Building up a cult following, REBECCA BLACK is one of pop’s most endearing success stories.
Words: Jessica Goodman.
“Even before I knew this was what my life was going to be like, and this was what I was going to get to do, I built my whole life off of performing and trying to understand an audience and how to get them in.” To put it simply, Rebecca Black is living her dream. Travelling around the world, playing shows celebrating her ever-so-anticipated debut album ‘Let Her Burn’, this alt-pop sensation is having the time of her life.
If you’ve been to one of her shows, then you’ve seen that for yourself. Armed with backup dancers, a bedazzled chainsaw, and an abundance of hyperpop bops, there’s a very real sense that on stage in front of a fired-up crowd is where Rebecca is meant to be. “I’m just having fun and going for it,” she grins. “The fact that my audience does the same? The way that they look out for each other, the amount of fun that they’re having… That’s one of my favourite things to see. I feel really, really lucky.”
Dressing to the nines every night, all-out dancing around the room, even starting up a venue-wide cheer-chant of “gay shit!” at a London date, her fans put just as much energy into her shows as she does. “It’s the most rewarding feeling,” she describes. “I put so much work into this, and everyone on my crew puts so much work into this for a reason. I’m just really proud of the audience that I have.”
Speaking a few days before wrapping up the last of her ‘Let Her Burn’ tour dates, Rebecca is hyped up and ready to go. “I think, for me, live shows are so important because they are the one hour that I get to spend in person with the people that are spending so much of their time keeping me going, supporting me, buying the merch, listening to the music,” she enthuses. “I literally was told, hundreds of times, that would never happen.”
“It’s a fun era, for sure”Rebecca Black
Achieving unexpected infamy pretty much overnight with her much-memed music video for ‘Friday’ over a decade ago, her journey from viral flop to iconic pop has been a long and public one. A viral hit for all the wrong reasons, ‘Friday’ became a magnet for vitriol to such an extent that it was, for a while, the most disliked video on YouTube.
“I think one of the craziest parts of what I dealt with was that your world stops being this tiny little middle school bubble of what is important to you and what is not,” she describes. “When that opens up into the entire world, or at least what that feels like, when you’re 13, you’re just not able to really handle or process or understand that.”
“Dealing with that as a child,” she continues, “it’s just impossible to not struggle with reclaiming that.” But reclaim it she has done. A tenth-anniversary remix produced by 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady saw her recreate the track on her own terms. Now, ‘Friday’ is a euphoric and empowering part of every live show she plays, a hyperpop anthem that not only celebrates where she came from but also compliments the music she’s writing and releasing right now.
Music has been one of the main loves in her life for almost as long as she can remember. The album that started it all? ‘In The Zone’ by Britney Spears. “I would sit in this little office room in our house, play the CD, and perform it top down,” she recalls. “I just loved it.” How much those songs meant to her is something she finds hard to put into words.
Describing it as feeling “like I was on meth”, she starts to laugh, quickly rectifying her statement in an attempt to do her meaning justice. “I’ve never done that, so I don’t even know what that feels like.” What she’s trying to express is as all-encompassing as it is ineffable, a sense of being seen and heard and recognised that comes when you find something you feel particular to you set down by someone else and brought to life in song.
“I felt an unexplainable feeling that I would come to realise was like, ‘Oh, you are really connecting with this music’,” she conveys. “That’s my favourite thing when you’re listening to something, and it literally makes you feel like you could punch down a wall because it feels that energising and alive.”
It’s this same feeling that she strives for and prizes in her own music and at her live shows. With the release of her achingly-long-time-coming debut album ‘Let Her Burn’ at the start of this year, Rebecca Black reintroduced herself to the world as an artist on fire. After more than a decade of fighting to prove herself, this is how she’s meant to be heard.
“It’s the debut! Everyone tells you it’s the moment that you’re never gonna get again,” she laughs, thinking back on the pressure she felt when she finished working on ‘Let Her Burn’ early last summer. “I really was in my head about what I wanted to deliver and what I thought everyone deserved.”
Released in February while she was in the middle of a headline UK tour, ‘Let Her Burn’ is Pop with a capital ‘P’, a record that’s as electric as it is eclectic as it is exciting. Releasing it while on the road, she saw her audiences react to her new material in real-time. “I think those songs became really, obviously, very personal and very important to me, and still are,” she conveys. “It becomes a different experience once you know that everyone else is having their first moment with them.”
“It was really important for me to make this album about the way I viewed my relationships and myself. I think I was really coming to terms with confidence and learning how to understand myself,” she describes. Now she sees these songs as belonging just as much to anyone who connects with them as they do to her. “I think it took a long time to really process that. This is not mine anymore; this is not this secret that I’ve had or this thing that I felt like I’ve kept to myself.”
From London’s Heaven to Hyde Park in just five months, she’s stood on stages and seen the songs on ‘Let Her Burn’ find themselves a home with her audiences. When she performs now, her album deep cuts are just as celebrated as the singles, and she couldn’t be more proud of what she and her fans create together every time she steps out on stage.
“I just hope that it helps people find that invincible feeling”Rebecca Black
“It just makes me feel like everything that I’ve been through, and this very long journey that I’m on, I feel like that has been worth something,” she enthuses. “Seeing the fact that people not only listen to the music but also clearly are connected enough to understand what it says and for it to stay within their realm? That is everything you could ask for.”
She might be over a decade into her career at this point, but this is only the beginning of what Rebecca Black is capable of achieving. Already she’s looking towards the future, using downtime between tour dates to work on sketching out new material and starting to piece together the next chapter of her story.
“I’m always trying to move forward. I never want to make something that feels like what I’ve done before,” she enthuses of the writing sessions she’s been diving into recently. “I think now, having done this once, I have a totally new perspective on how to approach those things as a whole and not just collect songs and put them together.”
She doesn’t know yet what form this next chapter might take – “that’s the thing with this process, you can have as many ideas as you want, but really, you never know what it all comes to until the end of the day – but if her excitement is any sure indication, there’s absolutely no doubt it’s going to be something special.
“This is the first time I’m approaching it with as much intentionality, I think, as I’ve ever done,” she describes. “It feels like a very new moment, but at the same time, I think people will like it. It’s a fun era, for sure.”
As for what else the future might hold for her? Her hopes remain simple: to find and forge that same ineffable feeling that made her fall in love with music when she was younger. “I just hope that it helps people find that invincible feeling, like you are in supreme flow with everything that’s happening around you,” she conveys of her music. “Whether they’re good or bad feelings, all of those are important to the human experience.”
“I think, as people, that is the greatest gift that music gives us,” she distils. “It connects us directly with the pieces of ourselves that are the most true. That’s all I could hope to do.” ■
Taken from the October 2023 edition of Dork. Rebecca Black’s album ‘Let Her Burn’ is out now.
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