The Great Divide
What does redemption look like for someone who's first brush with fame earned the ignominious title of "the worst song ever"? Rebecca Black is back with, she hopes, an answer to that question.
Now, you might not have thought you'd ever hear the name Rebecca Black again after her vanity single "Friday" caught fire online in February 2011, becoming one of the most mocked moments of the internet age. At the time, Black was 14. And what might have initially seemed like a fun little lark turned internet mean on her, which is one potential outcome when your video garners nearly 100 million views, 2.3 million dislikes and almost 800,000 comments.
It obviously took a toll on Black. She moved from a public school to homeschooling at least in part because of the bullying she received in the wake of her sudden internet fame.
Skip forward five years, and Black has returned to make a go of it again. She's still earnest. But she's not 14 anymore, and the song, "The Great Divide," as well as its accompanying video (along with a message to fans, which I'll get to in a moment) show that she's been paying attention to the themes, sounds and images that constitute ingredients in the formula for a successful teen pop song.
Love (Still) Hurts
Love, of course, is what teens most often sing about. Either love working, or love not working.
Black has gone the latter route in "The Great Divide." It's an angsty, EDM-infused pop breakup ballad that slots right in, stylistically, with the likes of established female artists such as Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez. This sounds like a song that any of them might have belted out in their more forthright moments. And Black's competent vocals here should deliver her from kind of mockery she had to endure the last time around.
Black's obviously been emotionally bruised by a selfish cad. "You go where the wind blows," she begins, "destroying everyone on your path." That said, she doesn't waste much time meandering through the emotional rubble before she latches on to a more empowering message: "I'm done feeding your ego/Forgetting everything that we had."
As the song continues, Black's "leaving you" litany lengthens. "I'm leaving you behind/Across the great divide," the chorus tells us (and him). Then she adds, "Good luck when you wake up/And realize all that you've lost." As the song moves toward its conclusion, she tells her ex, "I let you go, so let me go/Let us go."
'Y'all Can't Say Anything Now'
Unlike "Friday," "The Great Divide" is the kind of song that could potentially get some traction in a good way. It's moody-but-empowered, synthesizer-fueled vibe is in step with what the music world seems to want of its young stars these days. That's true of the atmospheric video too, which mostly focuses on Black wandering around looking moody and kind of sad, right up to the moment she flashes a big smile at the end—the one we saw a lot of in "Friday."
One version of the video features a filmed introduction from Black, talking about her experience over the last five years. It's obvious that she felt compelled to try to overcome some of what happened after "Friday" went viral. She says in the video, "I have spent so long trying to perfect this and make it absolutely amazing. And part of me wanted to do this because I, you know, did it, like I wanted to be like, 'Ha! This is perfect! Yeah, I can sing. Y'all can't say anything now.' And I just wanted to prove everyone wrong."
She also noted, however, that this was a triumph not just for her, but for her fans, too. Without them, she says, it wouldn't have happened. "I think what I'm also so excited for is, there have been some of you that I have seen stick with me for literally four or five years now. And you've always been so excited, and so patient with me, so, um I just want to … before the music video starts, I want to say thank you to you guys. And I could not be happier with how this turned out. And I am so ready for this to be out, oh my god, it's been so long. And, um, I couldn't have done it without you guys. So, we did it!"
Watching that little intro, I couldn't help but feel that some of that giddy earnestness that pours out of "Friday" is still present in Rebecca Black. Should her second shot at stardom catch fire again, I hope that she never completely sheds it in her attempt to conform to the sometimes soul-sapping strictures of the fame game.