It’s 4 degrees in London, and internet sweetheart Rebecca Black and I are complaining about the seasonal flus and blues over Zoom. She’s sipping hot bone broth while I’m tightly holding my dear hot water bottle. Congratulations are in order, as the former musical theatre kid to YouTube sensation is finally releasing her debut album, Let Her Burn, opening the doors to a whole new era.
At only 13 years old, the California-born Mexican-American queer creator broke the internet with her single ‘Friday’, viewed by over 150 million people worldwide and gaining the title of fastest-growing song and video of that year. Since then, Black’s musical development has been something of a metamorphosis, counting collaborations with Slayyyter, MØ, bbno$, and appearing in music videos for Blu DeTiger and Amy Allen.
This month, off the heels of her first headline North American tour, and after releasing the hyper-pop remix of her viral first single featuringDorian Electra, Big Freedia, and 3OH!3 in 2021, Black is embarking on her first European tour.
Having shaken up the pop landscape and establishing herself as a true queer icon with her first EP Rebecca Black Was Here, for the 25-year-old singer, Let Her Burn is all about self-discovery and reaffirming herself personally and in the industry. Themes of sexuality and deep carnal desires adorn ‘Crumbs’ – complete with stimulating dance beats and seductively-whispered vocals. Later on, eye-turning tracks ‘Doe Eyed’ and ‘What Am I Going To Do With You’, while dancefloor-ready pop hits ‘Destroy Me’ and ‘Misery Loves Company’ showcase a journey through darker, deeper emotions and toxic relationships.
The independently released album proudly introduces fans to a new era and chapter in Black’s career, perfectly unveiling her versatility and multidimensional creative mind. Throughout the project, she pushes herself out of her comfort zone, exploring her identity and vulnerability, themes of queer love, and perception of self.
How are you feeling about the release?
I’m feeling really good. I mean, Gosh, I’ve just been literally waiting for this for so long, so getting to talk about some of the songs and knowing people are finally hearing it and seeing people’s excitement is pretty surreal.
We’ve been listening to the album on repeat since your management sent it to us and we love it, congrats again. 12 years after your viral hit ‘Friday’, Let Her Burn is your highly-awaited debut full-length album, which you also worked independently on. You’ve managed to achieve a big-budget pop sound by basically doing it DIY. How did you find the creative process behind it?
I mean, making this album was the time of my life. I think for so long, I always just wondered what it would sound like if it existed, I had all these ideas. Obviously, I’ve always been inspired by certain things and know I’ve loved certain things. But you really never know until you get to the end. I just feel like I really finally found my voice as a leader in my own world while making this album, and I’m just so proud of how it stands. The big goal was making something that felt, you know, big budget and really legitimate and also was really authentic to me, and I really think we did it.
You’ve mentioned that this is quite a pivotal moment in your career as well, and you’re trying to reaffirm yourself and reposition yourself in the pop landscape. How has your approach to making music changed over the last decade?
I think I spent so much time trying to learn and understand, and I took so much advice from so many people who I really trusted, almost a little bit too much. I think for a second when I was in my early 20s, I really got to this place where I had spent so much time learning, but I stopped or I missed the bit where you have to really learn how to find your own inner thoughts and opinions about everything. That really hurt me and really inhibited me from making stuff that I really loved. So I think now I just really have learned to fight for what I believe is right, especially when it comes to a song. I mean, if there’s one thing that I think I can trust myself on now more than anyone, it’s if something doesn’t feel right in the song, you have to change it. You have to do it until you don’t feel that way anymore, and then finally, the song can be done. If there’s one place I don’t let advice touch me so much anymore, it’s that, because at the end of the day, I have to trust myself to some degree as much as I trust everybody else in my life.
Corset: Brian De Carvalho Sleeves: Paolina Russo Skirt: Paolina Russo Leg warmers: Nazifa Begum Earrings: Zwyrtech
Yeah, I think this has been a common narrative amongst other musicians. A lot of people are really tired of doing that, I think, which is super fair.
Yeah, one day when you’re at the end of your time here, that becomes your legacy in a sense, and this was such a big moment for me, and I wanted to be able to do it in a way that felt really right.
You wrote your latest single ‘Sick To My Stomach’ about that nauseating feeling you get when you find that your ex has moved on with someone new (very relatable feeling). Could you talk about how your relationship experiences have influenced your songwriting and how are you being more vulnerable during it now?
I think with that song in particular, I just wanted to tell it how it was. I love super beautiful poetic lyrics, but sometimes you just have to tell the truth. You can tell the truth through poeticism, but I think the story was at its best when I just told it how it was, and really got to the root of the simplicity of how I was feeling and also, knowing how much of a not positive thing it is that you feel that way. But you still feel that way, and that’s valid and vulnerable within itself to realise, so I think I’ve just tried to learn. Relationships, especially romantic ones, have always been really easy to talk about, because a lot of times you can just talk about the other person, and you don’t have to face the way that you feel so much. But with this project, I really wanted to talk about the way I felt, even if it was maybe not so shining-light type of feeling, that didn’t make me look so good, but it was true.
It’s very real. And the video as well, I really, really love, it wields this glamorous Madonna, kind of 80s aesthetic. So I wanted to ask you, do you find yourself creating visuals for your songs while you’re writing them? And how important is visual storytelling for you when you’re constructing your own concept?
I guess it depends on the song. It’s so funny. I think as the song creates this world, and gets built out, and the more that you get closer to finishing it, and really seeing it fully realised, the more you can really see the clear picture of what it could look like. And that’s really fun. For ‘Sick To My Stomach’, I always knew I wanted to do a dance video, I always knew that was the video I was going to do just me, just choreography, and Let’s fucking go. I didn’t know how I was gonna get there, but that always stuck with me. So I was so happy that with each of the videos in this project, it’s really gotten to fulfil itself in a really incredible way, and just something I was super proud of.
Going back to the theme of love, I’ve seen that this past year, you shared super cute pictures with your partner on social media, and I know you came out a couple of years ago. Since then, how have you navigated being openly queer in the music industry? And do you think you’ve been able to find a safe space?
For sure. I feel so lucky that the team and the people I have closest to me have helped me make the biggest decisions. Especially when it has anything to do with queerness, they really support me to just drive the boat, and whatever I’m feeling, whatever my thoughts and my opinions about something that we should or shouldn’t be doing. They allow me that space, which I know isn’t the case across the industry. But that’s so important to me. I haven’t always had a world like that, but I do now, and that helps me make clearer decisions and build my confidence as an artist. I was lucky to have such a positive coming out experience with my audience, and that’s really been really, really helpful now, too. But I’m still learning so much, and I think it’s so awesome to see more and more queer artists become more prominent every day who are on the market and are in the industry and making bigger names for themselves. But we also have so much to learn about how we really hold our responsibilities close to us as representatives, but also find freedom as artists to live as we are, it’s something we’re all still learning a lot.
For sure. I can see that. Do you think the process of writing songs has changed since you’ve been in a relationship? And how so, if yes?
I mean, it definitely becomes a little bit like a muscle, and I wrote this album a lot when I was at the end, and just after a huge really important relationship that I was in for myself that had come to an end, and I think I got really comfortable writing about that. And it was important for me in this album, not to just write about that relationship, but to really look across all of the different relationships I have in my life with my family, with my friends, with myself, and that was definitely a challenge. I mean, I think being in a relationship that started kind of the end of that last album process, now it’s crazy to write happy songs and feel and write about the experience in a positive, beautiful way, but I think that we get better at accessing these vulnerable parts of ourselves, but you just have to kind of like dig a little, it’s a muscle, and just get a little bit deeper every time.
The single you released last year, ‘Crumbs’, you mentioned, was a lot about finding balance with submission, dominance and sexuality. And then your other very head-turning track, ‘Doe Eyed’ explores similar themes in terms of sex and kinky scenarios. How do you envision queer and kink culture and how did you portray it through the album?
I think as far as how it lands in the album, I can only be honest, and I only share my perspective and it’s been honestly strange having started at such a young age. I think I really feared being honest about sensuality and sexuality because I felt this pressure to do it for so long while being literally just too young. But over the last few years, as I’ve grown into myself a lot more, I’ve just learned to do it on my own terms. With ‘Crumbs’ and with ‘Doe Eyed’, and even with ‘What Am I Going To Do With You’, which is also very much about sensuality, those were such powerful moments for me to be able to say that yes, this is gonna go on the record, and it deserves to, and it’s equally as legitimate, and this is a real part of my life that I’ve never shared before. I think what I’ve been focused on more so than anything else is just really overcoming that narrative I maybe built into myself.
As a bisexual woman myself, it’s very empowering to see so many types of queer love being represented, such as in your work. But even in mainstream media today, I think kink and sex culture for queer communities can still feel a bit taboo, or can be labelled as grotesque, and be under scrutiny. How do you think your intentions with this album can support more ideas of queer sexual self-empowerment, and maybe even unconventional relationships and sex dynamics?
That’s a big one. I can only speak for myself, but something I’m working on is the balance of navigating this experience just as I am for the first time, and giving myself grace in that. But also knowing the platform and the responsibility that I have as somebody who’s putting stuff out there and has an audience that is going to listen to it and do what they will with it. I’m just trying to figure it out, at least, as I’m still new in this world talking about queerness and everything surrounding that. To be honest, to me it’s about leading by example. If I can be honest about my experiences, and hopefully create a safe space, even just within a three-minute song for somebody to identify within that, hopefully, that does even just a little tiny something to move the needle in somebody’s life. As artists, when we’re new in expressing that identity, that might do so much more than trying to come out really strongly and maybe do a lot more than you’re ready for, if that makes sense.
If I can be honest about my experiences, and hopefully create a safe space – even just within a three-minute song – for somebody to identify within that, hopefully that does even just a little tiny something to move the needle in somebody’s life.
Moving on from the sex talk, you’ve collaborated with a lot of amazing artists, including Dorian Elektra, Slayyter, and many more. Is there an artist in particular that has inspired you throughout your career and that you’d like to collaborate with in the future?
So many. It’s been really fun to see who is on a similar path as me right now and trying to find who they are. I’m so inspired by Hemlocke Springs and what she’s doing, she’s incredible. There are so many people within our current community that I think are doing some really exciting things in music, I think Cobrah’s incredible. I would love new music from Quay Dash. You know, there are just so many different people I would love to talk to and even just pick their brains.
During the process of writing and recording the album, what were the tracks or records that you were listening to and whose inspiration you can still hear in the album?
I need to just pull up this reference playlist now because everybody asks me this question, and I never have an answer. I was listening to a lot of sad stuff, a lot of Aphex, some Locust, some Boy Harsher. This album is all over the place, and I think you can hear that. I got to work with some people like Stint, who had also worked with artists that had resonated with me in terms of the songs. He has worked a lot with his band Health that I really like. Even talking about both of our experiences and our references together allowed us to create our own little unique moment that felt really good and communicative of what we both love, and that was really, really cool.
TikTok has really disrupted the music industry in the last year and you’ve been able to build a platform on it and find a community away from all that mainstream media input. As someone who has experienced both ends of the spectrum when it comes to online engagement, how do you take care of yourself on and offline?
Um, I try to. I think it’s a tough balance when you know that there is somewhat of an obligation in the way that the world works now, and the way that the industry works now, to have some of these things. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I wanted to delete fucking everything, and go off and not talk to anyone for a while, but I try to keep them. I think what’s helped me is keeping a little bit of unseriousness to all of them. For a while, I felt so trapped by the algorithm and trying to work around the do’s and don’ts of it, and I think a lot of that is bullshit. It’s changing so fast, that it’s really hard to even know what is right and wrong anymore. So as long as you’re making content, even if it’s only a few things, when you’re feeling inspired, and as long as you’re making something that you’re proud of posting, then I don’t think it matters how often you’re doing it. Also, as an artist, I think in this current light with TikTok, even though it’s such a huge piece of the industry, you don’t hold all of the control in terms of what your song does or doesn’t do on TikTok. That is the algorithm. And it’s also a similar moment to putting songs on Spotify and whatever connects.
Looking at 2023, what are you most looking forward to this year with the album and beyond?
I’m really excited to bring the show to life. I’m doing my – I almost just said ‘first show’, but that was last year. I’m going to be returning to the UK next week, and I cannot wait to play, honestly, some of the biggest shows I’ve ever done, which is really exciting. And hopefully, bring it all around the world. And I’m thinking about something new, so maybe by the end of the year, there’ll be something fresh out. Not sure.
Is there a festival or venue you’re particularly excited to play in, or that you’re playing for the first time?
I really couldn’t wait to play Heaven. I heard so much about that venue for so long, and I was so excited. And yeah, there’ll be hopefully some fun things there coming up soon.
Stream Rebecca Black Let Her Burn on Spotify and Apple Music now.
Enjoyed this story? Help keep independent queer-led publishing alive and unlock the BRICKS WORLD Learner Platform, full of resources for emerging and aspiring creatives sent to you every week via newsletter. Start your 30-day free trial now.