Rebecca Black On 10 Years Of “Friday”
"Friday" just got a 10th anniversary remix produced by 100 gecs' Dylan Brady and featuring Big Freedia, Dorian Electra, and 3OH3!
In 2003, an unknown director named Tommy Wiseau wrote and starred in what many call the worst movie ever made, The Room, an accidental cult classic that he would later claim as satire. Its notoriety only grew with the rise of YouTube, the platform that popularized indulging in things that are so bad they’re good. This kind of pleasure-cringe took off with the advent of the viral video and a specific kind of ironic, bizarre internet humor. The Room is an uncanny performance of human life that coincided nicely with the Random Years, when YouTube was filled with cartoon unicorns stealing each other’s kidneys and murderous llamas wearing hats. In 2011, ten years ago today and six years after YouTube’s launch, “Friday” gave The Room a run for its money.
There are layers to “Friday,” and every single one is batshit insane. The lyrics could’ve been written by a robot programmed to interact with modern teenagers, or an alien on its first day of school. “Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal,” Rebecca Black drones. “It’s Friday, Friday / Gotta get down on Friday / Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend / Partyin’, partyin’ / Fun, fun, fun, fun.” The effect is almost Lynchian — Black’s fried vocals, “Fun fun, think about fun,” several 13 year-olds packed into a convertible flailing in front of a greenscreen highway. “Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday / Today i-is Friday, Friday We-we-we so excited / We gonna have a ball today / Tomorrow is Saturday / And Sunday comes afterwards.”
Tosh.0, the millennial America’s Funniest Home Videos, was in its prime, curating YouTube’s most epic fails and whatever else people found amusing. When host Daniel Tosh featured “Friday,” it went viral, widely referred to as “the worst video ever made.” Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert performed it on Late Night. Artists like Todd Rundgren, Odd Future, Nick Jonas, Justin Bieber, and Katy Perry sang live covers. There was even a Glee rendition. A week after being released on iTunes, “Friday” hit number 19 on its sales chart. The music video had been viewed more than 30 million times on YouTube. Rebecca Black would soon become a catchall symbol for internet culture and The Youth. She was a human meme, the subject of derision and a source of amusement. Some blamed Black for their gripes with the music industry at large, others celebrated the sheer camp of it all. Internet dwellers saw an outlet for their boredom and anger in Rebecca Black.
Virality was never part of her plan. The then-13-year-old approached Ark Music Factory with her mom after the now-defunct company produced a AutoTune-heavy pop song and music video for her classmate. Ark built its business around recruiting young, no-name singers who paid the company anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 to produce and promote original singles and videos. The aspiring artist owned the master recording, while Ark retained publishing rights and sales. Black thought it’d be a fun experiment, something to put on her college resume.
Now, there are tons of production companies dedicated to helping teens make hit songs for TikTok — for a price. At the time, however, it was a relatively new concept that inspired a wave of backlash. “I’m getting a lot of criticism saying I’m exploiting rich kids and their parents,” Ark founder Patrice Wilson told the LA Times in 2011. “But find me another company that would do all this at a cost this low. I don’t promise anyone fame. In fact, if someone approaches me with their only goal to ‘get famous,’ I tell them they’re not in this for the right reasons.”
Rebecca Black was among the earliest internet-bred overnight celebrities, presaging the TikTok-to-record deal pipeline that’s reshaping the music industry today. At the time of writing, “Friday” has nearly 150 million YouTube views. It’s aged like a fine wine and like The Room, growing more fascinating with each passing year. The common reaction to “Friday” has transformed into genuine appreciation and curiosity. And now, Black is reinventing herself. She’s been quarantining in her LA home, working on new music for her new era. We spoke to the singer about viral fame, “Friday,” 100 gecs, TikTok, and her future.
Today on its 10th anniversary, “Friday” gets a new remix produced by 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady and featuring Big Freedia, 3OH3!, and Dorian Electra. Hear that below and read on for our interview with Black.
Let’s start from the beginning. You heard your classmate record a song called “Butterflies” with Ark Music, and then you brought up the idea to your mom. What was your pitch?
REBECCA BLACK: I was one of those kids who always came to my parents with crazy ideas, and was always doing some version of performing. That was just really where I found my source of joy as a kid. When “Friday” came around, when I found this whole company and this opportunity, I truly went into it thinking that there was no way that my mom would ever let me do this, because I had dragged her to so many just like dumb workshops and classes.
