Going viral at age 13 has become a part of everyday life in the TikTok era, but it was relatively unexplored territory 10 years ago when Rebecca Black’s “Friday” music video rocketed past 100 million views on YouTube just two months after its release.
Navigating adolescence is a tall enough order for most of us, but the overnight ubiquity of the strangely compelling song and low-budget video meant that Black was burdened with the additional weight of sudden infamy and the glut of parodies that seemed to come from all corners of pop culture.
Remarkably, Black, now 23, has emerged as a strong, thoughtful and well-adjusted adult – not to mention a genuine artist with promising pop talent. Her 2021 single “Girlfriend,” a queer anthem that follows her coming out in 2020, is one of the best songs of 2021 so far, displaying a confident vocal performance and knack for moody, vibey pop.
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of “Friday,” Black teamed up with Dorian Electra, Big Freedia, 3OH!3 and Dylan Brady of 100 gecs to rev up a frenetic hyperpop remix of “Friday,” which makes the case that this song was always more of a bop than its detractors would allow. While quarantining at home in Los Angeles, Black (rocking her new bright red-orange hair) chatted with Billboard about how this remix crew came together, being proud of Gen Z and why “Girlfriend” is just a taste of what’s to come.
The remix of “Friday” has a lot going on: you have Dorian Electra, Big Freedia, 3OH!3, Dylan from 100 gecs producing – how did you get all these people together?
They’re all artists I love so much. Dorian and I had become friends over the summer through quarantine, they had me on a song [“Edgelord”] on their latest project. It could have been so random but because I’ve been a fan of the scene — a fan of Dorian, Freedia, a fan of gecs, obviously 3OH!3 goes way back for me — it made a natural fit. We were becoming friends anyway, so there was no one else who could have done a better job. It’s a community, hyperpop, and they’ve been so welcoming to me over the past few months.
Does it feel like revisiting “Friday,” or is it more like “Friday” never left your life?
It’s been really fun to have this be a process because I love seeing what every collaborator has done to it. That has been the most enjoyable part for me: seeing this thing that felt like nobody wanted to touch or get near me on for so long, and now seeing everyone be so excited, from the producer to the artists on it to the behind the scenes bubble of excitement and now everyone loving it that it’s out. It’s super cool.
“Girlfriend” is fantastic. Is there more coming in that vein?
I’ve been working really hard on this bigger project for a little over the past year. I’m stoked for it and I think it’ll come a lot sooner than people think. I think the sounds and things I explore might surprise people. Even from hearing “Girlfriend” I would say you don’t get an idea of the entire project. I put so much into this and so has everybody who’s been a part of it; it hasn’t been made with the idea of “let’s make big pop hits,” it’s “let’s make things we really, really love, and then go from there.” I’m really curious to see what people think. There’s a lot I have planned.
I love that on “Girlfriend” you sing about a woman. Queer representation is so important in music.
There’s so much representation to be had. I feel lucky enough to have this platform and have been able to maneuver my way through it as I explore my own personal growth into who I am now. I feel lucky to have a place to share that story. I know me at 16, 15, 12, would have loved to see someone who looked more like me out there, and we’re seeing more of that. I think any person who has a unique story, which happens to be almost everyone especially in this new generation, should share that. And should feel welcomed and welcome other people. It benefits everyone. People have been supportive and sweet. I credit young people for leading that. I feel really proud of Gen Z and what it’s becoming and the way they’re leading conversation [in a way that’s] different from what we got 10 years ago. I feel really lucky to have been so welcomed. I know there are still so many queer people all over the world who don’t have that same experience, but that’s also the beauty of the Internet — you can find your community and your people, and that can help guide you through it for a less painful experience.
We are seeing more of it these days – JoJo Siwa just came out, and something like that would have been hard to imagine 20 years ago.
So 10 years ago when all this craziness was happening, how did you stay centered? From the outside, it seemed like you maintained a pretty calm perspective on everything.
I don’t know if I was as centered as I thought I was back in the day. I don’t know any centered 13-year-olds. But growing up? Therapy, honestly, and taking control of the way you are taking care of yourself has been a huge thing for me and one of my priorities. It’s always a changing process and everything comes in highs and lows. I’m not sitting over here perfect and amazing all the time, but I’ve learned to be a lot more forgiving of myself. I’m doing the best I can right now. And that’s how I think about that song – I was 13! I had no idea what I was doing, and that’s okay. That’s what 13-year-olds should do, try things and explore. I haven’t always looked at it that way, but now I think enough time has passed.
People were snide about it at the time, but in a way, it opened doors for hyperpop.
It’s really funny to see the way people draw comparisons. Who knows?
Do you own “Friday,” or is Ark Music still involved?
It’s much too complicated and not worthy of anybody’s time. As most things of sampling in music, it’s complicated.
How has recording been in quarantine?
I wish I could do in-person stuff. I recorded the “Girlfriend” stuff not in bed but on my bed. It’s what a lot of us are doing, but it’s working. I’m in L.A. with my dog and it’s going well, could be a lot worse. I’m very ready to see people and not be home. [Laughs.] But I’m also trying to stay safe.
What else can you tell us about the music that’s coming soon?
The project is a pop project and I’ll leave it at that. I’ve given myself room to experiment and play, and I’ve worked with a diverse group of collaborators. The thing I’ve had in my head so long is finally in these songs. I do feel a new sense of confidence. I’ve been through waves and phases, but I’m more confident now in what I make.