“It’s so easy as a young female artist to be convinced to do something just because someone told you that’s what you should do,” Rebecca Black tells me over Zoom. It’s sadly a pretty ubiquitous reflection of what it means to be a pop star today, but Rebecca speaks with wisdom beyond her 24 years, and it’s something she’s earned.
Despite being in the music industry since the tender age of 13, Rebecca truly came into her own last year with the release of Rebecca Black Was Here. Armed with a hefty aesthetic rebrand and a slew of edgy pop bangers, the Rebecca Black of yesteryear was almost imperceptible. Perhaps that was the point when it comes to public-facing PRs, but for her, it’s beside the point; she is here, now, and she’s planning to stay.
Of course, I’m talking about the Rebecca Black behind the 2011 viral anthem ‘Friday’. Recorded when she was only 13, the video was universally panned, with one critic going so far as to ask whether it was the “worst song ever”. On the surface, Rebecca was unphased, she made a cameo in one of Katy Perry’s music videos, and released a tongue-in-cheek follow-up called ‘Saturday’, but the reality was a different story.
While child stars are nothing new, Rebecca was one of the first to so publicly endure the wrath of the internet. At 14, she was forced to leave high school to be homeschooled after facing relentless teasing by her classmates. “I don’t think I could have ever found any source of love for the song if I didn’t try to mend the relationship I had with my 13-year-old self and the little girl that was there,” she says when speaking about the fallout, and her subsequent time in therapy. “A lot of people don’t even realise how young I was when it all went down. I mean, nowadays, there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of 13-year-olds who are in similar, if not worse situations with the negative side of the internet. I hope that every single one of those kids is able to heal that relationship with themselves because it’s something I needed to do in order to move on and actually find peace.”
Now, her relationship with ‘Friday’ is pretty healthy. Last year, she released an over-the-top, even more autotuned remix, in what was a clear two fingers up to the haters. It must have been a moment of self-actualisation, I comment, and she agrees. “It’s been a long time and my relationship to it has definitely changed a lot over the years as I’ve grown. But I have a lot of love for it too. It’s actually one of my favourite songs to sing, because it’s so crazy to see how many people have found some sense of joy in it, whether it’s nostalgia or something else.”
It also means something else for Rebecca, who came out as queer in 2020. “I think it brought some sort of new connection with the queer community… I love it when somebody tells me that the song is a gay icon song. That’s the biggest compliment for me because I have so much adoration and appreciation for them.” It is, she adds, a community that she has always found solace in. “The queer and LGBTQ+ community was there for me way before many other people were. They showed me love and acceptance and that was something that I didn’t feel in my real life for a long time.”
The artist fully explored her queer identity for the first time in last year’s Rebecca Black Was Here. It was a joyful celebration of where she is now, with an enduring sense of playfulness; think glitter, slime, and a generous sprinkling of Gen Z trends (Y2K, E-girl… the list goes on). This zany sense of fun is something that’s clearly going to crossover into her next project too. When I ask her what’s currently inspiring her, she replies, “I am always very inspired by food and specifically, I love curry… So maybe I’m unintentionally inspired by curry, because I’m eating it a lot!”
Having fun, in fact, seems to be the overarching theme in Rebecca’s life right now. She’s soon to co-host the Coachella afterparty with Pablo Vittar, which will be a “really, really fun moment to be with all my gays”, then there’s Brighton’s The Great Escape Festival in May. Oh, and she’s hoping to get a matching tattoo with a fan in Manchester that she’s been trying to “link up with for ages”.
It’s a lot for an artist who came from an infamous viral track, but it makes sense. While a lot of the press underpinning her last album was about her so-called reinvention, that doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case — Rebecca just seems like a pop star, who like most 24-year-olds, has grown into themselves through much trial and error. “As a person, and in how I approach my career, [the album] wasn’t necessarily about reinvention purposefully. It was just about allowing myself to have the freedom to choose whatever I wanted to choose. I speak as a person who just wanted to be liked and taken seriously, and now that I’ve allowed myself not to be taken seriously, I feel like it’s the most serious people have taken me in my career”, she laughs. “Giving up might have been the answer for some people, but it was never the answer for me!”