The outsider pop star goes against the grain but climbs up the charts
While the rest of the world are busy digging up photos of themselves from 2009 to compare them to a recent one in social media’s 10-year challenge, the alt-pop star Billie Eilish O’Connell has been repeating a video interview she did with Vanity Fair in 2017, when she was just 15. She is answering the same questions this time around – while watching her younger self in slack-jawed astonishment.
If you don’t think much can change in 12 months, you try living the life of a teen pop star for a day. Between November 2017 and November 2018, the number of people following the Bellyache singer on Instagram leaped from 257,000 to 6.1 million (it’s now 11.4 million). Billie Eilish went from being a giggly but smart teen to being a sage and slightly jaded teenager. Now at the grand old age of 17, her debut album is in the mastering stages, so get to grips with your future VBF.
Eilish, who has been in the pop game since she was 14, works alongside her brother, Finneas, who co-writes and produces most of her music. They were raised in Los Angeles by their actor parents, Maggie Baird and Patrick O’Connell. Their songs are introverted, sensitive, dark and deeply intuitive, but she still finds herself with three singles in the Irish charts: the murderous Bellyache, the anxietyridden piano ballad Idontwannabeyouanymore and the fantastically downbeat When the Party’s Over.
A singular pop star who wears designer tracksuits and has a different shade of hair in almost every photo she posts, she captures the mood of the Xanax Generation. Like the modern hip-hop acts that are defining this generation, she takes on a slower, thudding beat with her melodies. Lyrically, she toys with the macabre and, like Lana Del Rey, she plays the role of the watchful outsider perfectly.
Billie Eilish’s music will resonate with anyone who has experienced angst as a tween, a teen, a twenteen or whatever word you use to avoid identifying as an adult. This is a super-interesting time to be a pop star, with the uplifting bangers of Sigrid, the reflective musings of Khalid, the confidence of Little Mix and the emotionally explorative nature of Billie Eilish’s music sitting side by side in the charts. Difference is now celebrated.
Until her debut album drops, her Don’t Smile at Me EP, from 2017, has enough grit and character to bide us over.