Photo: Sarah Pardini

Rebecca Black

Crumbs are the last thing Rebecca Black is leaving us with.

The pop powerhouse rose to notoriety as a 13-year-old viral sensation after the music video for her debut single “Friday” in 2011 suddenly became an overnight success on YouTube. Despite its crazy numbers and becoming a trending topic on social media, the song mostly attracted negative media coverage. For the longest time, Black was scrutinized and doubted for her talents, was labeled as a meme, and became an easy target for online bullying. Thankfully, in recent years, Black has managed to change the public’s perception of her and found her feet as a hyperpop gal who is capable of producing bop after bop. Her 2021 EP, Rebecca Black Was Here, served as the perfect reintroduction and gained her a legion of followers who now claim her as their main pop girl. Fast forward just two years and the now-25-year-old is officially in her debut album era, self-releasing Let Her Burn on February 9, ironically during the week of “Friday’s” 12th anniversary. “The timing is crazy, it’s always serendipitous,” Black says.

While in the middle of a nationwide UK tour, I meet Black at her fancy hotel lobby in central London just one day into the release of her album. She’s hours away from performing to a sold-out crowd at the iconic Heaven venue in Embankment, where the likes of Dua Lipa, Miley Cyrus, Years & Years, and Kehlani have all performed sets. “It’s a psychotic, crazy feeling,” Black says about the concept of releasing an album in the middle of a jam-packed schedule. “I definitely haven’t let everything fully sink in, but I’m really trying to. Any chance I get to just get on my phone and have a look. It’s also crazy to release something in a different time zone than you’re used to. It’s been really overwhelming, but in a very good way.”

Photo: Sarah Pardini

Black’s run of shows across the UK and Ireland began a week prior in Dublin where she started performing the album in its entirety. With seven songs from the record still yet to be released, Black understandably felt a certain way going into the tour. “I was definitely nervous, like just from a selfish self-perspective to like play so many shows with so much unreleased stuff. My audience is truly the best and they’re so supportive. I see them in every song knowing the words before the song is over. They’re quick!” she says. 

Critics, too, are digging Black like never before. NME gave the album a four-star rating, stating that Black has the potential to be a “budding pop distributor for the foreseen future,” while DIY describes Let Her Burn as a “compelling pop cocktail soundtracking Rebecca’s self-discovery.” When asked whether she has seen what journalists have had to say since dropping the album, Black admits to seeing bits here and there but doesn’t seem to let that side of things define her. “I had no idea like what critically people would think about it because you can kind of trust your audience to hear you,” she says. “It has been fun to watch, though.”

Let Her Burn is a pure pop record from front to back. It delivers a mix of emotions from feeling sexually charged to heartbroken while exploring and blending multiple genres into 10 tracks and 30 minutes. With hints of synth-rock (“Destroy Me”), PC music (“Crumbs”), and synth-pop (“Misery Loves Company”), the record feels like a real moment in time where Black is finally being recognized for the crazy, wide range of talent that she has. Like any artist starting insanely young, her journey to discovering who she is has taken its time but a wait that has been more than worth it. “I think that the last couple years just personally have been like a huge journey for me in learning how to make decisions for myself finally,” she explains. “It’s just an ever-evolving process because with Rebecca Black Was Here, I started that EP when I had just come out and I was writing on Zoom in my house alone and trying to figure out how to go through this breakup. Once that was done, I just put those songs out and then was like, now it’s time,” Black continues. “Then it just became a matter of, every day you walk into the studio and it is a totally different vibe. You might have an idea of what you’re gonna do but you make something completely different and you just have to, as far as making the music, just trust the process. I couldn’t believe I was ready until the album was truly done. But then once it was, I was like, no, this is it. This is the moment that I’ve been trying to get to for the last 12 years.”

As previously mentioned, Let Her Burn is a self-released project with no big machine behind it. For this reason alone, all of Black’s recent victories have been down to all the choices she has been at the forefront of. While this may be a more rewarding process, Black reassures me that it is also “stressful as fuck,” adding, “You are the machine. It’s my manager, publicist, and that’s kind of it. Being an independent artist has its pros and cons, that’s for sure.”

An obvious highlight, and a track she’s noticed fans raving about, is “What Am I Gonna Do With You,” a big, bold anthem with an explosive chorus that serves as her tour opener. “The girls love the dark shit,” she says as she turns over to her manager. “Seeing people’s response to that song is so interesting because I knew that it was gonna be weird to see what people like connected to or just interesting to see what people connected to once the album was out because every song is so different,” she explains. “That song, in particular, was one that I was like, this might be a risk, I don’t know if people are gonna get it. I love this song, it’s one of my favorites, I just don’t know if the world is ready. But clearly people are, which means I’ll take it that much further next time.”

Photo: Sarah Pardini

If Black had to pick one song she is most proud of amongst the 10, it would be the album closer, “Performer,” which came at the very last hour of the creative process. “It’s a really different approach from anything that I’ve done,” she says. “I’m proud of the way that it kind of wraps up a personal moment for myself. As a song, to me, it’s one of the better things I’ve ever done. I don’t know how people will think about that but it’s just a really meaningful song and moment for me. It portrays a side of myself that I haven’t yet.”

Since organically developing a hyperpop sound and a fanbase who adore that genre, it comes as no surprise that Black has been embraced by those who are obsessed with the likes of Slayyyter, SOPHIE, and Charli XCX. That said, Let Her Burn is also diverse enough to appeal to a crowd that loves a more polished pop star, such as Katy Perry and Dua Lipa. “That was the goal,” she confesses. “I love hyperpop and I owe so many of like my, whatever the phrase is, I don’t know, honors, for what that community has done for me. But, at the same time, I am here to be a fucking massive pop star, hopefully. I wanna make something that has something for everybody. Especially when it comes to pop, one of the best things I think about being a pop artist is you have no limits. You have no genre boundaries. You can be camp, crazy, and insane and people will dig it, as long as you do it well.”

As an openly queer musician, Black has been connecting with her LGBTQ+ following more than ever on her current tour and has nothing but gratitude for the crowds that have been giving her immense love every night. “I can’t even put into words how it feels to not only be in the room with them at a show but hearing from other people that the vibes were good,” she says. Creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ fans has been all she could ever wish for, especially when they were the community supporting her when was facing scrutiny as a fresh-faced teenager. “Whatever I can do to give them their flowers, I will do. I will jump as high far as I need to because I don’t take any of that for granted.”

Photo: Sarah Pardini

As Black relishes in her latest milestone, which she likes to refer to as “phase one” of her career, she ends our chat by offering advice to fellow artists who are struggling to find or searching for their identity. “I think I was given this advice and I just didn’t know how to accept it until I did,” she says. “Nobody knows you as you do. Nobody knows what’s in your head like you do. Nobody knows your vision as you do. And as long as you know that, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take advice and ideas and critique. You should because like that will help you focus in on that better and make it as big and beautiful as it wants to be. But, you have it all there.”