Everybody tells you that you’re going to be a superstar. And at that point I was like, no, I’m just here because I can put it on my resume, like when I applied to, I dunno, NYU or something one day. So I think I said something like that. I said, “I could be in a recording studio for the first time and then maybe this could be something to help further down the line.” She said yes, which was shocking.
Ark initially showed you a love song called “Superwoman,” which you rejected. What made you say yes to “Friday”?
BLACK: I remember my first thought being, well, I can’t say no again. Who do I think I am? And I didn’t think that much of the lyrics. I mean, the stuff that I was listening to at the time was like pop top 40. I was just doing it for experience. It wasn’t necessarily to say ‘this is going to be my like big debut into the music scene.’ It wasn’t even something I really knew that I wanted at the time. [When I read the lyrics], I was like, yeah, I love the weekends! I don’t have school! I really like to hang out with my friends! At least I don’t have to sing about a boy or a love interest…I can barely look my classmates in the eye. It was a little bit easier to digest as a 13-year-old with a shrine of Justin Bieber on her dresser.
Can you tell me about the day you recorded “Friday” and your experience shooting the video?
BLACK: I recorded the song a few weeks beforehand and it was my first time ever really being in any sort of [setting] like that. I don’t come from parents who had me growing up in studios, or really parents who were musical at all. It was in a backhouse in Sherman Oaks. I was very nervous, which made it feel like such a big deal, but it was really just like an afternoon that I went up to LA with my mom and got to see the city. The video itself, it was definitely not something that happened on my dad’s cul-de-sac every week. I just had my friends over and we shot a bunch of stuff. None of us knew what we were doing. We were just kind of like trying to look cool and have fun and not look awkward, which I don’t think anybody succeeded at.
When you went to school after “Friday” was released, how did your peers respond?
BLACK: I mean, nobody really knew that it happened at all. And I honestly had gotten everything that I had hoped to get out of it by having the experience. Life went on, and eighth graders did what eighth graders did. Then of course, a couple of months later, after it started to blow up, things got a little bit more complicated at school. I don’t think anybody really knew what to do. People were either laughing or kind of saying things in between classes. It was definitely this weird thing that everyone was just kind of like, we don’t know what to do here, including the admin at the school. It was just a very weird energy.
When Tosh.0 put “Friday” on the map, people called it the “worst music video ever made.” You started guesting on morning shows and it seemed like you were in on the joke. Were you? What was that like?
BLACK: I was trying to be as in on the joke as I could. I wasn’t trying to necessarily ever defend the song because I thought it was the greatest thing that ever existed. I was just trying to protect myself from feeling like I was the worst thing or person or artist or whatever you want to call it in the world. I think I was just doing my best to feel like, if people know that I’m laughing with it and people know that I’m not doing this to be anything, then maybe they’ll like me. I think I was just really trying to get people to like me, which is something that I’ve always struggled with, from early years of being in a small school with a bunch of cliques and all of that. So it just felt like a really blown up version of that. I’m just doing my best.
Looking back, why do you think “Friday” got so much attention? What do you think it meant to people?
BLACK: The internet was such a different place at that point, especially YouTube. It picked these things out of obscurity and made them into what they are. At that point, “Friday” lived in the same world as “Charlie bit my finger” and the double rainbow video and all of those kinds of things. I think that there was just a sense of earnestness and awkwardness, something that you can relate to in some weird way, because it’s weird or sweet or whatever. “Friday” definitely fell into that.
I think if any person who wrote that song or was a part of the making of “Friday” knew that it would blow up in the way that it did it, it would’ve stopped it from doing that. I think it’s these little things that live in obscurity that just happen on the internet all the time. You know, there’s a million versions of “Friday” out in the world that just didn’t blow up in the way that “Friday” did. Why was “Friday” the one that did? There’s just something really bizarre about it.
How do you think the reaction would be different today, if it came out in the TikTok world?
BLACK: You have kids who are going viral and doing things in a way that is tenfold to what “Friday” ever did. And I like to say that I can relate to them on some level of just being a kid in that scenario, but at the same time, I can’t imagine what it’d be like to be, you know, a Jojo Siwa. All of these kids are now not only going through this very strange experience of being sick of having your name out there when you’re so young, but now having like a full-on profitable career. That wasn’t necessarily part of the picture when I was a kid. My brain could barely manage what I was going through. I don’t know how I would be able to look at it like a young business owner. It’s definitely a lot to process.
What were some of the most memorable responses to the song? Good and bad.
