Remember Rebecca Black? She was the lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) vocalist behind the infamous viral 2011 single “Friday.” Now she is 23 years old, celebrating her queer identity and new sense of self-love with a pop album called Rebecca Black Was Here.
In honor of this new release and the ten-year anniversary of the song that started it all, let’s take a look back at what brought Black to this exciting new step in her career.
The Story of ‘Friday’
If you need a refresher course in one of the great viral sensations of the internet era, let me help you out. Rebecca Black was born in Irvine, CA. Although both her parents are veterinarians, she had big dreams of being a singer growing up. She was reportedly bullied in her elementary school years, and she switched schools in seventh grade to avoid the teasing. At her new school, she fell in love with a musical theater program that only strengthened her desire to be a performer one day.
“Friday” was the brainchild of two Los Angeles music producers by the names of Patrice Wilson and Clarence Jay. These two founded the label ARK Music Factory, which was a business focused on discovering and promoting young new singers.
Black was one of many young girls whose family paid the label a fee of $2,000-$4,000 in exchange for a song and music video. Wilson and Jay tried to jumpstart the careers of many other singers, but nobody’s track popped the way “Friday” did. It’s safe to say that Wilson and Jay never expected one of their clients’ debut songs to actually make them famous.
“I’m getting a lot of criticism saying I’m exploiting rich kids and their parents,” Wilson said in response to people who questioned the motives of ARK Music Factory. “Find me another company that would do all this at a cost this low. I don’t promise anyone fame. In fact, if someone approaches me with their only goal to ‘get famous,’ I tell them they’re not in this for the right reasons.”
It’s true–the odds of Black’s song going as viral as it did were one in a million. Jay was responsible for writing the music, while Wilson was responsible for the lyrics. Little did they know that bringing their two pieces of the project together would result in one of the most infectious songs to ever hit the airwaves.
The bubblegum-pop track and its music video were released in the spring of 2011, and it didn’t take long before Rebecca Black became a household name. Unfortunately, with viral fame often comes a lot of hate and negative press. It didn’t matter that Black was only 13 at the time–the mockery was merciless. The ensuing years were full of strife for the aspiring singer.
People across the country were talking about the song “Friday” for weeks after it was released. Things were no different at Rebecca Black’s school, where some of her peers taunted her for her music video. This ultimately led to Black switching to homeschooling, which gave her more freedom to establish a real career as a YouTube personality and burgeoning singer.
The Aftermath of ‘Friday’
People of all ages were fascinated by “Friday” and its accompanying music video. Everything about the track was so ridiculous, it almost hurt. There were of course the baffling lyrics, including:
“Seven a.m., waking up in the morning / Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs / Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal.”
“Fun, fun, think about fun / You know what it is.”
“I got this, you got this / My friend is by my right / I got this, you got this / Now you know it.”
If that wasn’t enough, the music video features hilarious artistic choices, such as a 13-year-old boy driving a drop top, Rebecca’s middle-schooler friends intensely fist-pumping to the chorus, and bad green-screen technology for days.
Basically, the song was so fun to mock because it was so unbelievably silly. At the same time, there were those of us who had to ask ourselves, “Do I actually kind of like this track?” I can admit today that I do find the song extremely catchy, and because it was such a significant part of my own middle school years, it’s forever imbued with a sense of heartwarming nostalgia. When was the last time a song brought us together as a society the way this one did?
Because the video was blowing up online, Black’s family and ARK Music Factory started having legal disputes over ownership. Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Tosh.0 were two of the earliest programs to put the song on blast and bring it into public awareness.
The original video was uploaded to YouTube on February 20, 2011. After it had garnered over 167 million views, it was taken off the platform as the legal battles continued. Finally, in September of that year, the world was graced with a new upload of the video, but we’ll never know how many views the original would have gotten if they had left it up.
Black has since spoken in length about how the response to “Friday” rocked her world on her YouTube channel, which now has nearly 1.5 million subscribers. Considering Black wasn’t responsible for any of the song’s production, content, or music video concept, you can imagine how rough it was for her to take the criticism for every awkward choice producers Wilson and Jay made. She certainly went through a lot more pain than she deserved, but now that she’s 23 years old, Black is ready to take her career in a new direction with confidence and class.
Turning a New Leaf
February marked ten years since Black’s life changed after the release of “Friday.” To honor the anniversary of the track that shook the foundations of her life, she released a cheeky, self-aware remix featuring artists like 3OH!3, Big Freedia, and Dorian Electra.
“I’ve had such a whirlwind of emotions and experiences over the years, Black told E! News in a recent interview. “The remix came out just in the absolute perfect way in my brain of how it could have gone. I mean, I got to work with some of my most favorite people on that song, and favorite artists. I feel like finally, I’ve taken a bit of ownership back into something that, you know, I was obviously a kid when that happened to me.”
Black also stated to the outlet that the release of the remix brought her a semblance of closure to one of the most chaotic and unpredictable eras of her life.
Another huge milestone for Black’s personal life and future career happened a little over a year ago, when she came out as queer for the first time on a podcast called Dating Straight. Her upcoming album directly addresses her first relationship with another woman with beautiful authenticity.
Black bravely shot down suggestions from creatives around her who thought she should keep pronouns vague so as not to lose any straight audience members. This was her story to tell, and if she could get through the brutal teasing “Friday” sparked as a 13-year-old, she can get through anything.
“I stuck to my guns,” she told Bustle, exploring the topic of putting out music that’s true to herself. “It feels so good to be able to create knowing that it can be as honest and blunt as I wanted it to be… It is so vulnerable, especially [with] this music being so queer..now I feel a lot less nervous about that, considering how supportive the queer community, my friends, and my fans have been.”
From Meme Queen to Pop Princess
Today, Black finally released a full album of new songs called Rebecca Black Was Here. The new music was inspired by some of Black’s favorite female artists, including Gwen Stefani, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Grimes.
The six-track project is about 19 minutes in total. It features songs called “Better in my Memory,” “Personal,” “NGL,” “Blue,” “Worth it for the Feeling,” and “Girlfriend.” The final track has already been streamed almost two million times on Spotify.
“I just really gave myself a lot of liberty, and the people I was working with too—the producers and co-writers,” she explained. It’s reported that Black even enlisted the help of one of the most prominent rising songwriters in the game right now: Billie Eilish’s brother and producer, Finneas.
“I think we all tried to challenge ourselves to push the limits in terms of what a pop project could sound like and really tie in as much as we could,” Black said. “I wanted to, in my own way, channel that risk-taking energy, because I finally felt like I could do that.”
Rebecca Black Was Here is now available to stream on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal, Deezer, and Pandora. Whether you love, hate, or love to hate “Friday,” this album is worth a listen. Who’s to say Rebecca Black won’t go from Meme Queen to Pop Princess?