Overnight, the pop tune won the California native international attention, television appearances, and a springboard for her own record label; it also unleashed a cascade of cyberbullying against the young singer and her music video co-stars, and still ranks among the most disliked videos in YouTube’s history.
At 18, after graduating from high school and moving out of her parent’s house, Black resolved to start pursuing her dream of a music career in earnest. But as soon as she began to take lessons and, as she puts it, “figure out what music I really loved and what I wanted to say,” the years of abuse came flooding back. “When I would walk into a studio,” she recalls, “all of the sudden I felt like I couldn’t speak.” It had been five years since “Friday’s” release, and Black thought she had made peace with the demons of her tween years. In reality, she shares, “all of those problems and all of those issues that you would think, or at least I thought, would just kind of dissolve or fade away or not be real, I had to deal with them.”
The path to empowerment, the 21-year-old reveals, has not been an easy one. When she considers her state of mind following the video’s release as well as what advice she would share with a young person facing cyberbullying, she realizes that what she needed most was someone to remind her, “that it was okay to be upset. I see so many people saying, ‘you got to be strong, stay strong, stay strong,’” she shares, “but you can’t get strong until you actually build that strength. And you can’t build a false sense of strength.”
With the help of a talented team of collaborators, willing to “sit through the hard stuff,” Black is finally starting to discover her songwriting voice, which has meant facing, among other things, the hard truths about her strange start in the music biz. “That is one of my favorite things about what I do and with music is the vulnerability that comes with it,” she shares, “but it is so much work to uncover that vulnerability but also own that vulnerability. It’s really scary too, though.”
In 2017, Black dropped her debut EP, “RE / BL,” and recently appeared on season two of Fox’s musical competition series “The Four: Battle for Stardom.” “With my new music, I talk a lot about my experience and that whole subject of kind of coming into your own confidence and owning who you are,” Black shares. “All I can do is to keep writing and hopefully getting to a place that is truer and even more authentic.”
Whether or not the strange internet alchemy that launched Black strikes again, the singer has a different kind of audience connection in mind. “Not every song needs to be there to change the world,” she reflects. “But when you are making that message, I just try to think, I if I was listening to the song and it wasn’t my own, what would I want to get from it? I hope to help anyone out there feel less alone, feel maybe a bit more understood.”
Emily Gawlak, [email protected]