Rebecca Black | Igniting A New Era

“I was only expecting a few people here tonight.” The words resonated across the room; it was Friday the tenth of February, London’s Heaven nightclub, a vast, hot, dark space with strobes slicing the darkness. An expectant and excited crowd hung on and sang to Rebecca Black’s every word. And in the pause, the headliner stood on the stage, thanked her audience, and was humbled. Because that night was more than just a concert, it signalled a shift for a singer who, at just 25, has experienced more in her music career than many of her much older peers. It was a celebration of the culmination of months of creative work to produce her debut studio album, ‘Let Her Burn‘, released one day prior. It was a chance to celebrate new beginnings, living authentically and being comfortable in your own skin. Of course, this share only served to bring her crowd – who moments before faithfully recited her lyrics – even closer to her. It was a poignant moment in Rebecca’s trajectory, a reset—a change in course to stellar.

Rewind 12 years, and Mexican American singer Rebecca’s journey was about to go from nought to sixty at the tender age of thirteen. Her single ‘Friday‘, released in 2011, rendered her a viral sensation on YouTube and has since amassed over 140 million views. But the accompanying attention was challenging for a young artist who quickly gained international recognition but struggled not to let it, and the song, define her.

Since then, Black has refined her pop sonance, releasing an E.P. called ‘RE/BL‘ in 2017, showcasing a more mature sound and earning the singer critical acclaim. She has been open about her experiences as a young person in the public eye, vocalising her struggles with mental health, bullying, her choice to come out in 2020, and how it influenced her musically.

In 2021 the singer released her E.P, ‘Rebecca Black Was Here,’ which features the singles ‘Girlfriend‘ and the hyper-pop remix of ‘Friday‘ to mark the song’s tenth anniversary. The E.P. was produced in collaboration with artists like Dorian Electra and Dylan Brady of 100 Gecs. The album demonstrates Rebecca’s growth as an artist and her deftness at tackling diverse genres. To promote the launch of her debut studio album ‘Let Her Burn,’ Black embarked on a U.K. tour throughout February, covering cities such as London, Manchester, and Glasgow, with a U.S. tour coming in May. We caught up with Rebecca to hear about her new album, her love of her craft, her hopes for the future and how she can’t wait for her next gig.

It was so great to come along to your show at Heaven, and what a fantastic atmosphere and reception it was from the crowd!

It was a fun show, and I can’t lie. It was the biggest headline I have done. You see the number of people buying tickets, and you are like, ‘OK, this is a good sign’. But, for that show in particular, it was hard to digest that people would actually show up. Still, it was such a fun show, and I’m really excited every time I get to play because I am early on in my tour, and I’m excited to be back and to see what I can do to make it bigger and better next time”.

Tell us about your background, when and how you discovered your love and talent for music and was there a particular song or artist that resonated with you growing up?

I grew up literally from the age of three being a performer; my parents took a guess on something as people do when you have a young kid, and you are trying to get them to experiment and do things. So, I was a dancer from a pretty young age, and I just fell in love with it; I fell in love with all aspects of performing. I started singing and having coaching. When I first got my start, I wasn’t expecting to start my career, but it was just when I was in the midst of figuring things out and trying to discover different pieces of myself, and it snowballed.

I was a very independent kid and spent lots of time alone, and I turned to the internet and turned to my computer to find music that I loved and songs that I really connected with. I grew up listening to all kinds of stuff; my mum is Hispanic, so I listened to all types of Latin music. I listened to a lot of New Wave and eighties from my dad’s side, and my parents always had unique musical tastes. I’ll never forget this one day I was alone and listening to things. I found the song by The Temper Trap, ‘Sweet Disposition’, which had come out ten years before I found it. Still, it had never reached my little sphere as a 13-year-old, and that was one of the first things I heard that interested me in the worlds of music and indie, specifically folk and rock, that I had just never been exposed to before. I was your classic 13-year-old pop-loving kid, Justin Bieber obsessed, but that moment has always stuck out to me as when I started to see music in a way that felt in that moment like not something that I was pre-exposed to.

Your first release went viral within a month of publication, becoming a global success when you were just 13 years; how did that feel, and how did you navigate such immediate international attention at such a young age?

It was very complicated because, especially at the time, Friday getting the attention that it did, didn’t necessarily make it feel like it was quote-unquote a hit. Because there were so many different types of comments and opinions, the internet was at such an exciting moment being new to virality in that way. It was a very confusing time because I went from living in my own little world to suddenly being exposed to all these people who have defined me in this very particular way that had nothing to do with the real world. I mean, ‘Friday’ was an experiment as far as letting me experience what it’s like to be in a recording studio or get the opportunity to do what felt like this thing that turned into something much bigger, and it felt a bit like my life got taken out of my own hands.

Let Her Burn’ sees you with a new image and sound from the initial song that brought you success. What prompted this change in direction?

I grew into my ideas of how I wanted to present myself and developed the ability to lead and direct my world as I wanted to. Being in an industry where you feel like the young, naive child doesn’t do a lot to encourage your creativity, I always felt as a teen and into my early 20s, I was trying to get through this thing that already existed, this vision of me that so many people had, and I don’t know when this happened or when it came to but at some point. I asked myself if nothing ever happened, what would I do, and what would I have to say if people didn’t know who I was at all by the time they were listening to my music. What would I want to be and that allowed for so much more opportunity in terms of things to discuss and what are the experiences I’ve had up until this point as a 25-year-old that has to lead me to the music that I’ve made and what is my interest what am I inspired by, especially over the last 3 or 4 years I think, that has been the big focus, what are the themes visually and musically that I want to dive into.

Your debut full-length album, ‘Let Her Burn’, was released on the ninth of February 2023. Tell us about the title, and is there one song that particularly resonates, and why? Some of the songs explore personal things you have been through; how do you hope this also helps your listeners?

The title came after the album was done, and I spent a lot of time after the album was finished, listening and hearing what I had said because a lot of time you spend a day or a couple of days writing a song, and it’s so in the moment that you are in and in the current experience, but then you spend the next couple of months finishing something, and that experience stays in the past, so it was interesting to ask myself and hear where I was at and where this came to and I think this album for me was such an experimental process in a way that was so much freer than a place that I had ever been able to get to before. I spent time thinking about how other people perceived me, I couldn’t help that after ‘Friday,’ but this album was the first time in many ways that I could do things freely and make something I just really loved. I just had to have faith that someone else would love it, and at the end of the day, even if there wasn’t, it meant something to me. So the album title came from personifying all of those feelings and not being afraid to let this newer version of myself that I started to come into in my 20’s burn brightly and shine and have the ability to move forward and move in a way that is true to myself and also on the other side of things, burn all of those other pieces and people who have done the opposite in my world and burn them to the f**king ground because that was a period and a point, but we are past that. And that is a bit of what I wanted people to feel with the album, what I wanted people to feel and experience things as you will and as you are, and it won’t be perfect, but it’s real.

 You came out in 2020, and perhaps some of those messages will resonate with your audience in terms of being free and living their lives authentically.

Totally, that’s the biggest hope, I think!

So far, your album has had some great reviews. NME said, ‘Let Her Burn’ “pushed the boundaries and expectations of pop music,”, and DIY described it as a “compelling pop cocktail soundtracking your self-discovery.” How do you feel about these reviews, and would you say those are accurate descriptions of this album?

This has been a new experience for me so far, dealing with reviews and other people’s thoughts on the music, and I am so grateful that so many people have responded positively. I try not to get too wrapped up in any of the thoughts because even the positive ones can leave me compelled to take that and let that inform, which in a way that’s constructive to do, but I’m in the process now of beginning something new, but I appreciate the positive feedback and what really also means so much to me is the tweets that I get from people everywhere and to talk to people after shows. Before the album came out, I played a couple of shows, and that kind of stuff means the most to me, to be honest.

