Rebecca Black: When was the last time you heard that name? Her not-so-hit single “Friday” was released in 2011, provoking massive attention — and torment — from listeners.
Back in 2011, Kris Jenner had only one grandchild, Obama was in his first term and planking was trendy. Things have clearly changed since then — including Rebecca Black.
On last week’s episode of “Fox’s The Four: Battle for Stardom,” Black belted a modern rendition of NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” in hopes of earning a place in the music industry. The show’s premise sees contestants compete for the approval of three panelists: Meghan Trainor, DJ Khaled and Sean “Diddy” Combs.
If all three judges laud a contestant’s performance, the performer then challenges one of “the four” established singers for a chance to steal their position. The last competitor standing gets the opportunity to record music under the guidance of the current season’s expert panelists.
Reaction from the Panel
As Rebecca Black was introduced on stage by the show’s host, Fergie, the crowd and Meghan Trainor completely fangirled. Trainor referred to Black as a legend, but DJ Khaled and Diddy remained stone-faced, unaware of Black’s career history.
She arrived with an air of confidence, something you might not expect from a girl whose song had annoyed millions by the time she was only 13. This time, though, the crowd cheered from beginning to end as Black exhibited both range and control in her performance.
Fellow competitor Majeste Pearson, who had one of “the four” spots, offered a standing ovation, while Fergie embraced Black in a hug. DJ Khaled told her the haters played themselves by going after Black so early in her career, Diddy remained kind but unsure of her talent and Trainor continued with her adoration.
Ultimately, the three judges offered the former child pop star the chance to battle a challenger of her choice for their seat. Black beamed as she chose to battle the only male competitor, James Graham, teasing that she wouldn’t mind seeing an all-female panel.
While watching Graham’s performance to keep his seat, Black appeared nervous and impressed as “the four” fixture hit high notes like he was Sam Smith. She fought a fair fight in her second powerful performance, this time singing “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia, but the song was no match for Graham’s soul-fueled bars and British charm.
The winner of each battle is decided by the audience through votes on their personal devices, and Graham won by an undisclosed margin. Although Black failed to make it past the season premiere, her name is already well known in the industry and she did what she came to do by showcasing her true sound and determination.
Breaking Down Bullying
During an interview prior to entering the stage, Black reflected with tears in her eyes on the brutality of receiving so much online abuse in response to the “Friday” music video. To her, the song was just a creative opportunity with Ark Music Factory and an excuse to visit Los Angeles with friends over winter break.
In no time, with over 3 million dislikes, Black’s video became the most disliked on YouTube. Soon, strangers began sending her death threats.
Not only did Black’s performance demonstrate how she overcame the online abuse, but it brought attention to the impact mean comments have — especially on someone so young.
Last October, Black wrote an essay for NBC News titled “What I Learned from Being a Target of Internet Hate at Age 13” that described her experiences. Heavy criticism — both in person and online — were thrown in Black’s face during her adolescence, and eventually a music video that was meant to boost her confidence soon caused her to drop out of school.
Over time, she understood how easy it is for people to be cruel behind the anonymity of a screen. She learned that bullies are often projecting their own insecurities. She even had someone who bullied her online admit that she had never even considered that there was a real, living person on the other end of her comments.
Just this past week Black worked with the organization Playworks, a national nonprofit that provides safe and inclusive play for students from low-income families. On her Instagram page, Black sported a shirt with the slogan “Real players don’t bully” to help spread the organization’s message.
After her performance aired on June 7, Black gracefully thanked her fans via social media for their support and announced her excitement for her upcoming projects. It’s not likely a coincidence that she released a music video for her song “Satellite” just three days before her reality show act.
Black released a six song EP titled “RE / BL,” featuring the melodic ballad “Satellite” and the more upbeat “Heart Full of Scars” that offer similar messages to what she sang on “Fox’s The Four.” She’s been working steadily on her music for several years, including a single, “The Great Divide,” released in 2016, but took advantage of a chance to promote her updated style on live television and push her music renaissance into full swing.
Whether or not Rebecca Black’s new music is your style, it’s uplifting to see her take back what she deserves and continue to pursue her dreams in the music industry.