Think back to the first time you watched Rebecca Black’s “Friday” video. Now think about what you and your friends said.
“It wasn’t really the kind of attention any 13-year-old girl wants,” says the now-17-year-old Black, reflecting on her viral notoriety on a recent Thursday afternoon. Nobody was more surprised at the sudden ubiquity of “Friday” than its star. “I made the song with no intention of it doing anything, and here it was doing something.”
“Something” is an understatement. Since it was first uploaded in 2011, “Friday” has been viewed hundreds of millions of times, and with it came the sort of fame only possible in the Internet age. What began as an experiment to give the performance-loving Black a taste of the music industry ended up becoming a phenomenon that led to countless hyperbolic comments about it being the worst everything ever.
But then something fascinating happened: Black leaned into it.
“If there’s one thing I’ve always been very good at, it’s making fun of myself,” she says. A self-effacing takeover of Funny Or Die on April Fools’ Day let the world know that Black was in on the joke, and that ability to roll with the cyberpunches peaked with Black’s appearance in Katy Perry’s video for the 2011 chart-topping single “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).” “I don’t think ‘milking’ is the right word, but we took the opportunity and ran with it,” she says.
“The one thing she told me was never forget where you come from,” she says of Perry, who also brought Black on stage to sing “Friday” during a tour stop in Los Angeles. “Everyone knows this industry will rip you and your family apart, just because of how vicious it is. That stuck with me.”
Black emerged from the “Friday” fiasco particularly grounded and level-headed. The Orange County high school senior currently focuses on her million-plus subscriber YouTube channel, where she does comedy bits, answers fan questions, and performs the occasional song. “What I love and have loved about doing YouTube is that I have complete creative control,” she says. “That was a thing that I lacked with the people I was working with and had surrounded myself with. I realized that they didn’t care as much about what I wanted to do as much as what they wanted to see me do. I really felt like I could be myself, and people really got to know me for who I am as a person instead of just this girl who sang songs.”
There’s more music in her future, too. “I’ve been in the studio working on different songs,” she explains. “It’s definitely nothing like ‘Friday’ or anything I’ve put out in the past. It’s definitely pop, but I wouldn’t call it bubblegum pop. We’re really grasping from all different inspirations. There’s a little alternative influence, but at the same time, some of that really cool new alternative R&B. We’re in a super experimental phase right now, just seeing what works best.” She’d like to devote the next few years to going all-in on music, but she’s also making college plans (she wants to be a business major). And as Black makes her way into the working world, she’s got at least one thing working for her: a healthy appreciation for the weekend, weekend.
For more on the stars of your favorite viral videos, pick up this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday.