It’s hard to pinpoint Billie Eilish’s genre of music, a natural creative move for the 21 year old singer who has publicly expressed her disdain for that categorical word.Some call it pop, others neo-goth, but the truth is Billie Eilish, in collaboration with her brother Finneas, lives, works and creates in a world of her own. With 7 Grammy awards under her belt and 52 million monthly Spotify listeners, Eilish has become a Gen Z pop icon, while only having released two albums.
SIX FEET UNDER
One of Eilish’s lesser known songs, Six Feet Under was released in 2016, before any of her chart-topping albums were out yet. Written and produced by Finneas, this song lacks Eilish’s classic heavy bass and hip hop style background beats we are used to, but taps into the sombre aesthetic also known as ‘sad girl pop’ or ‘sad core’. American writer and journalist Kathy Iandoli, who started a university course at NYU diving into the cultural phenomenon of Lana Del Rey, believes that LDR influenced a generation of female artists, including Eilish as well as Lorde and Phoebe Bridgers, to tap into their inner sad girl to create music.
It’s hard to imagine a Billie Eilish before the “don’t smile at me” album and era that saw her don baggy monogram LV sets and heaps of jewellery. Six Feet Under feels like a prelude to what was to come for Eilish, with the single cover showing off her bleached white hair, but with the photo itself being blurry, it’s almost as if Eilish was not fully ready to show herself to the public, or perhaps hadn’t carved out her identity yet.
The second single off her debut EP “don’t smile at me”, ocean eyes quickly became a fan favourite. Initially written by Finneas for his band, he gave the song to his sister, who was only 14 at the time, as he deemed it better suited for her voice. Clearly, this was the right decision as ocean eyes received a triple-platinum certification, received widely positive critical acclaim for composition and lyrics, and kick started Eilish’s career.
Just like the song, the accompanying music video is deeply personal. The young singer can be seen straight for the 3 minutes and 20 seconds of the song facing the camera, singing along to the tune as she moves her hands according to the beats surrounded by a smokey purple background. The song also saw a dance choreography video directed by Megan Thomspon, which also plays with lighting effect and dancers are seen wearing all grey juxtaposed with Billie’s white shirt.
In time for the release of her first album in 2019 titled “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?”, Eilish had built up a global fan base, ready to hear her next offering of music. By the time 2019 came around, Eilish had grown, not just as a singer but as a person, going from a 14 year old whose previous EP was marked by its melancholic melodies, to entering her late teens where her experiences in life varied greatly. Naturally, the album followed suit, exploring darker themes of sex, drugs and parties.
bad guy became the hit single of the album, with its distorted vocals and fast tempo at 135 BPM, dethroning Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road off the charts. Songs like xanny and you should see me in a crown tapped into the moody teen angst phenomenon, adding heavier bass sounds and EDM-inspired snippets. Billie’s fashion style also became integral to her image at this point, comparable to that of a rapper’s – think baggy designer clothes, high top sneakers, beanies and lots of jewellery – and her hair had been dyed a dark shade of blue, all prominent in her music videos.
THEREFORE I AM
While still only being 18, by the time Therefore I Am came out in 2020, having the Billie Eilish stamp on a song meant it was going to be a hit. The catchy tune, which had everyone singing along the “stop, what the hell are you talking about” half-spoken half-sung lyric, followed a similar dark and distorted electro-pop undertone as bad guy.
The song itself is a retort from Eilish towards those who have opinions of her, which by this time was practically everybody. As she sings the lyrics “Don’t talk ’bout me like how you might know how I feel”, the singer makes it clear her nonchalant attitude towards opinions stems from a place of confidence rather than insecurity. Eilish, now rocking a neon-green top and black hair style, knows who she is even at such a young age, and doesn’t need anyone else’s input on the matter.
HAPPIER THAN EVER
The lead single, which also happens to be Eilish’s second album’s title, Happier Than Ever sees the singer venturing out into a new style in more than one way. The TikTok viral chorus “’Cause I’d never treat me this shitty / You made me hate this city / And I don’t talk shit about you on the internet” sees her open up about a past toxic relationship, nothing new to the singer, but its instrument-driven accompanying sounds are. Bass and electric guitars, and snare drums can be heard over the powerful sentimental ballad, opting for a distorted rock sound rather than her usual electro-beats, while still feeling very Billie Eilish.
What shocked fans the most about this new album was Eilish’s style change, after unveiling her brand new platinum blonde hair cut to her Instagram just a few weeks before the release of the song. The music video for Happier Than Ever shows a simpler Billie, only wearing a graphic tee and black trousers, which was only turned on its head after the album’s release. From her Met Gala look to casual Instagram posts, we saw a much more feminine side to her, juxtaposing her otherwise tomboy-ish look. That isn’t to say she’s done with her baggy look, but it was important to the singer to be able to have that range, between feminine and masculine, exploring all aspects of herself, notably through this album.
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