Back in March 2011, an eighth grader named Rebecca Black uploaded a novelty music video financed by her parents to YouTube, and inadvertently found herself in the hailstorm of viral infamy. Her tune, a harmlessly silly ode to the weekend — which, although written by a pair of professional producers, sounded exactly like something a 13-year-old would write — became a widespread joke, earning such “accolades” as “the worst song ever,” as well as a slate of intense speculation on the then fairly new concept of manufacturing pop stars via social media.
Today, six years later, Black — now 19 years old — has nary a trace of resentment or regret regarding the bile she received as a result of her much-maligned sensation. In fact, she’s managed to reinvent herself: not only as a popular YouTube personality but also as a bona fide songwriter creating music that she says represents her “true, core me.”
Black’s first original music in more than three years, her new single “The Great Divide,” is currently seated in the Top 40 of Billboard’s Dance Club Chart, where it’s pulling ahead of hits by the likes of Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.
Speaking with Black, it’s easy to see how she was able to rise above what some would call an inauspicious beginning. Not only is she remarkably poised and confident about her career direction; she’s also grown from a cute kid into a startlingly attractive woman — with an infectious, positive personality to match.
“I think when ‘Friday’ did its thing and I was 13, I was just trying to figure everything out,” Black says, in a matter-of-fact tone. “I knew that I loved music and that I loved performing and being onstage — that was where I felt at home. So ‘Friday’ was kind of like a little tester of “all right, I think I want to do this for the rest of my life. Let’s see if I like being in the studio, let’s see if I like being on the set of a music video. And then it just kind of happened that it blew up and did its thing.”
Black, under the watchful eye of her parents, withdrew from the spotlight for some time in order to regroup. “At first everything was so exciting, and cool, and crazy, and overwhelming,” Black admits. “[My parents] could very clearly see: Just because something like that happens when you’re so young doesn’t mean, ‘Let’s drop out of school and do nothing!’”
Black had no intention of retreating completely from creative endeavors. She merely compromised on a break in order to finish middle school. By her sophomore year of high school, she had pioneered her place back on YouTube, offering up various topics ranging from music to food to beauty tutorials.
“I had met a whole group of awesome people who were on [YouTube],” she explains. “This is when it was really starting to take off. It was new and exciting, and I thought, ‘I’m just going to try it out, have fun with it — who knows what’s going to happen. And it worked! I felt like I had a voice and could show my personality and be goofy.”
The itch to perform music remained, however. After graduating high school, Black struck a deal with her parents: Let her move out and try concentrating on music and songwriting for real. “That was when I was able to dive in and get started and write music that I really loved. I was able to link up with some really cool songwriters and producers, and that was when I was able to focus and start to get real with myself — and get back to my true, core me.”
The initial success of “The Great Divide” is serving as a welcome starting point for Black’s “second coming,” with the budding songwriter noting she’s looking forward to creating songs that speak from her soul. She has no concrete plans for a full-length album yet, but assures fans more music will be coming. “As far as this project as a whole — whatever you want to call it — my goal is to get to a place where I have a good number of songs that I felt represented me. Everything I’ve been able to write in the last year has been based off of whatever I was going through at the time.”
It’s clear that Black is serious about not letting anything derail what she considers her calling. Although she says that college is not out of the question someday — “I love education; I’d love to at some point find my path in that” — for now, this is where she’ll be focusing her efforts.
“My dream has always been to be onstage. It’s something that I can’t rethink,” she notes. “Just like a doctor grows up always wanting to be a doctor and that’s the only thing they can dream of, that’s me with music.”