If you’re still associating Rebecca Black with 2011’s “Friday” single, it’s time for a new lesson. Sure, it was an infamous viral moment in pop culture. But the new era of the singer’s career signals a need to move on. She commemorated the 10th anniversary of “Friday” in February with an explosive remix featuring Dorian Electra, Big Freedia, and 3OH!3, doubling as the kickoff to an overall artist reinvention. And with the release of her new project Rebecca Black Was Here, she reclaimed her own narrative.
Released on June 16, the six-track follow-up to 2017’s RE / BL is a thrilling mix of sharp-edged hyperpop, glossy vintage-inspired melodies, and vulnerable lyrics detailing the heartache and self-reflection that comes with a fresh breakup. There’s a heightened self-assurance and confidence in Black’s tone, which is attributed to taking all creative reigns of her sound as well as stepping into her queer identity, which she revealed last April.
“Gosh, it’s been a really intense year and a half for all of us,” Black tells Uproxx over Zoom in her Los Angeles home. “I feel now, especially in hindsight, just really fortunate to have been able to take the time to really focus on what was important for me to prioritize in my life and in my world. Coming out definitely had a lot to do with the direction that my project has taken. I feel really good and proud of the progress that I’ve made.”
“I worked with such an incredible group of people who only encouraged that,” the 24-year-old continues. “They never shut my ideas down in a harsh way or got on me for anything that was too intense. They just really helped me grow and learn and listen and allowed me to take control in a lot of healthy ways. That I think hopefully lent to the project in the best way.”
That growth will soon be showcased on stage, as Black will embark on her first headlining tour beginning January 2022 alongside supporting act Alice Longyu Gao. Below, Uproxx catches up with Black about her love for pop experimentation and why it’s time for people to let go of past perceptions of her.
When we first spoke a few years ago, there were glimpses of you yearning for control. With this project, it sounds like you’ve nailed it.
Thank you. I mean, as a younger female in this industry, it’s very easy to have that control taken away from you. And in my case, I think being so young and having such an intense reaction to “Friday” to deal with as a kid really hindered that ability to take control of my own life and the things that I believed in. I just tried to never give up on that. And I’ve fallen so many times, so ungracefully. Now I just have a group of people who again, allow me to still move as I want to and follow whatever choices I want to make, especially creatively. I finally feel like that’s mine. I don’t feel like it’s anybody else’s anymore, which I struggled with for a long time.
I remember asking about your sound, and you said you’re not afraid to get moody or weird. With previous songs like “Do You?” and “Sweetheart”, there’s this trajectory where we’re like, “Okay, she’s slowly getting more experimental.” Then BAM, the weirdness has jumped all the way out on this project.
I definitely hear you. And listening back to some of the songs that I released a few years ago, I still have a lot of love for them. They were just a different part of my process. I think it was probably two and a half years ago that I really started to understand what I wanted to do. It was just learning how to express that and find people to bring the best parts out and really encouraged that. Even though the hyperpop world is as big as it is and we live in a time where niche is it, just go for it because that is what people want.
There’s so much in this overly saturated market of music and all people want is something that will spark some new thing for them or feel unique. But still, there are a lot of people that are afraid of that. I think a big part of finding my own sound that I have now was learning to not listen to some of the voices, even though you think you should trust them. You have to take a chance on yourself and on what you make. And I definitely did that with a lot of the songs on this project. One of the biggest silver linings of this last year was I got to shut out the peanut gallery in terms of making music. That allowed for just a lot more creativity. And I finally found joy in what I do in a new way.
And you could see that too, like with the “Personal” video. You go from being a B-movie housewife to going full Patrick Bateman on us. I know you love the ‘80s, so did you source from that?
I think it’s just an amalgamation of the things that I’ve grown up with and what I’ve always felt drawn towards. I am a huge — there’s gotta be a term for it — somebody who’s just obsessed with the ‘80s. That definitely comes through in “Girlfriend” and some of the other tracks of this project. I really had so much fun exploring some darker concepts. And I’m really into playing, especially in this era, with the perception of what people might have of what I’m going to do next. It’s fun to kind of break the expectation and go with whatever feels really exciting.
I also have to credit Weston Allen, who has been directing some of these videos for me. He takes my idea and says, “How do we make this as insane as it can be? Don’t think of a budget limit or anything like that. We’ll deal with that.” As an independent artist, I’m very familiar with the budget. [Laughs] But at the same time, I’m really milking every opportunity when we have to make anything a moment. I think I’ve just stopped underestimating what could be done with people who really care about and believe in a project.
What’s so interesting about this project is that each song has its own vision. There’s “NGL”, which gives me this PC Music vibe. It’s super off-the-wall, which had to be fun recording.
It was so fun, oh my gosh. I wrote it with Marshall Vore, who is a part of Phoebe Bridgers’ [2020 Punisher album], which is probably not what you’d expect and one of my favorite things about it. [Laughs] When Marshall and I first worked together, I was so almost confused as to why. I mean, I’m a huge fan of his work, but I just didn’t know how we were going to come together. He’s a huge fan of this glitch core music movement and is in contact with so many incredible young producers and artists and gives them a platform. So bringing in [producer] Glitch Gum to do the track was just so fun. The whole time writing this project, I never really felt like I had to live within any sort of constraint. And the way it turned out with every song being so different reminds me of some of my favorite things about pop, which is that it can be anything. That is how I would like pop, as a fan of it, to continue to be: something that pushes and isn’t afraid to break boundaries. I think that’s what’s made some of the most iconic pop artists of our time. If I can just try that for myself in my own little bubble, that is exciting for me.
I think you’re getting there, because “Girlfriend” has that ‘80s nostalgia. But then it’s juxtaposed by “Blue”, which lives up to its title with its very cold, chill-inducing feeling.
I wrote the song with an artist and writer who I work with a lot. She’s all over this project as well. Her name is Paris Carney and the track was produced by Cody Tarpley. This song was written in a really awful moment in my world, but it was really an important song for my own understanding of the situation and helping me process some really intense emotions. This project as a whole is essentially about one relationship and all of the extreme ups and downs of it. So that’s one of my favorite things about the project, as well as how each song represents an entirely different moment. Not one song is necessarily about the same thing, even though it’s all kind of about one broader experience.
Do you listen to FLETCHER by chance? Her last project did something similar where she worked with her ex-girlfriend and showed the different facets of relationships.
I love Carrie. And I think coming out before the project really allowed me to feel so much more free writing about that and actually speaking up.
I also wanted to mention “Worth It For The Feeling” because there are a few lines that really hit me: “I’ve been asking for everyone’s opinion, never learned to trust my own intuition. Don’t care if it’s a bad decision” and also “Gotta be honest, I’m scared to lose myself. After all the drama I feel like someone else.” It’s about really looking at yourself in the mirror and owning up to the mistakes that you’ve made.
Definitely, and almost all of the songs on this project are. The way that I experienced this relationship was I tried to be as cognizant of what I was doing and not putting everything on one person, which I think is really easy to do. But it’s when you really have built something with a person that means so much to you and that the other person isn’t necessarily a bad person at all. In fact, they’re just another person who it didn’t work out with. I didn’t want to make this about painting into somebody else’s words. In a lot of ways it was my imperfections and my fault, honestly, that that made things the way that they were.
So I try to always look at both sides as best as I can, even if I’m directly involved. There’s so much to learn about yourself through the mistakes that you make and the things that you try, but maybe don’t really work out. Maybe you think back to a few weeks or months or years later and go, “I don’t know if I would say or do that again.” I think that that’s an important part of healing and moving on.
Rebecca Black Was Here is out now. Get it here.