While Black’s set — which featured everything from an aerial acrobat to T-shirt guns, plus a remix version of "Friday"— wasn’t her usual MO (she’s known for her emotional pop-synthy bops), it’s the latest accomplishment in a heavy-hitting two years for a singer infamously known as the 13-year-old voice behind the 2011 viral sensation “Friday.” (Yes, you’re definitely singing it in your head right now). With more than a decade’s worth of distance from the kind-of-cringe-for-its-time song, new music, and a fresh self-assured perspective, Black’s moving into her best era of music yet.
For the singer, the time during the pandemic has been, like for many people, transformative, especially when it came to finding her voice musically. While no one can deny that Black has been hustling her entire life, starting with the jump to YouTube when she was 16, while also pursuing a career in music on her own terms, the past two years have been off the charts. During this time, Black released her second EP, Rebecca Was Here, along with new hit singles like “Girlfriend,” and a tongue-in-cheek, hyperpop remix of the song that started it all. In January of this year, Black kicked off her first headlining tour.
“I feel like I finally have found some sort of my own stride in myself, and I feel like that allowed for so much more music than I was ever able to create and so many more ideas that I felt like I could do,” she says.
Part of this is due, in part, to Black’s decision to share aspects of her personal life with her fans, including her sexuality (something she's talked to Refinery29 about before). In April 2020, Black shared on the Dating Straight podcast that she’s a part of the queer community. “I made a conscious decision to not, like, ‘come out.’ People started asking and I stopped not responding. I’m still in the process, it feels like," she told the hosts at the time.
“I'm very lucky that I was able to come out in a time and in a space where people were so welcoming,” Black tells Refinery29, upon reflecting. “There were a lot of nerves I felt before, and I was wanting to do it in the right and respectful way.”
As with many things in her life, including her initial bout of virality, Black says the actual moment kind of just happened. But to say that her announcement was met with positive reactions would be an understatement. Since sharing her queer identity, Black has been lauded as a "gay icon" by fans online (along with JoJo Siwa!), even performing at the 32nd annual GLAAD Awards last April, an experience she called "meaningful."
“It means so much because I really felt outside of my own sexuality," Black says. "I've spent so much time feeling like an outcast and feeling really misunderstood, so it feels so special that the queer community was there for me, for so many other people everywhere.”
And it's been reflected in her music. In “Girlfriend,” which Black released in the spring of 2021, just over a year after publicly talking about a breakup on Dating Straight, the singer detailed the all-too relatable experience and thrill of deciding to get back with an ex. The comment section, unlike the one on the video that made her viral, are surprisingly self-aware. “I was an edgy teen who thought 'Friday' was the worst thing that had happened to music, and here I am jamming to the same artist over 10 years later,” one listener commented.
Finally, Black is getting her much deserved dues. “I feel lucky to have an audience that I feel like I really resonate with and people that I understand and that understand me, because that was something I didn't have for a long time,” she says. “It’s so encouraging to be able to be honest and write queer songs and have queer people feel understood by them.”
And if her last project allowed the singer to open the gates in terms of talking about — and understanding how to talk about — her sexuality and relationships, she’s also ready to talk about other aspects of her life, specifically her feelings about herself. “ [With this new music], I talk a lot about how I felt about myself and how those emotions either are or were or feel like they might be in the future. There's a little bit more of that than I've ever really understood how to say properly.”
So what can we expect next from the “Friday” girl? A whole lot more — every day of the week.