Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ark Music Factory: 3 songs

The recent blogsplosion caused by Rebecca Black's jaw-dropping "Friday" has shone a light onto Ark Music Factory, the... uh... music factory behind the song and video. I'm not going to talk about "Friday" here, not only because it's been covered in depth by plenty of others but because it's completely irrelevant to this blog; unless my brain is protecting me by keeping clumps of information about the song from penetrating my consciousness (certainly a possibility), there isn't a SFCP to be found anywhere. But further investigation into Ark Music Factory's output has revealed that it certainly could have been a possibility.

There's one question always at the back of my mind when confronting the SFCP (and possibly at the front of yours whenever I update the song list or make a new post), which is whether the use of this particular chord progression indicates a lack of creativity on the part of the songwriters. And in general, the answer is no, not any more than the use of a 12-bar blues progression argues that that entire genre of music is driven by uninspired copycats and has been for almost a century.

But it's instances like this that make the strongest case for anybody who wants to argue that it's a chord progression used by talent-light hacks too lazy to put any more effort into their writing than is necessary to spit out something at the end that can reasonably be called a song. Ark Music Factory is, among other things, a songwriting/production house specifically tasked with churning out assembly-line product on demand that will make its customers feel like they're pop stars who could compete in the current music climate. It's AMF's job to come up with songs that sound -- as much its turnaround time, talent and level of apathy about the finished result will allow -- like everything else on the radio.

So we end up with Danika's "Let You Go," way up at the top, which rides on an unwavering SFCP in the key of Bm from start to finish. And Abby Victor's "Crush On You," also in Bm but restricted to the start of the chorus:

Then there's Alana Lee's "Butterflies," another song with a SFCP chorus (in Dm):

There could be others, but I've listened to 13 songs by this outfit already, and frankly, that's as much half-assed vanity-press pop music as I can deliberately seek out and inflict upon myself for the foreseeable future. (If you discover any other SFCP songs from AMF's "roster" of "talent," feel free to let me know in the comments, and I'll add them.) It's enough to notice that the folks behind these songs pretty much incorporate the SFCP in the same way they incorporate Auto-Tune: bluntly and with as much subtlety as a wrecking ball. If there's a SFCP in there, it's because AMF is convinced (or is looking to convince you) that that's just how pop music sounds today.

Look, I can't cast too many aspersions on these kids and their families for shelling out cash to this crew. If we start down that road, we'd have to start waving pitchforks at anybody who ever participated in a rock and roll fantasy camp, or a baseball fantasy camp or, heck, a music and arts camp of any kind. People have spent ridiculous amounts of money on any number of ways of being a king or queen for a day. And they usually culminate in some sort of performance. In broad strokes, the only difference is that these girls go up on YouTube and iTunes when it's done instead of battling it out against Camp Star in the Final Jam.

No, my aspersions are reserved for Ark Music Factory itself. As evidenced by the excessive use of the SFCP, the fascination with lens-flaring the crap out of the videos and the insistence that a song just isn't a song without a rap verse somewhere after the second chorus (which brings up the other issue of why the producers are so intent on inserting themselves into someone else's dream-come-true video), AMF doesn't seem to have too many ideas of any kind, and what few it has keeps running out long before the cash stops rolling in. It's not that it's in the business of making mindless teen-pop for a fee that bugs me. It's that it's so lousy at it.