In the often quoted biblical story, Noah's Ark was built by God's command to save Noah, his family and world's animals from a lethal deluge.
ARK Music Factory is literally nothing like that, I may use the image of a deluge later in a metaphorical sense but ARK is, in fact, quite distinct from Noah's Ark.
Anyway, ARK Music Factory is an LA based 'indie' record label (that is, independant of larger record labels rather than releasing 'indie' music), which specialises in 'discovering and recruiting' young singers. The label has been thrust into the spotlight recently due to the viral status of the song 'Friday' by 13 year old Rebecca Black. If the saying is true that there is no bad publicity, it's is equally as true to say that ARK Music Factory has been getting a shitload of publicity, although most of it is negative.
Most of the negative press levelled at the label accuse it of exploiting rich kids and gullible parents. An accusation I don't find entirely fair. Whilst I am very much freaked out by the hypersexualisation of the young teenagers, if you asked any thirteen year old girl if she wanted to be a pop star and be in a music video, she'd leap at the idea. The label just fills a market that is the sign of something possibly much more modern and sinister.
Who do we blame for this new trend? Celebrity? Society?
Yes, thanks to the incredibly documented rise of one little Canadian known as Justin Bieber, the internet and music is now seen as being a potential claim to fame for any prepubescent prancing pisshole.
So a company like ARK Music Factory charges parents a few thousand dollars to let their daughters sing a pre-written song and appear in a music video and generally be a pop princess for a few days. A reasonable service. The singer owns the master recording of the song but the company owns the publishing rights so whilst the girl owns the song, if it's published, ARK makes the buck. Quite a sensible business model as there are all manner of pampered girls whose parents would be more than willing to shell out some green for their precious offspring.
One of the main issues I find is that most of these girls probably have at least a small amount of talent but ARK twists them into 'hit machines', songs that contain all the elements of a high-selling pop song but with little of the skill of better music. The short rap verse by a guest which breaks up the flow of the song and is one of the better handled elements of the songs and whilst the videos are functional and not appalling, there is usally something a little off about them. If you look at a video from an artist of a similar age, such as Willow Smith, she seems a lot less awkward and I don't know whether it's the video, the artist or me as a viewer. Finally, whilst auto-tuned vocals are now a staple of pop music, ARK overuses the technique so much you may as well replace the vocalist with a Cylon.
I suppose my main issue with this influx of pre-teen pop crap is the anger levelled at the artists. A few weeks back Charlie Brooker wrote an excellent piece for the Guardian about the insane levels of anger directed at this 13 year old. It just seems that the parents are completely naive in this situation, as I said earlier, I don't think the girls are to blame at all. The naivity comes from being unaware of just how unpoliced and volatile 'the internet' is. That 13 year olds could receive death threats from a song released on Youtube is frankly shocking and rightly so. I doubt that in any crazed anti-universe could the parents expect a reaction so vivid for such a small action. A deluge of hatred (see, I told you I'd use the Noah's Ark metaphor).
Maybe Rebecca Black, as well as Jenna Rose and others are the first; the chimps thrown into a hostile and little understood space to gauge the effects on them. Perhaps other parents will see the 'fame' that ARK bestowes upon its chosen artists and continue to expose their children to the wrath of an unrestrained internet, perhaps ARK's business will slow down because of the negative blacklash. All I really know is, ARK is fulfilling a niche in the market, the kids just wanna play popstars and the parents had no idea of how violent and stunning the backlash is.
Here for your 'enjoyment' is a few of ARK's releases.
First of all, the beast, the world famous Rebecca Black.
Next up, Jenna Rose singing about 'her jeans'.
And finally, Danika. Talking about 'letting go'.