Rebecca Black: The icon we didn’t earn


The release of Rebecca Black Was Here was a triumph for Rebecca Black herself in more ways than one. Not only was she finally able to express herself in a manner that felt profoundly faithful to her identity, but she was embraced by a community ready to hold sacred what she had to offer as a reflection of their own experiences. In 2021, Black finally realised – and transcended – what she had set out to do this entire time.

“All I’ve been trying to search for over the past ten years,” she articulates to BLUNT, “is how I could work backwards to feel that I’m showcasing exactly the person that I am, and the person that I want to be, as an artist especially.” That person as she presents herself now is a queer woman navigating her way through a world that has become digital as much as it remains physical, and where everything is so convoluted that answers seem more out of reach than ever before. Translating that into an alt-pop paragon, Black was cautious about retaining her integrity each step of the way.

“The thought of coming across as tokenising something like the queer community and being queer was always something that was at the top of my mind before I came out, because I’ve seen the way that certain people have unfortunately done that over the years,” she explains. “I’ve always wanted to be respectful. And so I feel really incredibly grateful for how the community has accepted me and embraced me…One of the main reasons I try to be so honest about my queer experiences is so hopefully, somebody can feel represented or feel heard, or feel like they have someone supporting them and backing them, because that so badly needs to be done.”

While it would be preferable to remain on the subject of this project and specifically to ask Black if she ever got back together with her girlfriend after her repentant track ‘Girlfriend’ dropped, the fact that she’s also the once-thirteen-year-old girl behind the viral sensation of ‘Friday’ will always be an intrinsic part of who she is. You’d have to wonder if any part of this EP at all was a response to the onslaught of offensive jokes that she’s been the butt of since the single blew up all those years ago, but Black has let go of the weight of resenting that time in her life.

“I’ve been very angry in the past,” she prefaces. “And especially in hindsight, I can see why I harboured resentment and why I was angry. And it’s because I was a kid who felt her life and dreams had been taken away from her before she’d ever even started in anything. Any person that would go through that, that would feel incredibly unfair. Especially now, looking at where we’re at and considering the content of ‘Friday’ – it’s nothing really that insane. But I’ve worked through it, I am still working through it, and I still have moments. And I try to be honest with those.”

It feels almost impossible now to imagine directing that much animosity towards someone so young just for the sake of a cheap shot about a catchy song. Thankfully, the years that have passed have launched us into a slightly more advanced cultural milieu, demonstrated in spades by the fact that when Black dropped a remix of ‘Friday’ produced by 100 gecs in February, it was inducted into the hyperpop hall of fame almost immediately. Black reflects when asked about what she thinks the response would have been like to a project like Rebecca Black Was Here if it came out a decade ago, concluding in ambiguity: “It’s hard to say.”

“I’ve only become the person that I am as a product of the last ten years, of course,” she surmises. “But I think the world has changed so, so much over the past ten years – I do feel there’s been a lot of progress in the ways that we talk about women and view women. I think that’s really apparent with things like the #FreeBritney movement that are going on right now…I think credit is due to the younger generation that is really trying to push things forward. I only hope that we continue to move in the right direction, I know that we will continue to fail and people will make mistakes, and we’re complex, but hopefully generally the trajectory continues to be positive.”

In every word that she says, Black proves herself worthy of being idolised by her devoted audience, not only for being unafraid to express who she truly is but also for how inspiring (and graceful) her journey in overcoming adversity has been. As she continues to use social media to engage directly with her fans, she stresses that just because she was the star of one of the world’s first viral clips, it doesn’t make her relationship with social media necessarily more special than anyone else’s.

“I think everybody’s relationship with social media right now is pretty complicated,” she comments. “And I don’t think I’m really that different in the ways that I compare myself and just generally as we all do, kind of suck all of the joy out of life by going online. But at the same time, I mean, I just try to find a balance between sharing myself to the point of where I feel I’m being really truthful and honest, and [maintaining] a certain level of transparency with my audience. But at the end of the day, I’m still working on this, to try to separate my value as a person from what the internet might tell me about myself. I think it’s an important thing for us to do, not just with the internet and social media, but with the people in our lives. It all goes back to that, I think.”

There are worse people that have been through less than Rebecca Black – and that’s not even accounting for how hard Rebecca Black Was Here hits, residing in the perfect middleground between dishing out relentlessly catchy hooks and remaining experimental enough to spin a thousand times over. Black is anticipating her next chapter already as she exclaims that she’s “really excited for people to hear what’s next,” and it’s also looking good on the front of an alternative influence (“I love Hayley Williams, I think she’s a god,” she admits). If there’s any certainty in this time of doubt, it’s that the grit that Black possesses will take her anywhere that she wants to go, which is something that she shouldn’t ever have had to prove, but has anyway.

It’s not that we’re disconnected so much from the simulation that we would call life a game, but if it was one, at the end of the day, Rebecca Black would have the upper hand. And that’s assuming that she ever got down in points to begin with – after all, maybe a decade ago when we were all laughing, there was never anything wrong with Rebecca Black. Maybe we thought it was okay to laugh because there was something wrong with us.

Rebecca Black Was Here is out now.