It’s been a decade since Rebecca Black became an instant viral meme at just 13 years old with her video for “Friday.” After teasing a new era of her music in 2020 with singles like “Self Sabotage/Closer” and her collaboration with Dorian Electra, “Edgelord,” Black released Rebecca Black Was Here this past June. It’s a collection of tracks unlike anything the singer had released before, exploring hyperpop territory, among other genres. The artist we meet in Rebecca Black Was Here is confident and witty; she fully sheds her former persona as “the ‘Friday’ girl.” Black, who came out as queer last year, takes listeners through the ups and downs of a past relationship, culminating with “Girlfriend,” an extremely catchy song about wanting to get back together with her former partner. The album has turned the singer into a queer icon of sorts—a career path on which her campy beginnings can be embraced. During Pride weekend, we caught up with Black over ice cream to talk about being in control of her narrative, the emergence of this new era, and her upcoming tour.
The A.V. Club: Rebecca Black Was Here marks a big shift in your music. What was the catalyst for entering the hyperpop realm?
Rebecca Black: It was kind of natural. I’ve been continuously writing music for the last—I don’t even know—four or five years, just trying to keep figuring out what felt right, and what I liked, and what made sense. When I listened back, I felt like it was really my sound and my song and all of that. I’ve been really inspired always by artists like Grimes, Robyn, Madonna, SOPHIE, just really amazing artists for me… that will always kind of find its way through. I don’t know if I would say I’m a hyperpop artist. But I definitely love pop and I want to keep trying to make pop that fucking pushes boundaries, and lives outside of what someone would think pop would be.
AVC: You’d been very adamant about Rebecca Black Was Here not being an EP; it’s a project. Why’s that?
RB: It was always what it was called, and from the get-go I had no idea whether it would be an album, whether it would be an EP, whether it would be anything. It was always an ever-evolving project considering how much more I have planned for this year. That’s just what made sense. It was this collection of six songs that I really wanted to be together on its own in order to put out, to have its moment. And make room also for more stuff. I definitely want to make a full-length album and I’m going to be doing that now.
AVC: How long was the writing process for the project?
RB: I started writing it in March of 2020, essentially. The last time I had released more than just a single was in 2017. So it’s been really ever since then that I’ve been trying to do something. I just was waiting until the time was right.
AVC: It felt like you had disappeared for a few years before emerging now with a new era.
RB: Well, I’ve been here. I guess that’s part of the name of the project. It just takes time. Especially, I think in my case, I really had to work backwards after “Friday,” whereas normally people that have something that reaches that caliber of attention, they would be working for years. And I was a kid who did one thing that was not supposed to be “it.” So, I’ve been continuously trying to work and do the work to figure out the artist that I want to be. And sometimes that takes time. I definitely spent a lot of time during these past few years trying to find that.
AVC: It does seem like you finally have full control of creating the music you envisioned yourself working on, and now the result is gaining critical acclaim. I’m sure that feels very rewarding.
RB: Definitely. That is what I was excited about for this project and this part of my life. It was something I struggled with, for sure. Now I do feel like I have that. I think that’s what really makes me believe in this project so much more. I’ve had a lot of help to get it, but at the same time it’s really a vision that I wanted for it.
AVC: One thing I love about Rebecca Black Was Here is that it feels like an introduction to who you actually are, rather than the internet’s perception of who you were during the “Friday” days.
RB: I feel like I was always asking myself, “If I was allowed to, what would I do?” And then I just realized, it is up to me. This project is about being able to hone that. Which is obviously an extremely important part of an artist project: understanding what you want to do and doing it your way and being cognizant of the people who are part of it. This project would be nothing if it wasn’t a collaboration. But yeah, I feel like I can really look at these songs and say, “Yes, this is extremely resonant of a time in my life that I’ll always remember.”
AVC: Do you think that “Friday” was holding you back from fully being able to make music in the way you wanted to?
RB: I don’t know where I would be without that song, on one hand. But I think it was really just my own insecurities that held me back. Those were definitely a result of what happened with “Friday,” for sure. I think I was getting in my own way with conversations I had with other music people. Yeah, that was probably the main hindrance over anything else.
AVC: It was surprising to hear that you were intensely bullied for such an innocuous music video. I remember watching it as a teen and being a bit jealous that you had the freedom to make your own music video as a fun thing to do with your friends.
RB: It was awful. I tried to make comments about that because hopefully that would be helpful to be transparent. But yeah, it was a really difficult time, being that young and just having so many people be so opinionated about who you are, and to not know who you are. It was tough. Looking back, I can definitely see that a lot more than when I was going through it.
AVC: There was a time in between “Friday” and your various single releases that you weren’t working on music. What were you doing during that time? Were you still writing music without recording it?
RB: I was only thinking about what I would do because I didn’t know. And I was so scared of the thought of not knowing what I was going to do. But I was also just trying to be a 16-, 17-year-old, 18-year-old, 19-year-old. And trying to just write. I really wanted to write and write and write until I was finding a place where I felt really solid about what I was making. And I wasn’t really able to do that for the first few years of even being out here, out in L.A. But, with time, things changed.
AVC: There’s unfortunately still a big lack of pop hits that are about women singing about their relationships with women, and your project being focused on a queer relationship surely makes tons of young women feel seen. It must feel impactful to know that you’re now playing that role for queer fans.
RB: There’s definitely a lot of representation to be had. And I can only provide one specific experience, but I’m happy to do so. And also, it makes writing so much easier for me, because it’s honest. And that’s always the most fulfilling part of music, when you make something that feels true to yourself. I just know how many people in my audience are queer, and I see them online talking about how much representation still needs to be had. And I completely agree. I also want to encourage any other queer people or artists who are making things to make queer art.
AVC: Every song in Rebecca Black Was Here feels like a chapter in a love story as it traces its ups and downs. It’s a breakup record in a way, but it still captures the nuances of looking at the positive moments of that relationship.
RB: The feelings in a breakup are really complex. It’s not often in a breakup that you’re just solely mad at a person or solely happy with them. And I think a lot of those songs, like “Not Gonna Lie,” “Personal” as well, even “Blue,” talk about the interconnectedness of loving someone and wanting them to be happy and wanting them to move on, along with also feeling really upset. Or dealing with them being upset and learning how to move on yourself. It’s not straightforward all the time.
AVC: You excel at writing about relationship dynamics, so is that something you’re planning to explore further in your next project?
RB: A little bit. I started to take things a little bit broader. I haven’t always written about romance and I don’t intend to only make love songs or breakup songs, so I’m really enjoying talking a lot more about my relationship with my mental health, and myself, and the internet, and as a young person what that’s like, and as someone who’s online all the time what that’s like. That entire universe—[but] definitely still some breakup-y songs, because I had a lot to say about that.
AVC: Are there any songs you wrote while working on the project that didn’t make it on the record?
RB: So many. Maybe they’ll make it one day, but there had to have been 50 songs that we wrote as a whole, at least. A lot of them are just ideas that could be fleshed out better and then they turn into another song.
AVC: You’re also embarking on your first major tour next year. What do you have planned for it?
RB: I definitely want to turn it the fuck out. We’re still like six months out, so we’re working on getting it together. But it’s my first time doing a headline show. I want everything—I want all the bells, whistles, all of that. I’m so excited for people to see all these songs come to life because that’s where I can share all of them, on a stage.