Billie Eilish: The 18 year-old anti-popstar is redefining stardom with her uber original Punk Rock style
The embodiment of cool with haunting, gravelly vocals and original punk-rock style, Billie Eilish has redefined the contemporary pop star on her blistering path to stardom. And now the teenage mover and shaker has cemented her place as an establishment leader, posting a banner Grammy night by sweeping the top four categories and a total of five wins in six nominations, the first woman and second youngest artist to do so.
The 18-year-old singing phenomenal was also named the Woman of the Year by Billboard in 2019, and all within good reason. Within a matter of months, she dropped a number one album entitled “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”, with top hits like ‘Bad Guy’ which remained on the top 100 chart with the number one spot for over 43 weeks. Billie also played a set on a prime stage at the Coachella music festival that was mind-blowingly wild.
At 13, she dropped her debut bedroom-produced single “Ocean Eyes” on SoundCloud, the do-it-yourself streaming platform that has also brought a generation of young rappers to fame. The gauzy synth-pop song about painful longing to reconnect with an ex, written and produced by Eilish’s primary creative collaborator, her brother Finneas O’Connell quickly went viral. Interscope signed her at age 14, making the Californian a rare internet-age pop star to win big online and then see a label invest time and money in cultivating her talent over the long term.
The biggest globally renowned musician to emerge from Generation Z, the candid Eilish draws young fans with a personal social media presence and internet-speak fluency. And with a fashion sense as unique as her sound, Eilish refuses the over-sexualisation of her body define her popularity.
The superstar’s signature style features designer oversized sweatshirts and baggy pants, often paired with designer sneakers, chunky chain-link necklaces, sunglasses and garish extra-long nail extensions more often associated with rapper Cardi B. On Grammy night, she wore an oversized Gucci pantsuit and Gucci’s Flashtrek sneakers with glittering lime green accents that matched her neon-dyed lime roots and even sported a similar Gucci sheer crystal black face mask on the red carpet.
The star is known to be out-spoken about mental health issues and struggles, and has described her body image as “toxic”. Mental health is slowly becoming a growing and important movement in the music industry, which has lost scores of stars young and old to suicide and overdose.
But despite the industry input, Eilish appears to be a singular star whose only influencer is herself. She deftly imbues often morbid and angsty lyrical content, topics include death, depression, and fear over climate change with tinges of irony and humour. The performer who has cited grunge band Nirvana as inspiration delivers poetry in a breathy voice bordering on a whisper, layered over minimal beats akin to electronic music and hip-hop.
Put on the spot, Eilish oozes eminent chill, though the nerves of adolescence sometimes peek through. “We made this album in a bedroom,” she said backstage at the Grammys on Sunday after scooping five trophies, standing next to O’Connell, to whom she routinely gave the mic. “It’s really like anything is possible, actually,” she added with a wry giggle. Her brother added, “We stand up here confused and grateful.”
The teen singer-songwriter has flatly dismissed the industry’s habit of drumming up publicity and drama by pitting female stars against each other. She champions women as peers rather than rivals, emphasizing that the success of one performer does not steal from another. “Everybody’s always trying to make everybody compete,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2019. “They’re like, ‘Billie’s album might pass Ariana’s.” On Sunday, while receiving the award for Album of the Year, Billie gave a shout-out to fellow Album of the Year nominees Ariana Grande,and Lana Del Rey, praising their work and saying the pop royal Ariana’s album “thank u, next” should have won the night’s prestigious Album of the Year award.
The superstar does not like being compared to or called other artists, “I don’t want to hear that Billie Eilish is the new Lana Del Rey. Do not disrespect Lana like that!”. She also mentioned, “I don’t want to hear that somebody’s the new Billie Eilish in a couple of years.” That prospect appears unlikely considering the superstar’s inimitable idiosyncrasies, raw talent and meteoric rise that now includes plenty of Grammys gold.
(With inputs from Agence France-Presse)