatthetrend.com for a complete list of subtrends.
|2||Rebecca Black||3||7,934||Rebecca Black
Rebecca Black is a 13-year-old singer from Orange County, California with a music video on YouTube titled "Friday" that many people find amusing or annoying. It has received over 16 million views.
|3||#ThingsThatDontGoTogether||2||4,277||Tweets about things that do not go together.|
|4||European soccer/football||1||3,004||There was a lot of excitement over the unveiling of a new site for the the Sao Paulo Football Club. Barcelona's French international defender Eric Abidal had emergency surgery for a liver tumor. A soccer game in the Champions League between Bayern Munchen and Inter Milan received a lot of attention.
See whatthetrend.com for a complete list of subtrends.
|5||Nate Dogg||1||2,871||Rapper Nate Dogg died at the age of 41. People are remembering some of their favorite songs including "Law Low" and "Xxplosive."
Subtrends include: Nate Dogg, Lay Low, Area Codes, KDAY, Xxplosive, Nathaniel Hale, West Coast Legend
|6||#ThreeWordsToLiveBy||1||2,568||Twitter users are suggesting three words to live by.|
|7||#IfICouldBringBack||1||2,136||Things people wish they could bring back!|
|8||#BeforeTwitter||1||2,003||What was life like before Twitter?|
|9||#WaysToPissOffAFatPerson||1||1,703||People are tweeting ways to frustrate, insult or demean others who are above a normal weight.|
|10||#QuestionsIHate||1||1,591||Tweeters are posting questions that they hate being asked and explaining why.|
1. WTT tracks the appearance of topics on the Twitter Trending Topics list and each week ranks the subjects with the most cumulative staying power. Explanations of trends are solicited from WTT users, Wikipedia-style; a community-voting system is designed to highlight the best explanations while burying lame or prank explanations.
2. For the purposes of this chart, we collect and process data until 12 midnight EST on Thursday night before each Friday's publication.
3. Ad Age works with WTT to consolidate multiple threads of chatter into one position on the chart when it's clear related Twitter conversations are basically all about the same topic, even if they use different keywords.
4. In WTT's proprietary trend-tracking system, points are awarded for both duration and rank in the top 10 trending topics on Twitter. The longer the duration, and the higher the overall rank, the more points are awarded. Measurements are taken in five-minute increments.
5. The crowdsourced trend explanations above are quoted as they appear on WTT, and therefore may have stylistic and grammatical quirks that don't adhere to normal Ad Age editorial standards.
For more information about What the Trend, visit the WTT FAQ. And check out WTT's Week in Review, compiled by its in-house editors and covering an expanded general list of Top 20 trends (including hashtag trends) here.
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.