The Party Is Just Getting Started
PHOTO CREDIT: Billie Eilish/Getty Images
The Unique and Brilliant Billie Eilish
A couple of weeks ago…
PHOTO CREDIT: Hannah Sider
we were all enjoying Glastonbury and the wealth of artists on display. Even if you were not there, the performances were available on the BBC and there are clips on YouTube. I do think that this year’s Glastonbury was defined by female artists and their brilliance. Although Lizzo and Kylie Minogue brought something special and memorable to Glastonbury, a lot of people flocked to see Billie Eilish. I shall talk about her latest album in a bit but it is clear that Billie Eilish has risen and captured the imagination. She has accrued so many new fans and is definitely putting something fresh and exciting into the world. The reviews for Eillish’s Glastonbury set were pretty impressive. Here, NME provided their thoughts:
“This year has been so big, that Emily Eavis was forced to bump Billie Eilish up the bill for her Sunday showing on the Other Stage. There’s an argument to be made that she could have leap-frogged the rest of the bill and headline Glastonbury’s second stage entirely: she’s that popular.
Her stage presence is more animated than usual and gees up the crowd for big drops – despite the sound issues that she says explains her “angry face” throughout. She need not worry, it sounds superb from where we are. Particularly, ‘You Should See Me In A Crown’ a destructive and affirmation of her current reign over pop music right now. ‘Copycat’ throws down the gauntlet to all the pretenders and phonies: “Copycat trying to cop my manner/Watch your back when you can’t watch mine”.
Billie has long been a live-force to reckon with. Even at her first ever shows in the UK at London’s Courtyard Theatre a couple years back – which she remembers fondly halfway through this set – she’s been a captivating performer for songs both loud and quiet. She lays flat on the stage for the twinkling ‘When I’m Older’ and for ‘Ocean Eyes’, she wants people to live in the moment: “Hold your phones down and look at me in the eye. We’ll never be in this moment ever again.”. Her ballads are just as impressive, too. ‘Wish You Were Gay’ is simply majestic and the swooning ‘Xanny’ is as addictive as they come”.
I do wonder whether, given her performance this year, Eilish will get close to headlining Glastonbury next year. She was on a smaller stage this year but Eilish was not fazed and gave an incredible set. It is amazing that, still a teenager, Eilish has this confident and seems to use the stage as an extension of herself. She has a legion of fans and there is something about her music and personality that draws people in. It is clear Eilish is honest and open and not afraid to speak out. So many artists are label-led and having very little to say. I think Eilish is refreshingly straight and she wants people to connect with her. Check out her other live reviews but, when it came to one of the world’s biggest music festival, Eilish delivered the goods and was completely on top. I expect to see her back at Glastonbury next year and determined to see her live myself.
A lot of attention has come the way of Eilish because of her unique and daring music. Reviews for When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, have been largely positive but there have been some reviews a little cold or confused. The thing with Eilish music’s is that it is very unconventional and, if you are expecting this teen to follow the pack and produce music that is pretty commercial and hummable than think again! Eilish ca do accessible but her music is more about texture, feel and experimentation than big choruses and climbing the charts. She does have beautiful moments on her album but there are plenty of interesting angles and diversions. Those who get what she is doing can bond with the songs and follow her mindset: those who want something a bit more settled are not quite sure what to make of Eilish. CLASH, in their review of When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, talk about Eilish’s contrasts and constant sense of movement:
“The gloomy afterglow of ‘when the party’s over’ softly blurs into the sickly-sweet ukele of ‘8’ which is undoubtedly the oddball track on this peculiar record. ‘my strange addiction’ and ‘bury a friend’ pick up the beat before dissolving into the anxious lullaby of ‘ilomilo’. Billie then closes the album with a heartbreakingly melancholic mix of tracks, bringing you close to tears with ‘listen before I go’, ‘I love you’ and ‘goodbye’.
‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ is a brave and fortuitous debut album from the LA teen, capturing the hopes, fears and vulnerabilities of an entire generation. The genius in this record is its unaffected relatability. It is like a reassuring hug letting you know that you are not alone. Billie Eilish’s intelligent response to the world crumbling around her is to make it into art, and to see the beauty in her generation and their protests.
She champions the strange, the misfits, the misunderstood and offers an alternative to the oversaturation of vapid, plastic pop stars and reality TV ghouls. You might not get her but she embraces it and will thrive, but quite frankly she probably couldn’t give a damn”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
I think that Billie Eilish’s debut album is an extremely bold, interesting and accomplished release from a seventeen year old (she wrote all the tracks with her brother, Finneas O'Connell). It is scary to think where she goes next and how good she might get in a few years. Right now, she is channelling her conflicts, problems and thoughts into music that you cannot ignore. I will end with some interview quotes and personal revelations which bond you closer with Billie Eilish but, for my money, there is not another artist around like her. Sure, some of the tracks on When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? do not hit the mark and it is not the sort of album that you can listen at any time. I do think When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is best enjoyed when you need an emotional release or want to escape in this incredibly unusual and striking sound. Eilish, for that reason, might not be able to convert every listener but I think this is true of every innovative and challenging artist. She is this completely free and liberated artist on stage and one listens to her music and is stunned by the confidence and natural ability she has. Away from the cameras and microphones, there is a very relatable person who has an incredibly wise head on her shoulders.
I want to bring in a couple of interviews with Eilish (one from last year and one this year) that shows that there are a few different sides to Eilish. She is confident and bold but she is also anxious and fearful. It makes for this very real and brilliant artist who makes for very compelling focus. In this NME piece, some interesting revelations and quotes came out:
“I’m the type of person if you tell me to stop doing something, I’m going to do the opposite,” she says in our interview.
