Over the last couple of years, for the not-so die-hard fans, the hype surrounding Billie Eilish was pretty easy to ignore. Now, following the release of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO, the 17-year-old is impossible to overestimate…
There was always an intriguing quality surrounding Eilish’s music. Whether it be the dreamy vocals, haunting music videos or quirky lyrics, the singer has always turned heads. However, for many, it was an indie pop sound that a group of feverous teenagers lapped up but was just missing something to be heard by the masses.
Last week Eilish released her phenomenal debut album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO. It’s the type of record that comes around very rarely. One which lands with such force that it can completely shift what pop music will sound like in years to come. And at 17-years-old, it marks Billie Eilish out as the voice of a new generation.
The record was always going to be a career-defining moment for Eilish. With so much press build-up there were only going to be two outcomes. Either the album would fall flat, and all those outlets that had bigged up her wacky take on pop music wouldn’t hesitate in knocking it all the way back down. Or, she’d hit those seemingly unattainable heights. She managed the second.
14 tracks of moody, genre-defying brilliance, WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GOwas labelled “a quiet revolution” by Vulture, branded a “horror auteur” by The Independent and a “game-changing debut” by NME. Its quality is undeniable. Eilish strides from radio-gold in ‘bad guy’ to the ghouly ‘bury a friend’ to the climbing ‘when the party’s over’ without breaking a sweat. There’s little more to say of the record’s exquisite music that hasn’t already been said.
However, what makes Eilish worth every ounce of that label as a music prodigy is what comes behind the music. Only two people, Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell, touched the album’s tracks between them being recorded in her bedroom and hitting your ears. Keeping the music away from hit-proven producers or interfering record labels is a bold step. And before WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO, is a feat that perhaps only Lorde’s work with Jack Antonoff on Melodramahas achieved to such success in the past few years. It’s a credit to quite how talented the American singer is. Everything you hear on the star’s debut record has come from the Eilish brains themselves. Some of these tracks, ‘wish you were gay’ for example, were written as young as 14-years-old. Whilst it’s easy to ignore superlative headlines about pop stars’ talents, in Eilish’s case her ability to emerge from a studio and have carved a new sound into the mainstream proves her formidable power.
Just as Lorde and Jack Antonoff’s keeping of Melodrama between just two people did, it makes WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GOso believable for fans. When they listen to the record, it’s like Eilish is talking to them personally. The singer has spoken about the importance of her synaesthesia in creating the album and, last weekend in Los Angeles, opened up an exhibition of rooms for EVERY song to highlight the senses she experienced in their creation. Sure, Billie Eilish isn’t the first to host an immersive album release experience, but going out on such a limb not only further shows her artistic mind, but is another direct line from her to her fans.
With such potency in her songwriting, you’d expect labels to be pouring in the money to promote the record as far and wide as possible. Whilst her face was plastered across public transport worldwide and ads started popping up on social media, a lot of the talking took care of itself (alongside the help of a VERY dedicated fan base). Only four of the album’s 14 tracks had been released as singles, two of those taken from past EPs. And the billboards that started appearing? Covered in insects and Eilish’s possessed eyes. Every step of the way she flipped off the time-proven recipe for success in the industry and, actually, did her own thing which worked even better.
It’s because of Eilish’s insistence on doing everything her own way that so many young music listeners are engaging with her. This is a generation that are consuming music like never before. Now more than ever, fans can listen to whoever they want whenever they want. And with social media it’s easy to see when artists are real and when they aren’t. Billie Eilish is fast becoming millions of teens’ idol, but it’s a new type of idolisation. Fans speak of her like a friend, “she’s the same age as me and we have the same personalities” someone tells us. Another points to her oversized clothing and lack of make-up as something that they can genuinely see themselves in.
Looking across social media, there’s not this artist-to-fan power relationship that normally comes with fame. Eilish’s refusal to play up to everything a ‘pop-star’ should be doing puts her on a level with fans. Combine that with her musical talents… she is the future.
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