Billie Eilish subverts conventions in her music as much as in her fashion while remaining truly authentic
The 17-year-old sensation from Los Angeles has become one of the most streamed artists on Earth. With her characteristic sound coupled with her no-f**s-given personality, she is all set to dominate the music industry for years to come.
It's hard to imagine now but Billie Eilish, the insanely talented and rebellious prodigy who has taken the world by storm, wasn't even a blip on the pop culture radar a couple of years ago. Now she is everywhere.
The 17-year-old sensation from Los Angeles has become one of the most streamed artists on Earth. With her characteristic sound coupled with her give-no-fucks, take-no-prisoners personality, she is all set to dominate the music industry for many years to come.
In five words, the future is Billie Eilish.
While the reluctant and unlikely star grew up in a musical family, she never imagined she would make a career out of music. Although she sang and wrote songs from a tender age, her monumental success came about rather accidentally, starting with a fun project assigned to her by her dance teacher.
"One of my teachers asked if I would either write a song or have my brother write a song to choreograph a dance to," she told Teen Vogue in 2017. "I was like, 'Yes, that's such a cool thing to do!'"
However, her brother Finneas O’Connell already had her covered. He had written a song for his band but eventually realized it would sound much better if his sister sang the lyrics. The song was titled "Ocean Eyes."
The then-14-year-old Billie decided to upload the song to SoundCloud late one night. At the time, she had only intended for her dance teacher to listen to it. She never imagined the track would go viral on the streaming platform. It was a different world when she woke up the next day.
The number would go on to inspire a series of unofficial remixes by independent artists, and soon grab the attention of the recording industry. It wasn't long before the teenager, who had recorded a song in her bedroom just for fun, suddenly found herself signed with Darkroom and Interscope Records.
And as they say, there was no turning back.
Billie's song "Bored" was featured in Netflix's '13 Reasons Why' in the spring of 2017. In August that year, she would drop her highly acclaimed EP, 'Don’t Smile At Me'.
Many would argue that Billie has already cemented her position in the industry just three years since that pivotal SoundCloud upload, especially after she released her first album in March this year, titled 'When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?', and triumphantly dominated a night at Coachella soon after.
At 17, Billie has already created this year's most critically and commercially successful records. Her song "Bad Guy" reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 months after its release, toppling Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road" from the top slot after a 19-week run. And while you may now call her a certified teenage pop star, she is unlike any other and certainly not one to play by the rules of industry bigwigs.
Fans appreciate the fact that Billie is full of contradictions in her music, with her discography constituting brooding numbers as well as some bitingly satirical tracks. Furthermore, Billie and Finneas have an uncanny ability to amalgamate disparate styles beautifully, including bits of EDM, industrial, trap, and modern jazz in their creative process. The result is a stunning yet cohesive mix that is interwoven by her quirky vocals and resounding lyrics.
It is impressive to note how her music does not fit well into any category, but somehow manages to break several records in a matter of weeks. It was recently reported that her debut album made the second-highest sales of 2019, just behind Ariana Grande.
At the same time, Billie's rise to superstardom is quite unlike that of any of her contemporary millennial pop stars such as Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, and Selena Gomez -- all of whom were child actors backed by a major television network. She, instead, made the most of user-generated music platforms, quite a few of whom have served as launchpads for kids growing up in the digital age.
What sets apart Billie's music is her voice, with her signature muted whispers and reserved confidence that resonates with every teenager trying to express themselves in a judgmental society. That said, her voice is almost always underpinned with a strange melancholy as she playfully jumps from verse to chorus to interlude with her beloved brother in the background.
Another aspect, inseparable from her musical persona, is her sartorial statements. Billie's fans totally "dig" her outlandish appearance, which may be otherwise construed as disorienting or disruptive for a Billboard chart-topper.
She is often seen changing her hair to different shades of blue, while sporting streetwear and tomboyish outfits which she famously describes as "super-cheap meets fancy." Concocting strange combinations, Billie is often seen wearing spiked necklaces coupled with neon tracksuits by Louis Vuitton. More than that, her punk-glam-rap style rejects the sexy selfie cliché to complement her genre-bending music.
A lesser-known fact about the teenage superstar is that she has Tourette Syndrome. After avoiding the subject for a while, Billie recently addressed the matter in an Instagram story for her fans. "I've never mentioned [my Tourette's] on the internet because nobody thinks I'm deada**," she said. "As well as the fact I've just never wanted people to think of Tourette's every time they think of me."
While her tics are relatively subtle to the regular joe, eagled-eyed observers on the internet cannot be expected to miss anything remotely abnormal.
In an attempt to mitigate the symptoms, Billie claims she has taught herself "ways of suppressing my tics and certain techniques to help [reduce] them when I don't want to be distracting in certain situations."
There are several ways for aspiring musicians today to share their creations on platforms such as SoundCloud and YouTube, but what sets Billie apart is her defiance toward traditional conventions in music and fashion. That's not to say there isn't an abundance of spectacle to her art, but what captured the attention of Gen Z were her candid lyrics, and the intimacy with which she sings those lyrics.
Moreover, Billie Eilish does not succumb to the trap of a standard lifestyle brand produced by a marketing team, but instead comes across as an authentic manifestation of the aberrant, introverted life of a teenager in 2019.