Rebecca Black’s music career is a contradiction. “Friday” — the earworm song that propelled the 24-year-old singer-songwriter to internet fame 10 years ago — was released on a Thursday, and the song’s good-vibes-only energy evoked the opposite response. Online, haters used the tune to fire shots at Black, and at school, Black was harassed constantly by classmates. “Friday” made her a viral star, sure, but not without drawbacks that would mortify any 13-year-old. A decade later, you’ll be happy to know Black is doing just fine — flourishing, in fact. Her latest project, Rebecca Black Was Here, is neither an EP nor a debut album, but it still is lightyears away from her origins. Now, Rebecca Black's crafting indie-pop that pushes LGBTQ+ pride — and her own queer identity — to the forefront.
Rebecca Black Was Here is hardly Black’s first musical effort since “Friday.” Since 2011, she’s dropped dozens of singles, as well as a six-track EP, RE / BL, in 2017. But, aside from her recognizable name and face, there’s only one thing noticeably connecting Black’s back catalog to her current era — its pop roots.
On Rebecca Black Was Here, those roots have grown into an amalgamation of everything obsession-worthy: vulnerable narratives (“Blue” is one of the best breakup anthems of 2021, while “Girlfriend” is the queer, get-back-together bop you’ve been waiting *forever* for), ultra-energized production reminiscent of Charli XCX (see “Personal” or “Better in My Memory”), and melodies fit for Top 40 radio.
“Pop is something I’ve always [considered to be] a huge part of my life,” Black confesses to Elite Daily. “The artists I connected with growing up were Madonna, Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, Robyn — all artists who weren’t just pop... they also emulated strength, which I really loved.”
But Black wasn’t always aware that she wanted to share a genre lane with these megastars. It’s true that she technically started out in pop music — “Friday” was a teen pop record, after all — but only by chance. “‘Friday’ was a unique thing because it was not at all done with intention — [I never said] this is the direction that I want to go in,” Black recollects. “It wasn’t supposed to be anything.”
When the L.A.-based artist explains this phenomenon, it’s obvious we’re both thinking the same thing: Oh, the irony. But today, she’s super chill about the whole experience. In celebration of the song’s 10th anniversary, she actually dropped a remix of “Friday” featuring Dorian Electra, Big Freedia, and 3OH3!.
Further illustrating Black’s peaceful attitude is her new partnership with Messenger, a popular direct-messaging app. If you’ve recently used the platform’s Soundmojis feature and could have *sworn* you heard Black’s voice after hitting the calendar emoji, you definitely did.
“I was so excited when Soundmoji was brought into my world,” she laughs. “The amount of people who have reached out to me and said ‘This is something that we send back and forth every Friday in our whatever chat or conversation,’ is so awesome.”
Black says she believes her Soundmoji is a way for Messenger users to have a “cool, expressive moment” virtually. But, more importantly, Black herself is having a ~moment~ IRL. Rebecca Black Was Here has already garnered over 3 million combined streams. Equally noteworthy is the visual universe Black created for the project. Its three accompanying music videos for “Girlfriend,” “Personal,” and “Worth It for the Feeling” are theatrical and eclectic, not to mention campy yet sexy.
So is the project’s cover artwork, a photo of Black grinning with ink oozing out of her mouth and down her chin. “[That] kind of happened by accident, but at the end of the day, definitely encapsulated the theme of what I was going for with this project,” she notes. “Opening up the darker corners and perceptions that I have not only of myself, but I think playing with the way other people see me and [imagine me] when they think of me. [The photo was taken] on the set of the music video for ‘Personal,’ and as I was going through the photos from that shoot, we had so many other options for planned-out ideas of what I had. But I saw that photo, and I couldn’t get it out of my own head.”
Black balances her spontaneity with intention — particularly when sharing her most authentic self. “There are so many different reasons why it’s important to be honest as a queer person,” Black, who publicly came out as queer in April 2020, explains. “For me, I felt like as a young half-Hispanic, femme-presenting person, I questioned my own validity as a queer person for a very long time. And I would hope that by being comfortable and expressing my queerness — whether it be through music or through being loud about the fact that, ‘Hey, this exists, and you might not see this down the street from your house, but I promise you it's okay if you feel the same.’”
With songs like “Girlfriend,” Black’s storytelling exemplifies the LGBTQ+ visibility the entertainment industry desperately needs more of. It also falls in line with that of her alt-pop peers, like King Princess, Hayley Kiyoko, and Fletcher — queer artists who are currently “killing it,” as Black says.
But Black also realizes there’s a long way to go. “Queer representation is important for every queer person,” she says. “I was just reading yesterday that in the past four years, there still hasn’t been — in a major film role — a nonbinary or trans character. That’s insane. As far as we’ve come, and as much as representation has grown over these past years, there’s still so much to be done.” Indeed, in July 2021, GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index, noted no transgender characters were depicted in any movie released by a major film studio in the last four years. According to Deadline, the organization called the absence a “glaring” example of mainstream studios dragging their feet when it comes to LGBTQ+ inclusion.
Black’s inclusive mindset is much-needed, and so are her overall advocacy ambitions. “I really love being able to interact directly with queer people, and I think I’ve learned so, so much from my experiences with meeting people and sharing stories, and the power of that,” Black says. “In terms of advocacy, I think there’s so much that needs to be done for the transgender community that I would love to be a part of and see.”
From supporting anti-discrimination legislation to educating herself daily, Black is always down to stand up for her community, she says. This year, she’s even been named an LGBTQ+ trailblazer by Variety, Logo30, and Bustle. And, as with many other rising queer artists, her dream is to perform at Pride.
Until then, she’s got a lot to conquer: In January, she’ll kick off her first-ever headlining tour. And, if you’re a fan who’s been waiting for Black to finally drop her album album, just know that the singer has something up her sleeve — she’s just isn’t one to rush the creative process.
“I’m definitely gearing up toward something even bigger than [Rebecca Black Was Here],” she hints. “I have a lot to prove — not only to myself but to other people as much as I probably wouldn't like to admit it. I want people to be as invested and connected to what I’m doing as I am. I want to do it right.”