Rebecca Black is currently best known for a song she didn't write, the 2011 single "Friday" that became an Internet sensation when she was just 13 years old. But that was over four years ago. Black is now 18, fresh out of high school, and on a steadfast mission to earn herself a new title in the music industry as someone who writes and sings catchy pop tunes.
She's already making a bold tactical move: Black told The Huffington Post that she and her team are planning her first tour.
Armed with some new material from an upcoming album and a few covers, the singer will take to the stage in about 16 cities around the U.S. and Canada on the Digitour SlayBells tour throughout the month of December, giving audiences "a first look" at what she's been up to in the studio post-"Friday."
"We don’t have a lot of time to prepare," Black told HuffPost. "We’re just going, going, going."
While she's eager to reintroduce herself as a songwriter, Black also sees the tour as an opportunity to find herself as a performer, noting that "it's been a while" since she's been up on a big stage. Because if you ask her what Rebecca Black sounds like when no one's feeding her rhythms and lines, least of all the so-called "music factory" that produced her first, much maligned video, she's not quite sure yet. Her days in the studio are a meandering blend of writing, recording clips and just talking things through. What is Rebecca Black's sound? Hint: Pretty much what you'd expect.
"Everything definitely stays pop," she assured us.
Black hasn't been living in the shadows since her video incurred the wrath of thousands of ill-intentioned Internet commenters. (Although a recent BuzzFeed profile describes how "Friday" briefly turned the then 13-year-old into a social pariah, prompting her parents to homeschool her for two years.) In 2013, she started a cheerful YouTube channel that's since racked up 1.2 million subscribers. She finished up a video series on Verizon's Go90 app, "Life After Friday," in which a professional video crew followed her around as she navigated the tumultuous time before, during and after high school graduation. She found a roommate in a fellow YouTuber, and over the summer moved from Orange County to Los Angeles to be nearer to her studio and agents.
HuffPost caught up with Black to talk about her revamped music career, the duality of the Internet, and, yes, that "Friday" video. In the end, we can't help but root for her.
So you're starting to write your own material for the tour and upcoming album. How is that process going?
I co-write everything that I do. So I share something that’s been bugging me, or something like that, and I talk about it. We’re all going in as very blank slates. We want to write something, but we don’t know what we’re listening to that day. We bring up songs from a few years ago that have a sort of vibe of what we’re going for. And from there, we’ll start building melodies. Each of us has our own voice memo going, and we’ll say, "That’s really cool! Save that!"
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
I would say I really love Donald Glover. It’d be a long shot [laughs]. But if there was anyone, it’d be him.
The "Friday" video experience was, of course, a gift from your mother. How much are your parents involved in your music career these days?
Honestly, I am really independent. They sort of just let me do my thing. They are also really busy with their own jobs. I consult with them -- a lot of it has to do with financial things, or what they think about this or that. When it comes to music, if [a song] is in a place that I really love, I’ll show it to them. I played my mom something for the first time the other day, and she started crying.
[Laughs] So yeah, they get a little taste, but I’ve kind of taken the reins.
This actually isn’t the first album you’ve recorded. There was another, 13-track album that you'd made with your former manager before pulling the plug. What about that project rubbed you the wrong way?
I was handed song after song after song from these writers, and they were really great, but I never really felt connected with them. And for a while, a lot of it was tracks that they imagined me to be, but I didn’t really match up with that. I just never felt that they were mine. Another issue with that was the people I was working with wouldn’t really let me write. I kept doing it, but nothing really felt like mine.
Just recently I noticed somebody posted a link to Reddit showing Google search results for "Friday" spiking every Friday for the past several months.
Oh yeah! I saw that.
What did you think of that?
I’m sure it happens with, like, "Manic Monday," too. It’s just inevitable. It’s a day of the week that doesn’t really go away.
You're no stranger to the uglier side of the Internet. Obviously your first video sparked a really strong, negative reaction in a lot of people, and you've talked about that before. Did you ever wish it happened differently, and you didn't have to read those kinds of things?
I’m not sure. I came from this background -- I never want to harp on and say I was the most bullied kid in the world, because there are kids out there who had much worse experiences -- but I’d always been picked on. But I had my mom, who was very loving, and my dad, who was very much a tough-love kind of a guy. So I was always kind of prepared. It never really affected me personally. "Friday" was never really supposed to be this thing [that blew up] so I don’t know if anyone could have ever done anything differently. It did what it did, and I wouldn’t be doing this interview right now if it wasn’t for that video. So there’s sort of a love-hate relationship. I will stand by everything that I do like that. ... I gained so much more than I ever expected out of it. And [on the Internet] I read through so much hate and weird things I don’t think any 13-year-old should have to go through, but I made it to the other side.
Do you think we're all doing a good enough job policing those kind of hateful messages?
I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of that stuff. I don’t know if it’s something that can really be completely diminished. There are people who are doing a lot of good and helping out with things like [fighting hate speech] but it’ll always kind of be around, I think.
Since that point, you’ve gone back to that same social media platform and racked up over a million followers, which is very of your generation. What do you get out of YouTube?
What I think is really cool about YouTube is that, now, there’s a lot of scripted content that’s really well produced ... but there’s still a lot of self-produced content. And a lot of times you’re seeing who this person really is, and there’s such a connection you get from that, of just someone standing at a camera and telling you about their life. And it’s like hearing your friend just gossip to you about something.
So it doesn’t feel too self-indulgent, the whole YouTube thing?
I know a lot of people can say YouTubers can be like that, but, to me, with the people I know, it’s really just them being genuine. It’s their outlet ... A lot of times 13 year olds talk to their friends and all they can get back is, "Aw, I’m sorry, that sucks." [On YouTube] you have someone out there that is going through the same thing.
It's kind of a double-edged sword, then -- the same platform that allows people to leave horrible comments for other people allows them to help one another.
Oh, yeah. Completely a double-edged sword.
What's the best reaction you've gotten from doing your channel?
I get a lot of girls that are only a couple years younger than me who say, "Hey, I have this thing going on but then I watched you," and -- even if it’s not me talking about anything hard-hitting -- saw me talking about whatever they have going on and for a second they felt OK and less stressed out. They’re getting advice from someone who’s been through it. If I make a video about how I’m feeling, they really feel like they know me and can connect with me. If they don’t have a mentor or older classmate, they feel like I can be that, to them. Which is really cool.
I have a few last questions that might make you hate me.
[Nervous laugh] OK.
Have you eaten at the restaurant Friday's?
Do you have a lifetime pass to eat there?
Uh, I have not been there since the year 2007.
Have you seen "Friday," the 1995 dramedy starring Ice Cube?
I’ve never seen it, but I knew that was a thing. I’m aware.
Is Black Friday your favorite Friday?
You know what, I’m going to say yes. But only if my birthday didn’t fall on a Friday that year? Then my birthday would be my favorite Friday.
Are you afraid of Friday the 13th?
No, actually. I’m not. And I’m going to knock on wood as I say that. [Laughs]
What are your thoughts on Wednesdays?
Um, well, today’s a Wednesday. It’s going OK.
What is your favorite day of the week outside of Friday?
I really don’t have that strong an opinion of days of the week.
Do you hate these questions?
Hate is a strong word. You know, it’s just a huge part of my life. It’s just a part of me, so, yeah, I’m OK with it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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