Rebecca Black Transforms Online Trolling Into Triumph on ‘RE/BL': Interview
During middle school, while most kids were just trying to make it through the transition from childhood to their teen years, 14-year-old Rebecca Black was trying to figure out how to survive the spotlight. After her music video for "Friday" went viral in 2011, the young singer was tossed into the crazy and, at many times, unforgiving world of social media. And while some listeners genuinely got into the track, the public largely made fun of it, turning the young pop hopeful into a punchline.
While many would see the criticism as a sign of failure, Rebecca viewed it as a challenge that she took on with full-force. As she got older, she worked on her music, her voice, her image and dropped various singles over the years.
And now, she's back. After releasing "Foolish" and "Heart Full of Scars" this year, Rebecca drops her debut EP, RE/BL, Friday (September 15). She's also hitting the road in October for the "Love Is Love" tour.
We had the chance to talk with Rebecca about the trials she went through after "Friday" and how she siphoned all the hate and criticism into strength and fearlessness.
How's everything been going? What have you been up to over the last year?
Everything has been going really, really well. I'm trying to figure out where to start. So about a year and a half ago, I started what you could say is this project. When it started, I had no idea what it was. It was just me trying to find my rhythm. Find my groove. I moved out of my house in Los Angeles, ready to finally do this for myself and make some music. For so long, I couldn't go for it, or at least, I felt like I couldn't go for it. And so about a year after, I found my people and really started to find a groove. I just started writing, and I spent a lot a lot of time in the studio, trying to [find what] felt right and what felt real. Around late August of last year, we were able to put out the first song, which was called "The Great Divide." That song is a very special song to me, and it's very emotional and raw. [It] and was kind of the kick-starter of [everything].
After that, I think it not only opened the doors for the people that maybe only would have judged me off of "Friday" or that wouldn't take a second look, but it also opened up so much just for myself. [I] felt like, alright, we can finally start letting people know who I am. I've grown up a little bit. [Ages] thirteen and nineteen are very different people. We just continued writing and continued writing.
You released "Foolish" earlier this year. Let’s start there.
So this song is a completely different world than "The Great Divide." I'm in this age right now, finding myself a little bit [and] coming into my own. Not only do you get all the real raw emotional stuff with that, but there's also love. You start finding love, or you start finding what you think is love and getting to know yourself in that way—your sexuality or sensuality. And this song is expressing where I [fit] in that world.
I haven't figured it out when it comes to boys right now at all, and I don't know if anyone does. But I've always felt like, "Oh God, this is such uncharted territory." I don't know [if] it's the same thing as, "Oh my God! I love this person so much and they're amazing! And oh my God, am I falling in love?" I'm scared and I'm anxious but I'm also so happy. It's about those few first months of really getting to fall for someone.
The new music has electronic elements. What inspired you to go that route?
On my own, I listen to a lot of indie music actually, and I like to bring things like that to my music even more. I also love electronic music, and I love EDM and "The Great Divide" is obviously super EDM. I love that song, but I'd say "Foolish" is a little bit of funk. I love [the] bass line. I love to hear that in a song. "Can't Stop the Feeling" by Justin Timberlake has an awesome bass line.
Music aside, you also have your own channel on YouTube. You put up some covers but also show parts of your life to your fans.
Yeah, when I started YouTube, there was no real strategy behind that song or putting myself out there or anything. And a couple years later, I really started to take my channel into my own hands. And at sixteen, I really felt like nobody knew anything about who I was, you know, because all I had done were interviews where I didn't even know who I was at the time. But I guess even more than all of that, I just wanted to go devote more of myself out there. Music is my heart, but everybody has multiple interests...
So I just tried a bunch of things. And this is what I've learned after a few years of doing YouTube more regularly and testing out different kinds of videos: people love all the glitz and the glam. Whoever it is, an artist, musician, an actress, they're always doing it super, super glamorously. And I think that idea can make someone feel a little bit unbelievable. And my life's not like that! I know I get to shoot a music video for all hours and be surrounded by amazing crew and feel all of that, but then there's also Saturday night where I'm going to go out getting groceries and that, my real life, [isn't as glam]. It's a refreshing thing for people to see that not everyone's life is entirely glitzy and glamorous. I think they're able to relate to me and that is something that I love because it allows me to connect with them a bit more. I just tried not to put on this big facade of everything being super awesome and amazing.
"Friday" was a long time ago, and you're moving on to bigger things now, but it wasn't necessarily the easiest journey. You dealt with the stress of being in the public eye as well as bullying. After going through all that, some would leave the industry. What made you want to come back?
In reality, there was no clear option for me. Yeah, I could go and do a billion different things. I really say I would have not been able to live with myself if I looked back at 60 and went, "Oh my God! I let all of those people convince me that I was worth nothing or that I wasn't worth it." And I don't think that was the thought process I was thinking at the time, but as I've grown up a little bit, I've been able to look back and kind of see it from a different perspective. I am what I am—at home, on a stage, in a studio. Music is my life.
People have asked, "What made you want to go back? Why?" It's because there's just no other option. Just as my parents were veterinarians. From the time they were ten years old, especially my mom, she was like, "I'm gonna do whatever it takes," and I think I inherited that gene. I think everybody has that one thing that they just could not live without. They could not picture themselves doing anything else. I knew that I had to figure it out some way, but I definitely wasn't ready at the time to deal with it. But I knew that I would always find my way back into music.
What are some lessons you've learned from growing up in the public eye?
I definitely have learned that obviously you can't always be concerned about making other people happy. At the end of the day, you could find a way to cure cancer, and there would be one person out there that has an issue with it. I think I was doing that for so long. I just wanted to prove myself. I wanted to show everybody that I could do it. At the end of the day, if you’re not doing it for yourself then it's a waste of your own energy.
So many people preach "be strong, stay strong, don't let them bother you." But all that does is bottle up all of that hurt inside, and it pushes it down. Someday you’re going to have to deal with it, and it happened to me. It happens to so many other people. But I feel like they see vulnerability as weakness, and I think the more that we can accept the fact that we're human, and we do get hurt, and that things do affect us and that it's okay to not be strong all the time, then I think we can start being a lot more at peace. That's been the big epiphany.
More and more artists are becoming more vocal about what is important to them instead of fitting into this box. There's just more courage necessary to be outspoken and it's okay to not be the same as everyone else. Do you think that you new artists are brave in comparison to the people who preceded you?
That's a good question. I've never been asked that before! [There's] so much more access that fans get to have with musicians and artists. There was no such thing as Twitter ten years ago. So [before] Britney Spears, if she was having a bad day, she couldn't just post it from her bedroom.
I think just as much as fans in an audience strive to connect with an artist or a celebrity or anything like that, that person on the other side is striving to connect with them just as much. And they want to be heard just as much as a fan saying, "Please! Follow me!" Whatever it is. We're all trying to get a connection, and there is so much more opportunity for that now. I can't speak for anyone else, but at least, I can post that intro of me crying. Or even if it's saying, "Oh my God! I just had the best day ever!" and be able to blast that to the world. It makes me feel like I can connect with people.
Listen to RE/BL, below:
Rebecca Black's Tips For Going From YouTube to Pop Star: