The 'Friday' singer is all grown up on her new song 'The Great Divide'

By Nolan Feeney
August 26, 2016 at 03:27 PM EDT
Catie Laffoon

2016 has been a year of unlikely pop comebacks. In the past few months, acts like The Chainsmokers and Meghan Trainor proved to skeptics that they were capital A-artists after breaking through with novelty songs like “#SELFIE” and “All About That Bass,” which seemed like parodies of pop music at the time of their release. Now, another singer with an infamous hit behind her is hoping for a similar second chance: Rebecca Black.

Yup, that Rebecca Black—the one who obsessed over a certain day of the week back in 2011. Everybody knows the story of “Friday,” but the 19-year-old singer and YouTube personality is ready for you to get to know her on her own terms this time. “‘Friday’ was a part of my life, but I don’t know if I would say it’s a part of me as an artist,” Black says. “So many people know me just by that song, but I’m much more than that.” Hear for yourself with her new single “The Great Divide,” a radio-ready, EDM-lite anthem that shows off her vocal talents and just far how she’s come since her brush with internet fame.

“It’s definitely one of the most meaningful things I’ve written for myself,” Black says of the song, which premieres today on EW. “As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized there are certain people I’ve let into in my life that aren’t healthy for me. This song is about letting those people go and feeling power in knowing that’s the best decision for you.” Even some of her Black’s closest pals have been surprised by her musical evolution: “I don’t even tell them about or play them songs before they’re done,” Black says. “It’s been exciting to play the song for friends. I kept a lot of this as my own personal adventure.”

Black has been recording on and off during the years since “Friday”—she released a handful of follow-up singles, including the actually-pretty-great “Saturday”—but finding material she connected with was a challenge. “I was growing up in the process, so all of a sudden I liked one thing [one day] and hated the same thing the next,” she says. Even now, she’s open-minded about genre: “The Great Divide” originally started out as a stripped-down ballad, which is also available, but after hearing the Crash Cover remix she decided to put that version out too. Of the more than 30 songs she’s recently recorded for an upcoming EP or album she hopes to independently release this fall, Black says, “We’ve got some stuff that’s a little more electronic, but I love a lot of indie music, so we have stuff that’s in that vein too.”

Changing tastes aside, Black says the biggest challenge of this chapter of her music career was combatting her own insecurities. “Before even finding my sound, I needed to find my voice,” Black says. “I would walk into a studio and say three words because I was so nervous.” Eventually, Black says she realized that she’d never be able to make music she could stand behind if she didn’t learn to speak up for herself. She also discovered that, when it came to the lingering shadow of “Friday” and credibility concerns, none of her collaborators really cared. “It was all in my head,” she says. “I just had to tell myself, ‘This is going to be okay. I’m okay. I’m good at what I do.’ Who cares if I make a mistake? Who cares if I have a bad day in the studio? That’s all part of my journey, all part of my progress.”

Catie Laffoon