On November 13, a Friday, we sat down for our Zoom call with Rebecca Black. The woman sitting across from us shows remnants of the 13-year-old we all remember from her viral video, such as her wide smile and large dark eyes. But 10 years have passed and Black has evolved, adopting bright blue locks, a peppering of tiny tattoos and an e-girl aesthetic. That’s right, 2021 will be the 10-year anniversary of “Friday,” and boy, I bet you feel pretty old, don’t you? Now, Black is back with brand new music and ready to go viral once more. “In a way, I’m relaunching myself,” Black says. “This project is very honest to myself and my goal with all of this is to enjoy every moment of what I’m doing. It was created with a lot of risks, but they’re risks that I enjoy getting as a fan to other artists and I want to have that experience for my own.”
Fans have been eagerly awaiting new music for years, and Black is on the precipice of making that dream come true. They’re ready to see Black for the woman she’s become, who is first and foremost an artist. “I wasn’t an artist 10 years ago,” Black says. “I was 13 and I had no idea what I was doing. I’ve grown a lot as a person from 13 to 23 and I have a lot more confidence.”
Black was thrust into the spotlight when her song “Friday” became a viral sensation as the music video was watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world. At the time, everyone on the internet knew who Rebecca Black was, but few were singing her praises. The video would go on to surpass Justin Bieber’s “Baby” as the most disliked video on YouTube and Black was subjected to a barrage of hate-filled comments online.
Of course, not all the attention Black experienced from “Friday” was objectively negative, as she gained a fan in Katy Perry who performed her song on a number of tour dates and invited her to be a part of the “Katy Perry: Part of Me” documentary. However, there were also a few fans who took things to a place that would make most adults uncomfortable, let alone a teenager. “I remember very early on someone got a tattoo of my name and it was terrifying,” Black says. “At that point, I was so afraid of tattoos myself and as a 13-year-old, it was a lot to digest.” Black’s aversion to tattoos didn’t stick, but it did take some time for Black to get used to her fame and pluck up the confidence to make music again. Then, when she decided to make her initial comeback, the best way to do so was by confronting “Friday” head on.
“I was able to feel OK about making ‘Friday’ with my song ‘Saturday,’” Black says. “I was still only 16, and when I did that, my biggest goal was to take back ownership of myself—which at 13 I really didn’t have the ability to do. With ‘Saturday,’ I was able to say that it was representative of my sense of humor at the time and it was legitimately fun.” After a few years of social media silence, fans were surprised Black was back to making music and were especially astonished to get a sequel to her debut hit. But Black knew she could either be the 13-year-old girl who made “Friday” for the rest of her life or face the music.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that the farther and the faster I’ve tried to run away from ‘Friday,’ the faster it chased me,” Black says. “Nobody could even say ‘Happy Friday’ without me thinking, ‘Oh my God, they know.’ So the more that I said, ‘This is part of my story and it’s integral to why I am the person that I am,’ the more confident I felt. I didn’t want to let it make me a caricature for the rest of my life.”
“Saturday” was only the beginning of Black’s comeback, as she’d go on to release a handful of singles independently in the coming years and compete on “The Four: Battle to Stardom.” However, getting on top for the right reasons can take time, especially when you’re still in your early 20s and only starting to figure out your sound. “[For most artists,] you get to play shows at all the local bars and venues for a few years to work out your kinks, whereas my first attempt was what everybody got to see,” Black says. “There’s been a lot of pressure on me, but at this point, I’m not so afraid of everything anymore.”
As time has passed, Black has leaned into non-traditional ways to get back into the public eye as a musician, but this time, for the right reasons. As someone who first made it big on YouTube, what better way to rebuild her brand than through social media’s rising music platform—TikTok. “I think what had gotten lost prior to TikTok was a celebration of people being weird and different on the internet,” Black says. “That’s what made me and so many of my friends fall in love with the internet. Now TikTok is the one place where I can speak to my people who I know get my stupid jokes and understand the things I care about.” And she has certainly found her people. After years spent feeling like the internet’s outsider, Black is finally producing content directly for a growing legion of supporters ready to watch her blossom.
With fans in her corner and the 10th anniversary of “Friday” approaching, Black knew it was time to show the world how far she’s come as an artist and release some new music. And after a decade of being told by social media and the music industry who Rebecca Black is, there’s never been a project that speaks more to her true identity. “After I came out as queer, I had this collection of songs and ideas for songs that were living in the basement because I didn’t know when I’d be able to talk about them,” Black shares. “Now that it’s done it’s allowed me to reach a whole new audience of people who are queer themselves. I’m really excited about the honesty I’m able to have in speaking about my experiences with love and figuring out who I am, which changes every day.”
Rebecca Black’s career has certainly been a wild ride so far, taking her to places she couldn’t have anticipated as a precocious teen who couldn’t decide between the front seat or the back seat. But, against the odds, she’s emerged from the ashes of online infamy and is looking forward to the future, as well as the weekend.