Your recent performance at London’s Heaven was so energetic. Do you prefer being out there with a live audience or in the studio recording?

They are such different experiences; I love performing; I think that because I have done it forever, I feel the most in my body in that world, but at the same time, I love locking myself up for a month with one or two people and working on something, and that was like finishing these songs was like they are just very different moments.

What advice would you give to other young artists hoping to follow your path?

There’s so much advice that I feel like I need myself. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years, it’s that constructive criticism and other people’s opinions are so vital in learning to have the ability to grow from your past work. At the same time, that constructive criticism only deserves a small piece of your brain, and it shouldn’t overtake the other piece of your brain that has intuition and the original thought; if those two aren’t working together in some way, I think that’s where the internal balance gets f**ked up. And as somebody who struggled with her intuition for a long time, as long as you remember that it’s a hugely important piece in moving your own needle forward. And that thing is unique, and whether that thing is objectively good in any sense, it’s yours, and that’s meaningful.

You have just completed your European tour; what is next on your agenda, and is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with, producing-wise, in the future?

Oh, my goodness, there are so many people. So, I am going on the road in May, and I’ll be doing the tour in the U.S., which I am excited about. I only got to do six shows in Europe, so I was just getting the hang of it! So, I am ready to take it even further and excited about that. I never really stopped writing for that long after the album was done, and I am so excited to have it out now. It’s freed up a lot of energetic room to create new stuff. In terms of people I’d like to work with, I’m a huge Squilax fan, and I always have been. His work as a producer is incredible. I love Pink Pantheress, Mitski, Christine and the Queens, and Caroline Polachek. So many famous female artists in the current wider pop scene are doing something really exciting and special, so that is a fun dream, link up to have.

And where is your U.S. tour taking you?

Ten and 15 dates, some are around Canada; Toronto, Montreal, some cities from my last tour, L.A. and Chicago, and some smaller cities like Salt Lake City, so some really fun places that I am excited to see again. 

So, a bit of breathing space and then back out there; I’m sure you can’t wait!  

I really can’t!

At the end of the concert that evening in Heaven, the crowd were reluctant for the show to end, and it was apparent Rebecca Black was equally as hesitant to leave them. Rebecca’s journey has taken her far in these 12 years, and standing on a stage in London with the cheering crowd must have allayed any hesitation she must have had prior to the show. Undoubtedly, success at such a young age comes with drawbacks. But Black has shown resilience and determination in pursuing her passion for music and finding her authentic voice. Though ‘Friday’ has become a cultural phenomenon and found its place in history, the launch of ‘Let Her Burn’ sets it firmly there as a new era in Black’s career begins.

The new album is a testament to Rebecca’s growth and evolution as an artist, with tracks like ‘Destroy Me’s synth rock meets dnb to the ’80s inflected ‘Sick to my Stomach’, while ‘Misery Loves Company’ delivers more French house vibes, and ‘Doe-Eyed’ revisits the hyper pop style reminiscent of Black’s ‘Friday’ remix. As the album manoeuvres through hyper to more long-established pop genres, taking the listener through the challenges of love and relationships, the album moves from more high-octane tracks to softer sounds that hopefully soothe those sentiments. As it pushes the boundaries of traditional pop and explores the singer’s thoughts, experiences, and creativity, ‘Let Her Burn’ is set to become just as worthy of attention as her most famous work, though for different, better reasons.

As she prepares to embark on her U.S. tour and reflects on the success of those concerts in the U.K., it’s apparent that Black has harnessed her power in authenticity and confidence as an artist, and it’s evident that, while she acknowledges the importance of her past, she no longer feels the weight of it. This chapter of her story evokes a chrysalis, unfurling and shedding the shadow of criticism and uncertainty. And in its place stands an artist who demonstrates self-belief and joy in her artistry, one who recognises that she’s right where she’s meant to be. ‘Let Her Burn’ is a triumph, and for Rebecca Black, the future is bright.

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Words: Leigh Maynard
Photography: Bella Keery