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‘B’ is for Billie Eilish

“B” is for Billie Eilish

At the budding age of 18, Californian native Billie Eilish continually reinvents what it means to be a female pop icon in the 21st century. Eilish’s unique musical style transformed the modern neo-gothic/emo-punk genre of music into what it is today. Her brazen yet refreshing candor gives a voice to the new generation of fans and critics alike. Arguably the biggest star born in this generation, Billie Eilish continues to take this world by storm.

Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell has come a long way since her hit song ‘Ocean Eyes’ became an overnight sensation in 2017. Capitalizing on the technology of this decade, Eilish and her brother Finneas continued to write, record, and produce music in their childhood home in Los Angeles, California. At 17, Billie Eilish became the youngest artist to ever be nominated for six Grammy Awards (in the same year), the youngest artist to win Album of the Year, and the first artist to top the Billboard 200 in this millennium. Her 2019 debut album When we Fall Asleep, Where do We Go? was flooded with an overabundance of nominations, awards, and praise.  

Billie Eilish and her brother are a sibling duo that are paving the way for the new world of music; the digital world. By refusing to work with third-party producers or professional writers, Billie and Finneas are able to create their sound authentically without having to conform to traditional music-making practices. They are destroying the ideas of what it takes to be a successful artist in today’s music industry. The level of success that Billie Eilish has achieved could only be possible with today’s technology. The technological advances of the past decade have increased the capacity of the average person to make and distribute music at the magnitude they have from their own home. With 1.3 million SoundCloud followers and over 40 million monthly Spotify listeners, Billie Eilish has become a household name. 

Eilish’s musical talent gained her viral fame and following from loyal fans. This is in direct contrast to several female pop icons from previous generations. Current female pop stars such as Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and Demi Lovato all had exposure to fame and resources through connections they had from childhood careers in acting. Billie Eilish found success in the music industry without the backing of a television network, making her experience in the industry unique to a lot of her peers. The lack of guidance and manipulation of the pop-music sector of music is arguably what allowed for the development of Eilish’s distinctive sound. 

Influenced predominantly by hip hop and melancholy pop, Eilish refined the teen-goth, electro-pop genre of music into the neo-gothic, experimental-pop it is today. Artists from contradicting genres such as Tyler the Creator and Lana Del Ray played a large part in the development of Billie Eilish’s musical sound. These influences can be seen in the blending of the dreary hum of her soft voice with the synthetic pop of EDM and strong bass elements. Eilish’s voice contains an overarching perception of pensive indifference. She has the capacity to croon in a muted, pensive murmur while simultaneously having the ability to belt choruses with a full, rounded voice. This ranged voice combined with her silently confident yet confessional lyrics is what gives her music its honest, vulnerable quality.  Eilish’s ability to depict darkness in a relatable and artistic sense allows her to be the voice for the common struggles of her generation. By singing so openly about issues such as mental health, Eilish provides an outlet for her audience to go to intimidatingly somber places, without feeling uneasy about doing so. 

Eilish continues to challenge the idea of what a female pop star should say, wear, sing, and act. She has a blatant disregard for what is typical of performers in her field. Her style alone sets her apart from other female artists in her industry. Her style can be described as a combination of haute-couture and urban streetwear. Baggy, oversized clothing is constantly seen draping over the 18-year-old. As described by Eilish, her choice of attire is a social commentary on body shaming and opinions formed against women’s appearance in general. Eilish attempts to bring light to the needed disconnect between body image and self-worth as well as the sexualization and objectification that comes with women in the media. By hiding her body from the public’s eye, people are forced to focus solely on the music she creates. Her fashionably androgynous appearance carries out the message that she shouldn’t be responsible for the opinions others have of her body. 

Through her innovative musical execution, style, and blunt teen angst, Billie Eilish is constantly reinventing the definition of a female pop star. While she openly denounces current society and dismisses trends of her generation, Billie Eilish is inarguably a byproduct of this contemporary life. Her ability to independently achieve such comprehensive fame could not have been accomplished without the digital and cultural elements she so often dismisses. While her success is reliant on this new society, her path through it is not. Through conscious efforts to maintain her individuality, Billie Eilish sets the remarkable precedent that success does not need to be a derivative of conformity. 


Give it a Listen:

     wish you were gay (when we fall asleep, where do we go?)

     Bad (Youtube “Like a Version” cover): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv6Rt2x6kPg


Author’s Choice:

     my future (my future)

     i love you (when we fall asleep, where do we go?)


B is also for:

     Billie Holiday (I’ll be Seeing You)

     Big Mama Thorton (Hound Dog)

     Blondie (One Way or Another)

     Bjork (It’s Oh So Quiet)

     Beyonce (If I were a Boy)

     Birdy (Skinny Love)

     Brandi Carlile (Turpentine) 

     Bishop Briggs (River)


Want more? 

     Watch: Billie Eilish’s Calvin Klein Campaign:  “I Speak My Truth In #MyCalvins

     Listen to the Author’s curated Spotify playlist “B is for Billie Eilish”: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/68PhZED326LPLDCMSuhZJu?si=OcmzQZywSN2kV7HzIogipg


Makena is a senior at the University of Utah graduating with a major in Marketing and a minor in Digital Imaging. She loves long walks on the beach and getting caught in the rain.
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