Back in 2010, a 13-year-old aspiring popstar was given the chance to make a music video of her very own. Her parents paid ARK Music Company $4,000 for their daughter to record her own single, and the result was uploaded to YouTube in February 2011.
That song was Friday, and that aspiring popstar was Rebecca Black.
A month after the video was uploaded, Friday went insanely viral, acquiring millions of views on YouTube and propelling Rebecca to international fame.
The song was an inoffensive autotuned ditty about the joys of the weekend, with lyrics like Its Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday and kicking in the front seat, sitting in the back seat, gotta make my mind up, which seat can I take? – and it stuck in our heads til… well, its still stuck now.
Seven years on, Friday has 121 million views on YouTube, and Rebecca is 20 years old. And although she has recorded new music and appeared on singing competition The Four, Friday is still something that defines her.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk, Rebecca said: Ive definitely had some very complicated feelings about it. There were moments when it was really bad and raw and intense, and I thought “I will never be able to live this down, never ever ever”. I didnt regret it, but I just couldnt understand why it was so bad. The internet was completely different and new then. So now, not just because of The Four and the great response Ive had, but I know that I dont regret it now.
She may not regret it now, but the release of Friday didnt just see Rebecca receive a few taunts about her musical ability. The wave of abuse the teenager received started with people calling Friday the worst song ever, and at its worst, culminated in death threats that were investigated by the police.
Rebecca said: It was really scary for [my family]. Even though my parents dont come from this world, they know that this industry can be scary and harsh, even without my specific situation. They were definitely scared of putting me out there. I wasnt fully aware of the death threats that came in at the time, because I was so young.
I think there were moments when they questioned themselves, whether it was right letting their daughter do what she loved, and how they could help me recover in the best way afterwards while protecting me. I cant speak for them, but it was very intense.
After Friday, Rebecca found herself being tugged each way by people attempting to make money out of her – which all got so much that she eventually returned to high school after being home-schooled for years.
There were a couple of years where people immediately saw an opportunity to capitalise on Friday. I kind of got stuck in this very unfruitful pattern, but none of it was authentic or real. None of these people went “this girl is an artist and I believe in her, I want to hear what she has to say”, it was “how do we make her the next thing”. That combined with all the stuff that happened with Friday made me very frustrated.
Then, when I was 16, I just needed to breathe, and I went back to regular high school – which was a challenge within itself. It was one thing being the new girl, then being the new girl who had this crazy experience… it was scary. Even if youre just going into high school with nothing else, it can be really challenging. But it was tough. It wasnt all bad, I dont want to say I had this horrible, horrible experience all the time, but there were some pretty brutal things. People would throw food at my locker, or pour milk down my locker. Some people just had no concept of me being a real person, and they would ask me the most invasive questions, and if I didnt answer I was rude. It was a difficult experience that I definitely learned a lot from.
It would be understandable after all of this abuse, bullying and stress if Rebecca chose to abandon her dream of music entirely. But this week, she popped up on the second series of The Four, auditioning with a sultry version of N*Syncs Bye Bye Bye and making judge Meghan Trainor fangirl.
Rebecca told us: I had no idea what to expect. There was so much preparation behind going onto the show. I ultimately decided to take a risk and do it for me and do it for that 13-year-old girl who felt her life would never be the same. There came a moment where I decided for myself, it doesnt matter what anyone thinks, as long as I am just myself. Just be the Rebecca you know you are, no trying to be someone to please someone else, then theres nothing to be upset about. If someone doesnt like you… oh well.
I think there was a part of me that thought “if I can make it through Friday, whatever happens, I can get through it and bounce back”. When Ive chosen not to take a risk, thats when I regret it.
Although Rebecca lost out in the challenge round against Stereo Kicks star James Graham, she saw her The Four appearance as redemption (despite the fact shes only 20) and is concentrating on her new music after releasing her first EP RE/BL last year.
This is going to sound so cliche, but its been such a journey. I had such an unusual start, it happened so much quicker than I expected it to. Friday was supposed to be, like, my first delve into any sort of experience, and then of course, it blew up. So I kind of had to work backwards from there. I went through a lot of different phases of thinking, do I go as far away as I can, there were so many conversations over the years.
But with Satellite [her new single], and my EP RE/BL last year, they just kind of went where they did naturally. The more I could peel back what I really loved as a music lover and what I could connect with, the sound feels so true to me. The more that I tried to consciously make something different, the less it worked. So I just went with what I loved, and trusted it, and thats what I felt was best for me.
Rebecca is a confident, friendly and articulate young woman, who clearly has the drive and talent to make it in the music industry. But she is also wary about how the industry can chew you up and spit you out – and has some cautionary words for viral YouTube kids, like the Yodelling Boy and Bhad Bhabie, as they rack up views.
Its changing so rapidly that every experience is different from the last one, so its hard to give generalised advice. But I have noticed that a lot of this happens to kids. And I can speak for that because I was 13. I think the advice is not only to them, but to the family and friends around them and whoever works with them – remember that they are a child and they have so much to learn and grow from. A lot of times when were kids, we say so many things we dont quite understand. I kind of hope as the world evolves that people have a little more understanding that these poor kids are just trying to find their way like anybody else. I knew I loved music, and I just wanted a shot. And its rough for the world to demonise a child for just trying to figure it all out.
Rebecca Blacks Satellite and RE/BL are available to stream now.
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