Rebecca Black Opened Up About Being Asked To Change The Pronouns On Her Songs And Rereleasing "Friday" 10 Years Later
"I struggled with a lot of resentment after that song and experience — but at some point, you have to let that go."
Going viral at any age isn't necessarily easy, but it was especially rough for Rebecca Black when her "Friday" video unexpectedly caught the world's attention 10 years ago — when she was just 13 years old. Now, Rebecca's reintroducing herself to the world with her queer pop project, Rebecca Black Was Here. So, we caught up over Zoom to chat about what it's all been like.
What’s the first album you bought?
Britney [Spears'] In the Zone.
Who's an artist you’re loving right now?
I've been really loving the Kacy Hill album [Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again], Grimes, The Marías, Jessie Ware, and Polo & Pan.
Have you had a moment where you’ve been starstruck?
Especially when I was a kid, I felt constantly like I was in a room where I had no idea why anybody in it allowed me to be in there. The first true moment of [being] starstruck, for me, was when I got to work with Katy Perry. I was 13, she was so kind and I was so nervous. I don't know if she could sense how nervous I was to be around someone like her, who I obviously idolize — like a lot of other people. She helped ease the pain, but that was an "I was gonna vomit" feeling.
Describe your new project in three words.
Kind of everywhere. It touches on a lot of different grounds. I think lyrically and sonically, it's an everything-in-one type — which I really like about it.
Why did you opt for a six-song release rather than a full album?
The current landscape just allows for a lot of different kinds of releases nowadays. I mean, for years, I only really put out singles and I tried to go off of whatever felt the most correct and ready at the time. For right now, it was the six songs as a whole. There's so much other music that I'm excited to put out and will put out — that might be in a debut album, maybe very soon depending on how quickly we can get everything together.
Can you talk me through the name Rebecca Black Was Here?
The title was one of the last ideas, as part of a long list of title ideas, and it started as a joke. The more that I thought about it, thought about what the songs meant to this time, and considered the way that events had transpired leading up to this project — this project feels so much like not only a representation of who I am, but a reintroduction. Sound-wise, it's finally a direction that I feel really represents me and not necessarily anybody else.
BuzzFeed: That must be a very empowering feeling, especially given how long you've been in the music industry.
Rebecca: It's tough when you're a kid, you always feel like the dumbest and most ignorant person in the room. I definitely struggled with that for a long time, way past what I should have. I mean, nobody should ever feel like that. But now I really feel like a person and someone who has been through X things and has something to say and to talk about — and find that it's important for me to do so.
Maybe this is also specific to my experience, but there were so many instances where adults asserted the fact that they knew more than I did, as adults. I still get that as a 23-year-old — which, I get it, I'm young and I don't know anything. But I think I allowed that to really bubble up inside of me in an unhealthy way, to the point where I never trusted myself with anything.
How has the past year affected your songwriting and recording process?
It's definitely changed the way that I write, obviously. I was happy to get on the Zoom bandwagon because I was feeling very creative. I had a lot to say and I wanted to make sure I was working on that.
I think that this year, and the amount of alone time that I had, really allowed me to get a lot more focused on my intentions, my point of view, and perspective because there was nobody out there to really doubt me. I didn't actually wake up in the morning and see so many people to compare myself directly to or get compared to. Whatever it was, it felt like the pressure was off in a lot of ways. I think I finally was able to take a lot of pressure off myself as well. So that really, I think, benefited in the long run just because I was able to create what I really wanted to and wasn't so focused on making the song.
Are there any Easter eggs, perhaps lyrically or production-wise, on the project that people might not notice at first?
There's Easter eggs everywhere. There's Easter eggs in visuals, there's definitely Easter eggs in songs. I find that I'm able to be my most [authentic] version of myself in very low-pressure situations — it's much easier for me to communicate with people through something like a 2 a.m. tweet or 2 a.m. TikTok versus setting up a whole spiel. If I'm doing any sort of announcement or merch item, I want it to be something that people really can dig into.
What inspired “Girlfriend”?
My girlfriend at the time! Coming out really inspired it. On that day, I just felt really able to speak honestly and openly. When writing it, I really didn't hold back or try to bend any of the lyrics to make it feel like it could pass as a straighter thing — which might sound silly on the outside, but to a queer person it's really important. As someone who has been told many times to switch pronouns in songs, I just feel really lucky to not deal with that now. I feel really supported by every single person that's on my team and that I work with to be as queer as I want.
I think people recognize the power in that, because the audience is there and they are looking for the representation. Nobody wants empty promises or empty representation. People want to feel heard.
You’re releasing this project during Pride Month — what does Pride mean to you?
I feel like it means something different every year. This is my first time celebrating it as a fully out person — being able to go out and be with people and be with other queer people who have been a huge part of my coming out process. That's really exciting, personally.
Are you tired of being asked about or potentially associated with “Friday”?
In the past, I've had a really complicated relationship with that song. At the end of the day, I've had enough time to do a bit of recalibrating on my end, look at what happened, and I just have a different perspective. I struggled with a lot of resentment after that song and experience — but at some point, you have to let that go, or else it weighs you down and makes you more difficult to be around. I remember a time where someone would just be like, "Hey, happy Friday!" not even thinking about the song, but being a kind person, and me feeling like I'd just gotten hit. And that's not an easy way to live life, there's real other things to deal with. It definitely feels like a weight has been lifted for a while now.
You released the remix of “Friday” earlier this year — how did it feel to revisit it?
It felt very exciting, just to have something that I felt really, really proud of, especially — around that song. I think it allowed me to also kind of redefine that experience in a lot of ways and make a new really defining experience. It was so awesome to see all of the different reactions that it made because at first I think it just felt really out of my control with the original song and video — when I was so young, because it was never supposed to happen.
With this, I went in mentally prepared and feeling really good about it. I'm really stoked about how many people really loved the remix. I love the internet, like I love to celebrate the internet in different moments. I fucking love memes and I've grown up in that culture. To be able to add something to this thing that is a nostalgic thing for everybody now, it only adds to the fun.
What advice would you give to teens trying to get involved in the music industry now?
I think do it if you love it. It's been said over and over, but the market is so saturated, and there's so many people doing it. Everybody has access to so many people nowadays, and that puts so many people in front of others more easily, but at the same time it can feel like a single drop in a massive ocean of talented people. The thing that makes life worth living is, especially as a creative person, is understanding your unique point of view. That is your greatest gift, that is your greatest thing to cultivate.
Even if you know something happens that you didn't plan to, or if you feel like you have become defined by one thing — that doesn't exist, the only person that will keep you in that state is yourself. So trust yourself, trust your instinct, trust your gut — you're a creative person, and that will lead you a long way.
What's next for you?
I've just announced a tour. I can't wait to play this music live. I'm playing venues that I have been dreaming of playing my entire life.
Thanks for chatting with us, Rebecca! You can listen to Rebecca Black Was Here here.
Note: Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.