BLACK: Well, there were definitely a lot of mean and terrible things, which I’ve done a lot of work to get out of my brain. But I think what sticks out weirdly is just the difference in the responses I get to the song now. I really appreciate it. As much as I can’t take credit for, you know, writing the song, ’cause I didn’t, it’s really interesting to see how many people will tweet me things like “My friends and I have a ritual where we listen to the song every Friday night” or “This is a special nostalgic thing that lives between us” or inside jokes. It’s really refreshing. The negative stuff that I’ve gotten is stuff that now it feels like all of us get on the daily, no matter how many followers you have. We’re all getting called nasty things on the internet every day.
What was the craziest “Friday”-era moment for you?
BLACK: I think probably just seeing the people that I idolized even know that it existed. I was so removed from any world of celebrity or musicians or anything like that. Like I mentioned, I had a Justin Bieber shrine when he sang “Friday” at his concert. Even though he was making fun of me, I was like, I will marry this person. Having people like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and all of the biggest people in the world … just that they even knew I existed and were really supportive, unironically.
How have you been trying to redefine yourself? How have your aspirations evolved?
BLACK: It’s definitely been a big mental challenge for me. It’s had very steep highs and lows. I don’t know if I ever really knew where I was going, and I don’t know if I do now. I just have a lot less anger. For a long time, I thought, why did that happen? Like, why did I go through that at such a young age? Why did I agree to do that? Why has this become this huge part of my life? And I think I’ve unwound a lot of those feelings. It’s definitely led to a lot of really positive things for me and a huge passion in what I do now. I hope to help other people who are maybe not going through a viral video moment, but who are dealing with anything that has to do with their mental health. I’ve got a different perspective, and I think grasping hold of that as I’ve gone through therapy. It feels like I’m not trying to prove everything to myself or to other people so much anymore. I’m just kind of like doing my thing.
You’ve been working with Dorian Electra and you linked up with 100 gecs for the “Friday” remix. How’d those relationships come to be?
BLACK: It was actually about a year ago that I randomly posted this nine-year anniversary post for “Friday.” I really didn’t think it would end up the way that it did, but sure enough, a lot of people were really curious about what I’m up to. One of the first people to reach out to me was Laura Les. I’ve been a fan of 100 gecs for a long time. I saw them play in LA when you could still do that. I just really love that whole community so much. And [Laura] just reached out wanting to work together and try something together, and then the world shut down. A few months later, Dorian also reached out.
I’m a huge fan of all of these artists’ music, and I guess they just didn’t really know what to expect when reaching out. So it just happened really naturally. They’re all people who I can consider friends and people who are excited about the same kinds of things. I think we all are inspired by what each other likes and finds interesting. We like to have fun in what we’re doing, rather than it being a competitive community, which I think is easy to do in music. And whenever anybody wants to be a part of something it’s like, of course. So I feel so lucky to have been able to ask Dylan to produce this remix and him immediately be like, are you kidding? Yes. And same with Dorian and 3OH!3 and Big Freedia. It’s a lot of friends just helping friends out because we like each other and the things that we do.
It seems like a natural union, since the extended PC Music universe is so inspired by internet culture and “Friday” was like this proto-meme.
BLACK: Definitely, I think it’s been so interesting how many people draw the comparisons between “Friday” and like the world of Dylan Brady. Even though those things were so disconnected, there’s something there. I think it’s even more than just PC Music and all of that, it’s like our entire generation has the same sense of humor. And so when we find each other, it’s really easy to make things.
What kind of music do you listen to?
BLACK: I listen to a lot of SOPHIE, a lot of J-pop. I go through very weird phases depending on whatever I’m creating. There was a month last year where I only listened to elevator music. That sounds very annoying, but it’s true. It was just something that I thought was kinda cool. I’m all over the place.
What’s your pandemic been like?
BLACK: Gosh, I mean, it’s been probably about the same as what I hope most people’s would be, which is a lot of quarantining. I live alone. So, you know, a lot of talking with my dog, our communication has never been better. I’ve been really lucky to be able to have adjusted a lot of the things that I do to Zoom and create a lot of stuff. It could be a lot worse for me. And so I’ve been trying to be grateful for that. My mom just got vaccinated this weekend, so it feels like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and we’re heading very slowly towards it.
How does your morning routine compare to Friday?
BLACK: I get up earlier than seven. I don’t go to school. I hate cereal.
Which seat would you take today?
BLACK: I love to drive and I get a little sick in the back seat, so…
What’s next for Rebecca Black?
BLACK: I’ve been writing a lot of music that I really love. It’s been really meaningful to be able to release this after having come out and seeing the response. I hope that I can keep putting things out that I really love and that I don’t have to worry so much about clearing my name. I can just work with people I love and hopefully one day be able to play a show again.