The credit for breaking the internet could go to Rebecca Black who, in 2011 at age 13, unleashed the earworm ’tween anthem “Friday,” resulting in an impressive 158 million views. The tune was simultaneously eviscerated as the worst song ever written.
The viral sensation has since been parodied and celebrated a number of times. Katy Perry featured Black in her “Last Friday Night” music video; the song was the inspiration for a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial in 2018, and Black even wrote a tongue-in-cheek follow-up called “Saturday” with Dave Days in 2013.
Fans heading to her first headlining tour — making a stop at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on Jan. 18 — might not recognize that “Friday” girl anymore. She’s 24 years old now, and she’s made a lot of strides in her artistry and own identity, as seen with last summer’s EP (her first in 10 years) called “Rebecca Black Was Here,” released on her RB Records label. Hailed by NME as a case of a “viral star finding her voice,” the six-track recording with the heartfelt dream pop track “Blue” and the matured ebullience of “Girlfriend” did an about face, introducing a verified hyperpop star..
“I think other people have called it a comeback, and I totally understand why, considering I’ve been around for almost 11 years even though I’m only 24. But for me, I feel in a lot of ways like this is not even a fresh start, but finally I am ready. I finally know what I’m doing,” Black said during a recent interview. “It took the normal years that it would take for anybody to really figure out what they want to say and who they are.”
If you know her from “Friday” she hopes you will accept her for who she is now. “I’ll let all the ‘Friday’ jokes happen, I get it,” she says. “But the idea of defining a person from when they were super-young, or defining anyone from any one moment, inhibits a lot of freedom and creativity that I think people deserve to have.”
For the 10th anniversary of the now RIAA Gold certified “Friday” in 2021, Black revamped the track with a flashy electro-clash remix featuring Big Freedia, Dorian Electra and 3OH!3, perhaps how the song always should have been presented.
In the 10-year interim before her public metamorphosis, the Irvine, California, native says she “was growing up for a majority of it,” while also finishing high school — eventually having to transition to home schooling after falling victim to relentless bullying at the hands of classmates and online death threats.
In spite of the cyberbullying, Black still opts to release most of her music and content on YouTube, including her latest effort, “Read My Mind,” featuring Slayyyter that debuted in December alongside a video directed by frequent collaborator Weston Allen. Black is one of YouTube’s most successful creators — 1.5 million followers and growing — and a poster child for a newer generation that has relied heavily on the platform to gain an audience.
“I was somebody who grew up on the internet. I grew up watching YouTube from the time it basically [began], and that was what I knew and loved, especially when I was transitioning into home school after ‘Friday.’ The internet was where I found a massive source of my relationships and friendships as a teenager,” she said. “I think the internet, when it’s at its best, can be a really beautiful source of community for anybody.”
It’s a place where she’s also shared a lot of herself. In 2020, Black publicly came out as queer on an episode of the “Dating Straight” podcast and has since been celebrated as a queer icon. Her advocacy with GLAAD, Best Buddies and the AdCouncil, and her song “Girlfriend” in particular, landed her on Variety’s 2021 “Power of Pride” list and Bustle’s 2021 Pride Yearbook.
“I grew up very similarly to many of the people in my audience. I was finding my own kind of relationship with myself and I’m lucky to be in a time where more and more people are coming out and being more honest,” Black said. “So it only felt natural, especially as I started putting myself into my music more, that I might as well be honest about this. And I have something to say here.”
She adds that in speaking out she also hopes to make others feel safe to do so. “I didn’t realize it was valid until I had conversations with people like me. It’s so important for everybody to have representation out there.”