If the name Rebecca Black doesn’t ring a bell, the words “It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday” surely will. At 13 years old, Black inducted herself into the internet and meme hall of fame when she released the viral video for her debut single “Friday,” on February 10, 2011. Since then, it has been viewed on YouTube over 151 million times. Described at the time as a “fun-loving, 13-year-old” by her label, the now-defunct Los Angeles independent music company Ark Music Factory (with whom she’d later have a very public falling out), Black tweeted on March 15, 2011, “My song Friday is now available on iTunes !!! Thank you all for your support. xoxo <3 :)”. It didn’t take long for the Irvine teen to break the internet — one of the first major moments of the 2010s to do so — and with that sudden notoriety and fame came plenty of adults and peers who let her know just how much they hated her, mostly for how much the song couldn’t leave their heads. The premise was impossibly simple: Friday is the best day of the week and “we so excited” every time it comes around. The end. Its music video starts with a young Rebecca getting ready for middle school and concludes with a “TGIF” rager filled with other 13-year-olds.
Critics deemed it the “worst song ever,” meanwhile Black became the butt of every late-night-show joke and received death threats that prompted a police investigation. Whatever the intention, “Friday” was searched for so many times it landed at the top of Google’s yearly Zeitgeist list. Eventually, as with all internet trends, “Friday” was placed in the meme canon and Black’s star dimmed. All of that attention did not spur a full-length album or a world tour; instead, the teen had to fight her former label for the rights to “Friday.” From that point forward, her career in music chugged along with a few self-released, self-produced one-offs and covers posted to YouTube.
Ten years later, the now 23-year-old has taken control of her image and rewritten “Friday” history. For its anniversary in February, she released a rabid hyperpop remix of her hit, produced by 100 Gecs’s Dylan Brady. It’s a musical direction that makes sense — one that fits easily into the genre’s origin story in the mid-2010s — as the sound is being heard all over modern pop. “Friday’s” role in pop-culture history plays right into the irony that permeates hyperpop: The remix is self-aware in its maximalism, melding perfectly into a new media landscape even more defined by overstimulation, just as the original did with internet culture at the time. Both hyperpop and 2011’s “Friday” beg the question: Is this serious? Is this what’s popular now? The answer is, somehow, both yes and no.
The remix’s music video, directed by Weston Allen, opens the same way as the original, featuring those same low-budget, flattened-out Macbook slideshow effects that were popular at the time — except now, Black’s not solo. Black leads the (even more) over-the-top remix, joined by bounce music icon Big Freedia, hyperpop originators 3OH!3, and the extra-dimensional Dorian Electra. She wakes up in a surreal world, with the digital clock striking 7 in the morning. She downs cereal and does a quick Wikipedia search on her name, flashing her lengthy, talon-like manicured nails. Rocking an all-black-and-blue ensemble — latex bodysuit, fishnets, combat boots, spiked accessories — and swinging a bright-blue braid, Black heads out the door. But the friends who arrive to give her a ride this go-around are none other than all the rage comic memes you couldn’t escape in 2011. Now the one in the driver’s seat, she drag races (not that kind) through the rainbow city against Electra; her gold record for “Friday” rides shotgun. It’s self-referent and satirical, visually layered with strobes and kicking the autotune level in the original up 20 notches; it’s a joyous take on the song that brought her so much hate at such a young age. More impressive, Black needed no one’s permission to have as much fun possible with the song synonymous with her career, for better or for worse.
While “Friday” and its backlash has been the story of Black’s career repeated for the last decade, there’s more. Following numerous singles and EPs, her debut full-length album arrives this summer. And like any other young adult raised on the internet, she has a following on TikTok, where she’s been sharing her new music, daily looks, and partaking in the trends. She also doesn’t shy away from the attention “Friday” brings her on TikTok, not only making jokes about the embarrassing moments of that era but also talking about how they affected her mental health and got her to this stage of life. She’s still giving us charming saccharine-laced pop, but she’s not the teen who sang about the best day of the week. Last year, Black came out as queer and began to speak openly about her journey to that discovery, then followed up the announcement with her queer anthem “Girlfriend.” Black’s latest single, “Personal,” released today, sees her coming to terms with the necessary end of a relationship.
The new music reflects a maturity that she sees in her audience, mostly peers who have gone through their own sexual awakenings, breakups, or have simply become adults with the experiences to match. To get reacquainted, Black talked to Vulture about all the influences on her upcoming album, and the new and old Rebecca Black, from Lesley Gore to John Hughes films.
“Papa Don’t Preach”
This is my favorite song in the world. And Madonna, obviously, is one of the most iconic reinventors of herself, ever. I love her willingness to really embrace being a pop artist; pop really came to one of its big peaks in the ’80s, but she always embraced it. So many of her songs are from my childhood. There’s songs that I’ve listened to for what feels like my whole life. (“Open Your Heart’” — it’s a banger.) I remember the first time hearing “Papa Don’t Preach” and hearing how long the intro is to that song and being like, I can’t believe you can do that. It feels like every rule that any person in music would tell you not to do and here she goes, releasing this six minutes or something of a song that’s an iconic hit. I love seeing people do that for the sake of the song rather than for the sake of making it listenable.
