Billie Eilish – The 17-year-old phenomenon taking music by storm

Billie Eilish isn’t your average teen star : she has the wilderness of a rock star and the sweetness of a pop princess . But more importantly : She is the (new) voice of a generation.

Billie Eilish – Paris, 16.02.208 © Apolline Cornuet
In late 2015, 14-year-old Billie Eilish takes over one song her brother Finneas O’Connell wrote for his band and turns it into her first hit, Ocean eyes. Fast forward to 2019; we are only a few weeks away from the release of her debut full-length,  ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’. It is -without any doubt- one of the most anticipated releases of the year of all genres.

Everything begins at the O’Connell’s household in Highland Park, in LA, where Billie and Finneas have started writing music together, as well as recording and producing songs by themselves. First thing you should know about Billie is that nobody outside of her family has any control over her art. Only her brother is able to bring the best out of her and only him knows how to produce her sounds, remaining faithful to her identity. It is so smooth, it almost seems effortless for them to work together.  With a tiny home-studio in a bedroom, an acoustic guitar and a computer, the duet created all the songs from “don’t smile at me” (EP) and propelled the artist on top of every chart around the world. Much like when Lorde released Pure Heroine at 17, what is striking listening to Billie Eilish is how her art seems fully matured, both lyrically and sonically. It’s almost like she had seen it all, except she’s 17 and only starting to stand on her own feet.
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Born to a family of actors and performers, Billie was homeschooled and has stated many times it made her who she is. In her artistic upbringing, the young lady entered the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus at the age of 8, where she learnt the rudiments of singing. But she especially focused on dancing most of her life. Yes, Billie was primarily a dancer, until she got badly injured a couple years ago. You got it, her foundation is definitely creative.
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In music, what makes Billie Eilish so special is her aptitude to blend electro-pop and hip-hop and even bring heavier influences into the mix, in such a special way, it is hard to find anything similar in current music. From Ocean eyes to the most recent bury a friend (see below), each song released is a stand out. Billie can kill you softly with the dark when the party’s over or get you hyped up for your day with bangers such as lead single COPYCAT,  or the poppy  my boy. While sounding simplistic at first, Billie’s music, as much as her intriguing, angry universe, is full of layers and details; you soon find yourself hypnotised and craving for more.
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You don’t listen to an artist only because of the cute sounds. Our interest in hardcore, for example, resides in the fact that many of these bands carry a strong message and values on their shoulders, that are voiced through genuine lyrics. It feels like it’s not as obvious in modern pop, but although Billie Eilish doesn’t use her music to convey big messages, digging deeper into her seemingly simplistic lyrics highlights its undercover layers. Always. Billie has the ability to talk about love and heartbreaks with singularity and a style of her own. The first verse of hostage is a wonderful example of wording differently something as simple as wanting someone:  “I wanna steal your soul / And hide you in my treasure chest.” Similarly, in party favor she uses the “we can’t change the weather” metaphor to describe conflicting, unexpected emotions that tore her and her lover apart. Billie pushes things even farther when her songs become fiction, such as in bellyache, which is written from the point of view of murderer.
She’s no actress, but Billie knows how to embody a character and she teaches us here that songwriting isn’t always about personal experiences. It’s a form of art as a whole and doesn’t have rules and boundaries that apply. Which is exactly why, even a talented kid can write record and perform a powerful song.
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With a following that grew to 25 million monthly streams on Spotify and almost 2 billion views on YouTube, last year definitely marked a turning point in the singer’s career, especially since she didn’t have many songs out. She also collabed with well-established singers such as Khalid and Vince Staples and had her tracks remixed by high profile artists (blackbear, Sofie Tukker, TroyBoi…) Numbers are just numbers, but her reach is real. Billie Eilish has millions of followers on social media and built a solid bond with her listeners over time, who identify to her and relate to her teen angst and no-rule-girlhood. In this regard, Billie established herself as a role model in her generation and her (almost) sold-out tours across the world can testify to this. In Paris only, her upcoming headline show, which is more than twice as big as her first show in the city last year, has sold out months ago.
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Anticipation is high and the pressure must be overwhelming in the O’Connell camp, but is also seems like Billie Eilish is handling her increasing success with the necessary distance. It’s almost impossible to know what to expect from her full-length and I guess this is what makes is so exciting. Billie Eilish is in Europe from this week, with stops in Paris on the 18th, Utrecht on the 24th and Brussels on the 25th. Catch her at one of these if you already have ticket, otherwise we’re sorry for you.
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Words : Max H. and Mariam B.
Photo : Apolline Cornuet
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Billie Eilish
New album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, out March 29th, through Interscope Records
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