Almost 10 years after the release of ‘Friday’, the auto-tune-heavy song that laboured over weekdays and memorably rhymed “seat” with “seat”, it’s time to set the record straight once and for all. Despite being treated like a punchline throughout her entire teens, Rebecca Black is cool. Case in point: her actually-pretty-good latest single ‘Girlfriend’. It’s a pointed move from the queer artist, who seems less interested in pinning down her fluid sexuality to any one specific label and more interested in smashing out undeniable bops. And bloody good on her!
10 years ago, Rebecca Black, then a 13-year-old from Anaheim, California, had vague aspirations of going to study performing arts – and when a classmate made a music video with LA’s Ark Music Factory, Black decided to do the same. Founded in 2010 by Patrice Wilson (who raps on ‘Friday’ and also appears in the video), the business put out tracks with aspiring artists in exchange for money: mostly they shot low-budget music videos for teenagers like Rebecca Black, who signed up wanting to boost her chances of getting into college. “I really didn’t think that much about it because nobody’s going to see it,” Black told Slate last year.
Despite being mercilessly ripped to shreds at the time, ‘Friday’ is a high-camp masterpiece. From the very beginning, it’s completely nonsensical. When Rebecca’s mates – surely not old enough to hold driving licences, but besides the point – pull up alongside her in a convertible, she spends an entire pre-chorus deliberating over whether to call shotgun on the front passenger seat. Despite the suggestion that they’re all setting off for school, the group of truants drive instead to what resembles an under-18s proto-frat party for a healthy dollop of “partyin’ partyin’, fun, fun fun” – sung by Black from beneath about 700 layers of auto-tune and robotic vocal treatment.
Though Black may not have set out intending to parody tropes of pop music, ‘Friday’ certainly succeeds in this respect anyway. Years before ultra-cool production house PC Music were satirising the most auto-tuned elements of ’00s pop, ‘Friday’ was inadvertently skewering them, and like majority of genuinely camp moments, it got there by accident. Though Black copped a lot of backlash at the time, the track has become a mainstay of certain gay bars, a lip-synch favourite for drag queens everywhere and Tyler, The Creator’s dance break of choice while performing with Odd Future. Rebecca Black herself even ended up performing it at RuPaul’s Los Angeles DragCon while decked out in a leopard-print suit nicked straight out of Kat Slater’s wardrobe. Next stop, guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race?
When the song went viral, Ark offered to take the video down, and she refused. “God knows why, but I said no,” she told Slate. “I think something told me, ‘Ugh, if you do that, then everybody else wins, and you’ve just immediately given up any sort of little bit of power you had.’” An amateur music video intended for YouTube obscurity, ‘Friday’ spread like wildfire instead and was quickly hailed “the worst music video ever made”, according to one viral tweet. Though some of the mocking was in relatively good humour, Black also received abusive messages and even death threats.
Unlike most viral moments, ‘Friday’ didn’t just fizzle out a couple of days later – she kept the flame alight by, essentially, being a massive laugh. A few months after her accidental breakthrough, Rebecca Black popped up in Katy Perry’s video for ‘Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)’, corrupting Perry’s nerdy lead character and leading her down a path of partying and hedonism. Two years later, Black released its sequel, ‘Saturday’ and gently poked fun at ‘Friday’ in the process – munching Cheerios from a container labelled with the lyric “gotta have my bowl” and mimicking aspects of ‘Friday’’s bizarre delivery. Whatever your feelings towards either song, there’s no denying that she entered into the spirit of things.
A synth-poppy EP titled ‘RE/BL’ followed in 2017; though broadly underwhelming, it marked a clear and deliberate step away from ‘Friday’ with intriguing production choices and a few signs of early promise. Two years later, ‘Anyway’ – channelling vague hints of The 1975 and MUNA – was far better. Last year ’Closer’ and ‘Self Sabotage’ surpassed them. And in the ultimate cool move, Rebecca Black ended up teaming up with experimental pop figurehead Dorian Electra for ‘Edgelord’ – chucking in a couple more referential piss-takes aimed at ‘Friday’ along the way.
Her latest, ‘Girlfriend’ is a sapphic pop banger – cast in a similar mould to Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’, but made super-gay. To mark the 10th anniversary of ‘Friday’ meanwhile, there’s talk of a commemorative remix. And ultimately, this is why Rebecca Black is way, way cooler than most of your faves who made dubious decisions early in their careers. A decade later, she’s still completely in on the joke – and with 149 million views for ‘Friday’, it’s safe to say that she also had the last laugh.