For many, the name Rebecca Black sends shivers up their spine. Her hit, “Friday,” was inescapable in 2011. It was an unrelenting force that assaulted the ears of retail workers and the general public alike. Twelve years after “Friday,” the fates have bestowed upon the world “Let Her Burn,” Rebecca Black’s debut album. How does it stack up? Very well, actually.
To summarize, “Let Her Burn,” is a massive improvement on all fronts. Black opts for a modern, sleek sound that can almost be described as hyper pop at some points. For those who have been keeping up with her, this change is hardly a surprise. In 2021, she released a remix of “Friday” with bounce pioneer Big Freedia, electropop duo 3OH!3 and hyper pop artist Dorian Electra. Additionally, with her 2021 EP, “Rebecca Black Was Here,” it was clear she was taking influence from artists such as Charli XCX.
“Let Her Burn” strikes a key balance between mainstream pop and the more out-there, futuristic stylings of hyper pop. Black also boasts a surprising amount of variety in sound design that can be found both across the album as a whole and even within single songs. Take the opening track, “Erase You,” for example. Instrumentally sparse verses are separated by a percussive, breakbeat-filled chorus. Black’s vocals are also smooth as silk, demonstrating what an improvement 12 years can make in the right hands.
Black’s knack for writing extremely catchy hooks is being used for the powers of good this time. The best showcase of this is “Sick,” a song about seeing your ex and being upset that they’re happy. Black’s attitude is hilariously petty but relatable all the same. “I don’t want you for myself / I don’t wanna see you with somebody else,” she sings on the first verse.
Rebecca Black reaches staggering levels of self-deprecation on this album. On “Destroy Me,” which features industrial synths and jungle-like breakbeats, she reveals how fragile and easily damaged she is. On “Crumbs,” she keeps going back to the same person despite how horrible they make her feel. Standout lyrics include, “At your worst, you’re still my best” and “I get off on getting hurt.”
On the raunchy “Doe Eyed,” the contrast between its cute, sugary synths and vulgar, sexual lyrics is something to behold. The addition of Black’s infectious vocal melodies makes this track an instant highlight.
Rebecca Black’s persona becomes much more developed in the final three songs. On “Cry Hard Enough,” she blames herself for staying with someone who cheated on her and ended up cheating again. This track also features a standout vocal performance. “Look At You” sets itself apart by being genuine and kind; Black has no ulterior motives. It’s honestly refreshing for a pop song – especially one on this album – to feel so honest and pure.
The closing track, “Performer,” revolves around the conflict of personal identity. Black sings about the vulnerability that comes with being true to yourself and the masks we wear around others. It also features a sudden transition to rock instrumentation that should not have worked as well as it did.
If anything, “Let Her Burn” left me wanting more. Despite a couple songs feeling a bit underdeveloped (“Misery Loves Company,” “What Am I Gonna Do With You”), many have strong concepts and smart ideas. Besides themes of self-deprecation and the usual pop topics centering around love, this album feels more like a collection of songs than a cohesive, front-to-back experience. Finally, Black seems like she is still finding a signature sound.
I sincerely hope we don’t have to wait 12 more years for another full-length album from Rebecca Black. She has improved leaps and bounds in all aspects of her artistry, and I look forward to seeing how she continues to carve out her identity in the current pop landscape. Give this album a chance; if “Friday” was an evil, it was a necessary one.