In 2011, Rebecca Black became famous for all the wrong reasons. There was never any scandal, she never got into trouble with the law or posted anything that she shouldn’t have on her Twitter. The only thing she did as an aspiring 13-year-old singer/songwriter was put out an uptempo pop song celebrating the start of the weekend.
The music video for “Friday” went viral in March of that year and would go on to become YouTube’s number one video of 2011. It launched the unexperienced teenager to the peak of pop culture, taking her from the late night television circuit to also becoming the unfortunate butt end of countless online jokes and uneducated opinions. Apparently those who referred to “Friday” as the worst song ever had never listened to the Black Eyed Peas.
Black, now 19-years-old, finds herself in what some consider a veteran position in the industry with all the experiences she’s had from a young age. The singer has since taken the time to develop as a person, as a fan and as a songwriter, and has since released a pair of impressive electropop singles with 2016’s “The Great Divide” and more recently, “Foolish.” The latter was produced by Greg Ogan (Kelly Clarkson, Rihanna, Britney Spears) and Spencer Neezy (The Game).
Long gone is her younger, undeveloped voice that people remember hearing when they think back to how “Friday” sounded. In its place is a fuller, more mature voice of a still-aspiring recording artist with more experience behind her before age 20 than most musicians take in within a lifetime.
AXS recently caught up with Rebecca, who had also just returned from Coachella, to talk about the journey she’s taken since 2011, and how she’s planning to open the next chapter in her promising career.
AXS: According to your Instagram, it looks like you had a good time at Coachella a few weeks ago, how was your experience this year? Were there any specific sets you were super into?
RB: It was very fun. I've been going for four years now and it’s crazy to see how much it has changed. I saw Lorde and Kendrick, and the headliners were really great. There’s another band called Phantogram that I really love. I’d heard really great things about their live performance and they ended up being pretty phenomenal. Same with Glass Animals, they’re another one of my favorite bands.
AXS: Let’s go to the beginning of 2012, following the whirlwind year you had in 2011, what was your mindset like going forward as a singer at the time?
RB: I mean I was only 14, and at that point the dust had kind of settled a little bit. I think there were a lot of questions as to what’s next, and truly I didn’t know. I was so young and that whole year was such a blur. There was so much great stuff that happened and obviously so much negativity that I had to deal with as well. At that point, I knew this was my thing. I had a very unusual start, but at the end of the day, this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. There were a lot of people who had their ideas of what they wanted me to be now that I had this burst of success, although some people might not call it that, but I had to figure out what I really wanted and I wasn’t prepared for that yet.
AXS: What do you remember were the biggest changes in your daily life following “Friday?”
RB: At the time, the biggest was that I went from spending my days in a musical theater room practicing songs and dance at school where I’m from in Orange County, to now spending half my time living in L.A. hotels. By then I had been in the studio and I had producers sending songs over. There were also a lot of people who all of a sudden had an opinion and felt like they had a right to tell me what I was and what I should be, and I really struggled with that. On the other hand, at that point I hadn’t yet learned the balance of being a kid and having this opportunity for a real career, which was something that I really wanted but never knew that I could have at that age.
RB: That was amazing. I will always, always be so appreciative of her because as a kid, even before “Friday,” I loved her. To have someone who I idolized and really looked up to have my back like that, that’s something I’ll always be so appreciative of. She was very welcoming on set of the music video. I was nervous and freaking out, and so scared because I’m just this girl from Orange County and here I am on this huge set with all these people. She made me feel very at home where we could just have fun. The things we were doing were just ridiculous, like waxing her upper lip and playing with chicken cutlets. Beyond that, I performed with her at one of her shows in L.A. a few months later, and before the show I got the chance to just speak with her. She preaches to just stay grounded and remember who you are and where you come from, because it’s hard to find people who will consider that in this industry and as you grow up in general.
AXS: With “Foolish” and “The Great Divide,” what were some musical elements that you really wanted listeners to take away as you re-introduce yourself as a recording artist?
RB: As I was growing up I started listening to music that wasn’t top 40. I had a lot of time on my hands now that I was homeschooled and started loving alternative dance. Young The Giant became one of my all-time favorite bands, and I love acts like Cage the Elephant, but also started loving electronic stuff a little later like Flume and Disclosure. I just had this huge variety of music I was listening to with no idea on what to do with it when it came to using it to help my own stuff. After lots of different [recording] sessions and lots of time writing, I came back to the idea that I love pop music and wanted to make really good versions of it. With “Foolish,” what I love so much about this song, other than the story and meaning behind it, was that I wanted it to feel fresh but not overtly current. Everyone is doing [beat] drops and they’re great, but what I love about this song is that it feels good to listen to. “The Great Divide” was really the first play on trying to figure out the mix between electronic and pop, and finding what works.
AXS: What advice would you give to your younger self on what the nature of fame and celebrity really does to someone both positively and negatively?
RB: I wish someone would have told me, and maybe they did and I just wasn’t prepared to listen, that if there’s one thing you have to latch onto, it’s your individuality. That will not only help you succeed, but will save you in those times of ‘Oh my God, everyone has a different opinion of me right now and I’ve got too many people telling me to release this or not do this!’ Individuality belongs to yourself and it's what makes people love you. I wish someone would’ve encouraged that out of me more because it’s something really hard to get back if you give it up. Another thing is be nice to yourself, that’s a big one.
AXS: What is something about yourself that you feel is important for the world to know as you re-enter the ring with a career in music?
RB: If there’s one thing that I hope people take away from this new music and what I’m trying to say with it, is I just want people to feel like there’s someone else out there who might understand them. I’m only 19, I don’t have the perspective of a 40-year-old quite yet, but I do have experience as a teenager, and I know those feelings of being misunderstood or like someone could never understand you. I think with this music, I’m just trying to be honest with experiences, even the ones that are sh*tty and suck, but also the ones that make you feel like you’re on top of the world.
AXS: Can you see yourself adding “Friday” into future setlists?
RB: [Laughs] You know, what I do love about that song is that every time I play it, which I still do and try to do something different with it every now and then, is that people love to sing along to it. Whether or not they actually like the song, when it comes on and I’m performing it, everyone is singing along with me. It’s just fun, so I dunno, maybe. There are times when I get frustrated because of the things that happened because of it, at the end of the day I love that song because of its innocence.