Pop singer Rebecca Black was just 13 years old when her single “Friday” blew up in 2011. Many critics were quick to jump on the track, with some even labeling it the “worst song ever.” Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion. It’s definitely not the best song ever. But what it is, is the sound of a young teen having fun while singing about the joy of the weekend, creating something super-infectious, and finding an audience for the catchy pop tune. It really wasn’t intended for the adults who were irritated by it.
Fast-forward a decade and Black (not to be confused with fellow SoCal artist Beck Black) has continued along the pop path. She’s 10 years older which, when 13 is your starting point, is a lot of maturing. And her sound reflects that. Last year she released the excellent Rebecca Black Was Here EP, and she has just released the wonderful “Read My Mind” single alongside Slayyyter (another pop star who blew up online). Haters beware – she’s not going anywhere.
“I started performing when I was 3 years old,” she says during a Zoom interview. “I was a dancer for the majority of my childhood, and then that naturally progressed into singing around the time I was about 9 or 10. That was when I really found a love for it. I started performing in performance groups in Orange County where I’m from, and that naturally progressed. I was 9 or 10 when I started doing lessons and I think that would technically be when I started doing it professionally. Maybe unknowingly, because ‘Friday’ happened somewhat soon after that and I guess that started my ‘professional’ career.”
Black was born in Irvine and raised in Anaheim and, while the two counties sit side by side, she didn’t come to L.A. until she was 11 or 12.
“Orange County is and has been quite different ideologically as well, and coming to L.A., I felt much more aligned with how I felt about the world,” she says. “I met a lot of people that I felt were more aligned with what I believed. So there’s a lot of differences. California from top to bottom is completely different every couple of hours that you drive.”
The performer says that her sound is always developing, as she seeks to create something that she hasn’t heard before. No easy task with this genre.
“Everybody’s inspired by the things that they’re inspired by and, just being a fan of music and caring about music so much, I have my inspirations as much as anybody else,” she says. “But I try to make a version of that and what I envisage it to be. It’s definitely pop, and I love pop. But I also am trying to challenge myself in terms of what that label might mean for the music I make.”
That said, Black believes that pop is one of the more exciting musical genres to be involved with right now.
“I think it’s always in flux, and the only people who can really continue to push it forward are the people who care to,” she says. “I think with pop music, it’s really easy to do what works and I’ve had many people around me throughout my time growing up that I had to do what worked, that I can tell you every single one of them was so wrong. Pop music is to me one of the most exciting genres of music to be a part of, and just as a listener. That’s only been because of the people who have really thrown all caution to the wind and just done really what they felt was pushing it forward or challenging the idea of pop music itself. I think pop music could continue to develop and become a really beautiful, intrinsic piece of ourselves and music, but really you have to look in the right places, and it’s not always what’s obviously in front of you.”
To that end, her new single with Slayyyter, “Read My Mind,” has a definite punk lean. There’s some glass in the banana pudding.
“It wasn’t really our intention when we created the song actually,” Black says. “If you listen to the first demo of the song, it was actually a lot more sweet and hyper-pop than what it turned out to be. But I really enjoyed working with Slayyyter because she had found her way with those kinds of scenes and references, with her latest music as well. I really love the grittiness of the song while also being a very polished, clean, beautiful pop song. I find that exciting.”
So all signs point toward a successful 2022 for Black. She certainly has an online community that will have her back. Aspiring artists might wonder how you build that.
“I think my relationship with that might be different than other artists and maybe everybody’s is different,” she says. “But for me, the biggest challenge was overcoming what people had already made up their minds to be about what I was. Working backwards in that sense to not only figure out as I grew up from when I first made my debut, I had to figure out what I had to say and what that would mean to other people, and doing that while you’re a teenager and also while people really feel like they have a definition of who you are already – it’s definitely difficult. I always just came back to trying to be honest and any time I strayed from really following my instincts, that was always where I took missteps.”
Next year will see Black working on her full-length album, and then she has a date at the Troubadour on Jan. 21 (COVID permitting).
“That’s the final show of the tour, so I’ll be pulling out every stop and then some,” she says. “Hopefully having a few special guests come on.”
See you there.
Rebecca Black’s “Read My Mind” single with Slayyyter is out now. She performs on January 21 with Alice Longyu Gao at the Troubadour