Dylan Brady is one of those people who has a really distinct sound and I love it so, so much. And I think that the way that the hyperpop scene has really evolved over the past ten years year into this self-aware thing — verging on satirical and ironic music, that has really [always been] a part of hyperpop — it all kind of circles back to “Friday,” in some way. It’s really cool to see an artist like Dylan Brady, or gosh, I mean, the hundreds of cool artists in that scene, just not be afraid to take risks. Risk is something that I, after “Friday,” was really afraid to take for so long, and as I’ve grown out of that fear, it’s actually become a really important part of the creative choices I make. I want to feel like I can do something because I think it’s fun and exciting, and not worry about it being liked. Even before the “Friday” remix was in the picture, I thought [Brady] embodies that really well. Same with all the other artists involved.
I’ve been listening to a lot of the ’60s and just like all of the music that came up as a part of the counterculture [that decade], as well as early-’60s music. I’m really inspired by artists like Lesley Gore, which I don’t know if that really comes into play in my music, but I do love a strong female voice. I really gravitate to not only what she emulates but what this era of the ’60s really emulated, which was a really hyperfeminine aura. There was this shamelessness in femininity that felt so much more for that woman herself, and for other women, rather than for the male gaze. As a woman myself, who has grown up in a time where we’re all putting ourselves out there and being compared to everybody, and also as a queer woman, I’ve always found that kind of femininity really empowering.
One of the biggest inspirations of my life, someone I look up to so much, is someone like Gwen Stefani. We’re both from Orange County, so I really connect to her in that way, because, growing up, I always had a hard time finding people from there who were in this kind of [music] world. I also just love her bravery over the years. There are certain ways that society has changed [since the height of her fame] — I wouldn’t go around wearing a bindi — but I do think that she had a sense of confidence, and still has a sense of fearlessness, that I will always look up to so much.
[Being publicly queer] is a huge part of the way that my point of view has evolved over the years, in every way. I intentionally make it a big part of the music that I have been putting out, and will continue to put out, because I know — and it feels crazy to say this — but there’s an audience that needs to hear it. [I know that] just from seeing and having heard so many of the stories that so many people in my audience have shared with me over the years about their queer experiences. I see myself in their shoes, especially when they’re younger — I see myself having looked for an artist that I felt represented me in that way. And I’m so stoked to see more and more queer people sharing those experiences. The more we can dive into that, and the more [stories] that we have to allow people to take from to write their own stories, the more it will help them. It’s really important to me that to have songs like “Girlfriend” that hopefully uplift queer people and also songs that are more serious and true to the queer experience, and in a lot of ways, to any human experience.
Someone who has always been a huge inspiration to me, and to so many other queer people I know, was an artist like SOPHIE. It’s been really difficult to process what happened to her and to lose somebody like her [Editor’s note: The groundbreaking artist died in an accident earlier this year]. But I think the impact she’s had and will have on the community in music and in her queerness is forever. I think it goes bigger than just what she was able to do as an artist, but really what she was able to do for a generation. That is the biggest achievement I think that anybody could ever really make.
I adore the ’80s. I adore its campiness and the ways that, up until the ’90s, you could really Über-romanticize things until it’s a dreamlike world where everything feels perfect and perfectly timed. Now I think it’s hard to emulate that because we’re all way too self-deprecating, but I love that about the ’80s. I think about Madonna’s True Blue era and some of the music that was a part of that, and John Hughes films, Molly Ringwald, those are all just things that I really love. I wanted to do [something like] that in a [contemporary, more-inclusive] way [with the video for “Girlfriend” and album rollout]. It’s nice to revisit these things that are inherently “hetero” with a modern view and for queer people to be able to see themselves in those spaces.
I am terrible with TV. There’s so many things that I know I need to watch that I unfortunately won’t, but I really, really fell deep into Pose. I mean, it’s such an emotional show and it’s such a heavy show at many times, but I think it’s so important for any person to see. I watched it with my mom, who is obviously from a different generation and is trying to be the best ally that she can be. Seeing the way it opened up her eyes was really, really awesome to be a part of and watch.
Her younger self
I had to really do so much growing up. There’s the standard amount of growing up that I guess everyone has to do. On top of that, everything that happened to me as a result of “Friday” was a whole other wagon of stuff to go through with a therapist. I think that the one thing that I’ve never really been able to escape is my own resilience, and it’s not something I ever want to escape. I always think back to the version of myself who was 5 years old and desperate to get on a stage because that was really where I found joy for myself as a little kid. Even after “Friday,” while I did have a really hard time with my own self-confidence for a while, there’s something about performing and a comfort I’ve found in music throughout my entire life that has never gone away. One part of it is just following that, and I’ll continue to follow it. Hopefully I won’t ever come to a day where I don’t get that [instinct] anymore. I also feel like I owed it to myself as a kid who had this dream. It’s hard to look a little-kid version of yourself in the eyes and tell her to give up, or tell her that you’ve given up.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
More From This Series
- How Britney Spears, Nelly, and the Clipse Influenced Amaarae’s Fountain Baby
- How Tracy Chapman, DeBarge, and a Glass of Wine Inspired Jenny Lewis’s Joy’all
- The Real Jazz Age Stars and Scandals That Inspired Damien Chazelle’s Babylon