As some of you may know, Billie Eilish is an artist that took 2018 and made it her bitch. For someone like myself, it is always fascinating to watch artists blossom. Sometimes, when it happens this quickly, it really has me wondering how it happened. Was it just luck? Opening for the right act? Becoming friends with the right person? How do these small breakout artists really take the charts by storm?
Believe it or not, “Ocean Eyes,” Billie’s take-off single; came out in the year 2016. However, it didn’t fully reach popularity until artists in 2017 started remixing it. Around this time of sudden popularity, Vanity Fair decided to interview her as an up and coming artist. Still naive to the inner workings of the industry, Billie gave an enthusiastic interview about who she is and what is to be expected from her. Cut to 2018, they conducted a follow-up with the same questions, but exactly 365 days later. Almost 20 million people have seen this side-by-side interview and the comments are eye-opening. However, we will touch base on that later.
So, who is Billie Eilish? Why is she so popular now? Apart from her amazing music, I really wanted to pick apart who she is, with the little information she probably shares about her true self, on social media. For starters, I believe breaking out on the charts has to do with calculated luck in the algorithm. Every streaming service for music has one. I started to believe that Billie was just popping up on people’s feeds at the right time. Which, very well may be the case. However, I think a lot of it had to do with the people she was touring with and the festivals she played. People do not recognize how powerful the combination of word-of-mouth and social media can really be. Say Billie Eilish was performing at Lollapalooza one year and there is a celebrity in the crowd. All that person would have to do is post about how amazing she is, and off go people to Spotify or Apple Music to stream her songs. That is where the algorithm starts to come into play. If in a short time frame, people are all of a sudden streaming this one artist, the app is going to assume EVERYONE is going to want to do the same. Eventually, Billie ends up on Ones To Watch, and Top 40 Songs playlists overnight.
Now that she is so popular, she has to decide what she wants her image to be. In the 2017 Vanity Fair interview, her personal style was already a tad tomboy-ish. She was wearing chains, big sneakers, and baggy clothing. However, her silver/purple hair and subtle/glowy makeup were still very feminine. On her Instagram, @wherearetheavocados, you can kind of see her transform through social media’s eyes. With every picture, her clothes get baggier, and her smile becomes more non-existent. Personally, I do not like her style at all. I have a couple friends who agree, and we have all had heated conversations about it. However, I always say the same thing, it’s her “brand.” When Lady Gaga first came into fame, her style was WACK. Now that she has become more established and self-aware, her fashion has changed completely. I think when it comes to self-image, Billie is just trying to figure out who she is, while still maintaining this boy-ish vibe.
Now let’s talk about her music. Her voice has to be one of the most angelic voices I have ever heard come out of a 17 year old. When “Ocean Eyes” became popular, it was such a beautiful melancholy tune. At the time, I would have labeled it as something more “Indie.” The more she released, the less I was able to categorize her into a genre. However, referring back to her 2017 interview with VF, that is part of her vision. Not being confined to a definitive musical box. My two favorite songs of hers at the moment are: “Bellyache” and “bitches broken hearts.” With the song “Bellyache,” I love how beautiful her voice is in comparison to the tragic lyrics. She even stated herself, the lyrics are simply about murder. She is singing an upbeat tune about killing her friends. What’s not to love about that? Again, FBI agent in my computer, I am just kidding. When listening to her album though, you will realize that a lot of her songs are very sad. It could be reflective of what she is going through in the industry. The way she is handling growing up in the public eye. In her 2018 interview with VF, she flat out said that everyone in the industry is sad. Other artists may be hiding it by singing about the great times in their lives, however, Billie is very transparent about the things going awry. With the song, “bitches broken hearts,” she is really tapping into that melancholy vibe. With little instrumentals in the background, her voice takes center stage. She simply is singing about someone missing her, but being in denial. It’s honestly an empowering song, with a rainy day attitude.
Lastly, I want to talk about the controversy surrounding her 2018 follow up interview. I had watched it when it came out and thought about how much she had changed looks-wise. Her style was edgier, her hair was blue, and her eyes looked tired. However, recently a friend of mine has become really enamored with Billie Eilish’s presence. She was talking about the interview, which brought me to watching it again. The comments stunned me. The majority were talking about how sad she looked now, and how naive she was in 2017. To me, yes, she does look a little bit more sad. Becoming famous overnight had put a lot of pressure on her, as she states herself. I can’t imagine how tiring it must be trying to figure out who you are, while also trying to battle the pressure of what the world wants you to be. While I do think she looks exhausted and sad, I also think that is just a part of her age. She is so young and growing up in front of now 12 million people. Talk about overwhelming.
When it comes to Billie Eilish, I have always been in awe of her voice. I think that this is just the beginning for her, and her talent is going to take her so far. I think she is going to take 2019 by storm. With the many festivals she is set to play, Coachella being a big one, she is going to have a busy year. I think it will be interesting to see how she grows musically and fashionably in the next several months. I also hope she doesn’t let the pressure of the industry get to her. The world can sometimes be a cruel place, but I think she will use her art to heal herself and her fans this upcoming year.