There was no way that Benni Cinkle, “that girl in pink” and breakout star of Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” would not record a music video. The only question was whether it would be worthwhile at all or just be another Ark cash grab, and how depressing the ensuing Internet mockery will be. That video, “Can You See Me Now,” is here. We cannot speculate on how much cash is or isn’t being grabbed at, although the gossip commentariat will probably take up that mantle in an hour. We can, however, call it worthwhile–no, admirable.
“Can You See Me Now” is a Trojan horse of a video; it’s remarkable how well it works. On the surface, it looks like another piece of viral bait. All the details are perfect: the title that jacks a cell phone commercial’s slogan to be even more “look at me!,” the “Friday”-ish introduction of Benni by her meme name, the big ol’ typeface blaring the chorus. Then you notice that its tags include things like “depression” and “abuse,” not just “Rebecca Black” and “dancing awkwardly,” which would be an awfully weird form of keyword stuffing. You notice that the chorus is less “look at me!” than “please, look at me, I need help.” Then you get to the second verse, which suddenly turns into what could be outtakes from P!nk’s video with a message for “Perfect”: scenes of bullying, cutting, purging, all the things that plague teens. None of these images are particularly original, but they’re still jarring coming from a video associated with “Friday.”
In other words, “Can You See Me Now” is exactly what we meant when we said people shouldn’t make useless music. Just by attaching her name and image to a song, Benni was guaranteed a drizzle to a flood of blog and Twitter viewers, many of whom are kids. All she had to do was the minimum. To do more than the minimum, there are two obvious ways to go: improve the music, or improve the function. The former’s too much to ask for a student without extensive musical experience, thrust into being a sorta-public figure but probably not public enough to get high-end producers and songwriters. Rebecca Black couldn’t do it. But the latter’s possible for anyone, and while “Can You See Me Now” doesn’t get past musically OK, you get the sense that it’s meant for people not just to click on and exclaim about, but to watch and maybe be helped by. Videos with a message work even better when you didn’t expect any.