- Associated Press - Monday, April 25, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - It’s Friday. Instead of spending the last day of her spring break vacation on the beach or at a theme park like so many other teenagers, Rebecca Black is recording tunes at the suburban studio of Charlton Pettus, a music producer who has worked with such singers as Hilary Duff and Clay Aiken. Rebecca realizes that this is very unusual.

“I’m definitely not some normal 13-year-old girl that barely anyone knows around school anymore,” she proclaims.

“Well, you used to be,” her mother, Georgina Kelly, gently reminds her.

The self-described “musical theater geek” from Anaheim, Calif., abandoned normalcy a month ago when her independent music video “Friday” became the one of the most popular _ and parodied _ songs on the Internet. The cheesy video and cheerful tune, anchored by Rebecca’s nasally flat voice, was created for her by for-hire pop music producers Ark Music Factory.

While “Friday” has its fans, it has overwhelmingly more critics, and has been endlessly lampooned for its searing mediocrity. Matthew Perpetua of Rolling Stone wrote that the fascination “mainly comes down to its subpar production values, grating hooks and extraordinarily stupid lyrics,” but noted that there’s something “uniquely compelling” about it.

That’s likely why “Friday” has garnered over 118 million YouTube views and sits at No. 64 on iTunes’ single chart.

“People think I sound like a robot, and in that video, I do sound like a robot,” Rebecca acknowledges while perched on a chair next to her mother in Pettus’ backyard. “I don’t want to be known as the `Friday’ girl. Hopefully, I can be known as Rebecca Black and not the `Friday’ girl. I want to be a performing artist. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Rebecca contends that being picked on in school prepared her for her role as YouTube court jester and that she only shed tears once over the massive critical onslaught. (“That was the only hour of tears,” she insists.) If anything, she’s more motivated than ever to prove the millions of naysayers wrong by turning her virtual infamy into an actual music career.

“I was bullied all the time in school,” Rebecca says. “I don’t know what was so different about me that made people want to pick on me. I thank those people because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here right now. I would probably still be sitting at home crying. I’ve dealt with that my whole life. I’ve learned to have a thick skin. I laugh at them now.”

Rebecca’s mother likens the $4,000 that she paid Ark to produce the song and video to what soccer moms spend on uniforms and shinguards. She never imagined that it would be anything more than a fun learning experience for her budding actress-singer daughter. No other ditty crafted by Ark for potential pop princesses has come close to the success of “Friday.”

Unlike a record label, which backs signed artists, Ark is a one-stop shop for wannabe Mileys and Selenas. The Los Angeles-based music manufacturer, founded last year by producers Clarence Jey and Patrice Wilson, churn out a song, music video and access to their social network for a price.

When the YouTube views for “Friday” spiraled to 80,000 in one night, Rebecca’s mother knew that her daughter’s life as an average Orange County teenager had changed forever. She is clearly not the product of Disney or Nickelodeon, nor is she the daughter of a musician (both her parents are veterinarians). Kelly says she was totally unprepared for the attention.

“Once I realized that my daughter was going to be a celebrity, I knew this was going to be a time when I really needed to focus on completely being there for her 100 percent of the time,” says Kelly, emanating only a slight hint of stage-motherness. “I have read and seen the unfortunate stories of so many children in the spotlight who have gone sideways.”

Kelly is keen on keeping Rebecca in public school and scheduling her recording sessions and appearances around classes and homework. She’s also still making her pick up her laundry off the floor. Rebecca says she wants to splurge on an iPhone once the money starts rolling in from “Friday” sales. Her old phone quit working after she was inundated with messages.

Rebecca’s mother insists that her $4,000 entitled her daughter to total ownership of the song and video, and lawyers for both sides are now haggling over who owns the rights to everything associated with “Friday.” In the meantime, Rebecca is moving on from “Friday” collaborator Ark with an entirely new entourage that includes a publicist, lawyer and manager.

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