Billie Eilish: The Other Side of Pop Music

“I was such a baby,” singer Billie Eilish said with a frown, while watching a recording of herself from last year. The video, titled “Billie Eilish: Same Interview, One Year Apart,” features Eilish in 2018 reacting to a Vanity Fair interview she gave exactly a year prior. “I’m kind of jealous of Billie a year ago,” she muses.

Every year as a teenager feels like a decade, and that holds exceptionally true for Eilish. After recording her first single at age 16, she rose onto the music scene in August of 2017, with her debut EP, “Ddon’t Smile at Me,” reaching the top 15 on the Billboard charts in America, Canada, and the UK. Her dark music and intimate lyrics captivate a teenage audience, and in only six months, Eilish found herself on tour from February to April 2018. Such a thing had seemed virtually impossible to her only five years prior. “I remember a tear rolling down my cheek, because all I've ever wanted is to be on a stage and have people cheering for me,” she recalled in an interview for Apple Music Beat’s 1.

It’s pretty clear what gives Eilish her unmistakable edge; even her song titles stand out among the summery pop hits that battle with her for the highest spots on music charts. Titles such as “Bury a Friend” and “All the Good Girls Go to Hell” betray her sound as both morbid and deeply personal. With a plume of blue hair, layers of studded jewelry, and all-black attire, she has the look to match her gritty lyrics. Her music ranges from starry-eyed, whimsical ballads like “Ocean Eyes” to unnerving, untraditional songs such as “bury a friend.” The singer is a native of Los Angeles within a family of entertainment professionals. Eilish grew up around music; her brother, Finneas O’Connell, is a singer and instrumentalist who frequently collaborates with her in the songwriting process. She’s only 17 years old, but her debut album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. This distinction makes Eilish the first artist born in the 2000s to top the charts in the United States.

But how does a seventeen year old handle all of this? Other household names such as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Lana Del Rey churn out pop hits in their 30s. Eilish hasn’t even graduated high school yet. “I’m handling the pressure horribly, but I just keep it to myself,” she confesses in the Vanity Fair video interview. Eilish and her music have faced criticism for encouraging depressive behaviors, particularly among younger listeners. An April 2019 article in British publication The Telegraph features the headline “Beware the pop princesses romanticising death: Billie Eilish and the worrying rise of misery music.” However, it’s doubtful this backlash will pose a threat to her status as a household name. In fact, it may make her more appealing to her fanbase.

With two years of stardom under her belt and hopefully many more to go, Eilish continues to defy the standard of pop music in America. Whether her music appeals to you or not, it can’t be denied: Billie Eilish is making a statement.
-Anabel Prince