She’s a teen – she’s meant to be rebellious – but Billie has an endearing ‘fuck you’ attitude that only a handful of people can carry off. Want proof? After a long day of shooting, she’s been asked by US TV network NBC to film a spritely ‘Happy New Year’ message to be shown on their New Year’s Eve coverage. She tries and fails several times to nail the happy-go-lucky attitude the network wants. On the seventh try, she looks like she’s about to nail it. She reaches the end of the clip and blows a kiss to the camera to sign off, then immediately flips the bird directly to camera. Her mum, Maggie Baird, who’s been with us all day, is exasperated – the clip is useless. “You need to leave a beat at the end of the clip for them to edit away,” she tells Billie. “I did,” Billie replies. “This is my beat” – and she throws up the middle finger once more.
It is not easy to predict Eilish and see where her music comes from but, when it comes to the type of music she listens to and the sort of life she leads, it is not too different to a lot of teens:
“Like most people her age, her influences and listening habits are strikingly diverse. During the day-long shoot in West Hollywood she vibes out to music by rising US rapper Tierra Whack and her 15-minute album, ‘Whack World’, and as well as The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys. When we met last year, she cited The Beatles and Avril Lavigne, among others, as all-time favourites.
Though they are fairly traditional influences, her music is thoroughly modern. Her generation’s hope, anxiety, vulnerability and heartbreak are reflected in the songs she pens with Finneas. ‘Bellyache’, from that debut EP, was inspired by the regret she felt when she would shoplift or occasionally nab toys from friends. “I’d leave and want to throw up with guilt. I used to think the police were going to come to class and take me away from my parents,” she laughs. “It was completely irrational, but there’s nothing like that overwhelming feeling, and to say that a child can’t write about those feelings because they are too young is bogus.”
There is an uglier side to her success and Eilish is no stranger to the hateful side of the music industry; getting cruel comments and having to fend off a lot of negativity:
“Being bombarded with hateful messages is a harsh reality of being a pop star right now, but it’s not all bad news, she says. “This industry is fucking horrible, but if I wasn’t doing this I would probably be miserable because this is always what I’ve wanted. No matter how horrible fame is and how horrible this and that is: a lot of things make all of this worth it, y’know?”
PHOTO CREDIT: Rachael Wright
Do you think it’s because you’re a young woman that people feel that have a right to comment on what you do?
“Hell yeah. I’ve spoken a lot to female artists about this, because if you’re not a female artist you probably don’t think about this. If I was a guy and I was wearing these baggy clothes, nobody would bat an eye. There’s people out there saying, ‘Dress like a girl for once! Wear tight clothes you’d be much prettier and your career would be so much better!’ No it wouldn’t. It literally would not.”’
PHOTO CREDIT: Billie Eilish/Getty Images
I get the impression of an artist who wants to make music that seems very real to her but knows she has to play the game and is part of the bigger machine. This is something that irks Eilish and, whilst inevitable, I do wonder whether the success her debut has acquired will see the label making demands or people asking for a repeat – Eilish is someone always moving and not willing to compromise. Earlier this year, Eilish (and Finneas O'Connell) spoke with Zane Lowe for Apple Music and it is interesting to read. Every interview she gives is fascinating and it is a relief to hear this artist being true and not given these boring answers; those that are dictated by the record label and have to be on-point:
“In just a few short years, though, Eilish has gone from jumping that barrier to be right under her favorite artists to being the one whose barriers are being jumped and touring the world with Finneas at her side. She says they've talked about how this level of intense fame can't last forever, realizing that everyone has to keep living their own lives as well.
"We can't have this be the rest of our lives. We were talking about it the other day, we're just like, 'I'm 17, dude.' I can't have my life exactly like this forever, and he can't either," she says, noting that her brother just bought a house with his girlfriend and got a dog. "It's a weird balance, because I want to grow in my life, and grow up and have a life. But I already have my career. ... Having been on tour, I know how it works. I know that you leave and it's a little bit of your friends being sad. Then, you're gone for long enough that life moves on and they keep doing things. It's the same way as if someone dies. You have to keep going. You shouldn't be mourning them every two seconds for the rest of your life. You have to keep going."
With so many songs that tackle dark, personal topics with often bleak imagery, Eilish tells Lowe that "there's only a few people in the world that can understand this," referring to life-changing events like becoming a parent, losing a loved one, fame or depression. "You just can't understand it, and you can't act like you do. When someone you love loses someone very close to them, you can't say, 'I feel you.' You just can't. That's okay," she says, encouraging listening rather than trying to empathize in a way you may not genuinenly be able to. "I feel like some people just try to act like they know, but just listen. It's not about trying to up their depression. It's not about who's sadder, who's gone through worse. It's about listening to people and actually just caring about them."
Eilish has worked incredibly hard to get to where she is now and one can imagine this young girl humming songs and dreaming one day of being on a big stage. She is only seventeen and she has achieved more than a lot of artists a lot older than her. That sort of spotlight and pressure might weigh heavy and be a burden but I feel like Eilish has a very mature attitude and she realises there are horrible sides to the industry. She has experienced anxiety and depression and is honest about it. She will provide comfort and guidance for many teens going through the same thing and I think her music is among the most powerful and memorable of the moment. Eilish is the complete package and I feel like we are seeing this star being born. Her Glastonbury set proved she could handle a huge festival and, actually, there was more attention put her way than a lot of more experienced and popular artists. Not only is Eilish a fantastic and spirited live performer but a brilliant songwriter and a young woman who has a lot to say and is fascinating to listen to. If you have not checked out Billie Eilish then make sure you do because she is an artist that is going to go very far indeed. Maybe her sound is not your usual cup of tea and the water might seem rather uninviting. Once you dip your toes in and experience all she has to offer, I guarantee you will…
NOT want to get out anytime soon.