Thing Called Talent: Ark Music Factory tells tweens what it takes to be famous

With the recent explosion of Rebecca Black’s single “Friday” (it’s nearly impossible not to hear at least one reference a day), a can of worms was opened up on YouTube, a can whose lid needs to be quickly closed and welded shut, never to be opened again. As Jerell Mays wrote last week, there is a new subculture on the rise—that of naïve, hopeful preteens and teens who are sought out (less for their talent and more for their parents’ money) and promised the creation of their very own music video uploaded right onto the world’s main source of entertainment on the web—YouTube.

It sounds like every kid’s dream, but as Jerell has expressed, it kind of annoys him that this average thirteen-year-old girl with mediocre vocal abilities is now making bank and will soon be able to afford not one, nor two, but probably ten of her own convertibles with which she can use to skip school…that is, in about three years when she and her friends are actually old enough to drive. But that’s another rant for another day.

Today, I’m here to talk about a lesser-known but equally fantastic (and by fantastic, I mean terrible) music video entitled “Thing Called Magic” written and performed by sixteen-year-old Serena Foster (who is she? NO ONE KNOWS). I can tell you this much—she is not part of the sinister Ark Music Factory production company (yes, I’m convinced there’s something sinister lurking in the corners of Ark Studios; for God’s sake, it refers to itself as a factory), but she’s just at their stars’ level, if not one step ahead of the game.

Think of this as a Tosh.0 video breakdown of sorts, as I try to uncover the deeper meaning behind the words of “Thing Called Magic.” It won’t be easy to figure out the subliminal message—the song might just be too deep for any of us to understand, but I’ll give it my best shot. For anyone who hasn’t seen the video or who wants to watch along as you read this, search for Foster’s song on YouTube. The song only has a meager 27, 814 hits; let’s see if we can get it up to 28,000.

The song begins with a haunting keyboard solo, played by Foster herself, and a close-up of her hands caressing the keys. The shot pans out to Foster throwing off a long, white coat, revealing a strapless, very tight white dress, long thigh-high white boots, and white top hat. This girl knows how to keep it classy. As two black silhouettes  of females dance spastically in the background, the video screams sex as much as any video with sixteen-year-olds legally can. The outfit changes are as frequent as the extra syllables Foster adds to words (more on that soon), and the more I see of her attire, the more I realize how much Lady Gaga has had an impact on her life. (Oh BTDUB, the entire song is set in front of a plain red background… shot in front of a blue screen! Why? Or why not? It’s too deep for me to analyze.)

Foster begins her song by telling us about her latest discovery: magic. In a nasally, but no less sultry, voice she sings, “There’s this thing called magic / It took over me yesterday / Suddenly all I want is tragic / Misery, lifetime, company.”

Foster made a fantastic discovery yesterday that she needs to tell the world. Unfortunately, the rest of the world is already aware of the presence of magic, and we have been since Bewitched in 1964. While magic is still a recent concept in the modern world, Foster has been sheltered from it all this time. Or maybe by “it took over me yesterday,” she is declaring to the world that she has acquired magical powers; maybe she’s the first American muggle to receive a Hogwarts letter.

“Suddenly all I want is tragic.” What are you upset about, Foster? Magic is fun! That’s why muggles have been trying to copy the idea of Quidditch for years. The last line really gets me: “misery, lifetime, company.” Now, she’s just throwing words together in a list that makes no sense is not poetic in any way. Maybe she’s going to be surrounded by the company of wizards for the rest of her life and she is miserable about it. Personally, I would be ecstatic.

In the next stanza, Foster begins addressing a vague audience, saying, “Don’t be scared / I’ll protect you/ The ghosts are very real here / I’ve got my compass and my magic stick / One puff of smoke and we disappear.”  First, no offense, Foster, but I don’t think you have what it takes to duel with the supernatural world, unless the pitch of your voice possesses some magical quality that wards them off. But it mustn’t be because you brought your compass and magic stick. What you are going to do with a compass, I have no idea, unless we’re trapped in the woods. Or maybe you possess the Golden Compass, in which case you just gained cool points. But let’s focus on this magic stick. Magic stick? What is that? It’s called a wand. Merlin uses one, Harry Potter uses one, it’s never been referred to as a magic stick. Only Lady Gaga or 50 Cent are allowed to use that phrase.

Then we get to the brilliantly written chorus: “There’s this thing called magic / It will make you insane / Rip your clothes off and steal your soul / It will control your brain.” Here we get to the meat of the song; she’s not talking about any old magic, she’s talking about dark magic. This kind of magic that she’s discovered takes over one’s life and renders them incapable of living normally. The oddly erotic line, “rip your clothes off and steal your soul” hints at a magic darker than even He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is capable of producing. Last time I checked, there was no known spell for the removal of one’s clothes.

Just when the lyrics couldn’t get any deeper, they do: “There’s this thing called sundown / It happens like every single night / Beware of black cats when they frown / That’d be one very spooky sight.” Foster has made a secondary discovery about life; it’s something that people refer to as sundown, and it happens “like every single night.” Phew, I thought it only happened SOME nights, but now I know better. Not to be left out, a superstition (the black cat) is thrown into the song, but it’s not a regular ol’ black kitty—it’s a frowning black kitty. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a cat either smile or frown, so I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Foster, however, has and can assure us that it is indeed a scary sight.

The next stanza was damn near impossible to decipher (I had to transcribe the lyrics solely by watching the video), so I’m just going to point out one line that says, “They say magic’s the root of all evil.” I believe she means money, but we’ll let this one slide since she has been singing about black magic for two stanzas. Then, the chorus repeats, there’s an awkward dance number that lasts twenty seconds too long, and we get to the grand finale, the best part in my opinion.

Foster is tangled up in what looks like a bunch of silly string, being held captive by the four back-up dancers who I’m pretty sure are jealous because Foster has been getting all of the screen time. Foster, wrapped up and rendered powerless, sings, “It’s like I lost myself / Do you believe in magic? / I’ll make you believe in magic / We believe in, I believe in, they believe in magic.” The truth comes out even more—not only is this song about black magic, it’s a propaganda video, recruiting members to join the dark side. If we resist, Foster will use her magic stick to control our minds and force us to join. Dammit, teen pop-star wannabes, not again!

The song ends with Foster singing “magic” over and over again, adding ten extra syllables to the word, which she did throughout the song. I think it’s a signature trait. She then kisses her wand—er—magic stick and the camera fades out. Genius.

Okay, now that I’ve completely critiqued her music video (where’s mine? You’re right, I don’t have one), I feel as though I should give her some credit. She’s sixteen, has only a handful of her own music videos on YouTube (mostly covers of other artists) and fifty-six subscribers. She wrote the song herself and was able to find someone to produce a semi-legit music video that has 27,814 hits thus far. My only YouTube video has less than 400 hits and is a poorly-produced skit I had to star in for a high school French class.

So, yes, she’s more famous than I am. She is making a name for herself, and she even has legitimate fans. I’m happy for her that she found the means to produce a music video and is pursuing her dream. What am I doing? I’m bitterly typing away at a keyboard, complaining about the decline of the music industry, crying on the inside because these teens with mediocre talent are being thrown money for making cheesy music videos. So, maybe Serena Foster has the right idea. Maybe I just need to find that “Thing Called Magic” in my life, too. •