This article by Megan Agnew appeared in The Weekend Australian 09/07/2022. My comments are in italics.
Billie Eilish: ‘I craved judgment… or criticism’ As a child she suffered ‘crippling separation anxiety. Now the most famous 20-year-old on the planet, Billie Eilish is finally getting comfortable in her own skin.
She has 11 billion views on YouTube, 47 million monthly listeners on Spotify, 44 million followers on TikTok and 103 million on Instagram.
Eilish is who she is largely because of the internet. At 13 she recorded Ocean Eyes, a song written by her older brother Finneas, which they posted to the online music platform SoundCloud. It went viral, landing a management deal and recording contract. Four years later Eilish hit the mainstream with the song Bad Guy, which they recorded in Finneas’s bedroom. It went to No.1 in more than 15 countries and became the planet’s best-performing single that year. She was 17.
Her music defies genre; a mixture of pop, rock, electronica, hip-hop and Peggy Lee jazz, with lyrics about Xanax, climate change, Invisalign braces, self-destruction, Uber ratings, and burying her friends. It is music for the generation who grew up on the internet, where irony is king and sincerity is lame. It is not ponytail-swinging pop about being a “hotgirlboss” but melancholic and twisted, tender and honest, music about the darkness of life – and her legions of teenage fans love it.
The lyrics of Ocean Eyes (video below) reveal a lot of the craziness of the world we are now living in. “I’ve been walking through a world gone blind”, “burning cities, napalm skies”, “I’m scared”. Also, what do these words even mean, “Can’t stop thinking of your diamond mind”, “Careful creature made friends with time”?
As with most young people God does not feature in her life at all. He is not given a thought. She has no concept of a Heavenly Father that loves her and seeks to be in a relationship with her.
Megan Agnew spoke about one of Billie Eilish’s concerts: “On stage she does not look very little at all, marching around with the jumped-up bravado of a boy, an electrifying sort of drag, dementedly crawling on her knees among projections of tarantulas, kicking the air in her trademark trainers while the screens behind her play footage of forest fires and droughts. “Stop,” goes one lyric, the crowd of mostly girls yelling in time, “what the hell are you talking about! Ha! / Get my pretty name out of your mouth!”
Eilish is known for her baggy clothes and upside-down version of beauty, dyeing the grown-out roots of her hair neon green. She started out like this because she didn’t want people to judge her body, which she has “hated” since she was a child. She self-harmed “because of my body”, she told Vanity Fair, and her body was a reason for her first depression at about 12. Today her insecurity is compounded by the scrutiny of the internet. On TikTok people speculate whether she is pregnant. When she was photographed in LA going to the shops in a vest top, she went viral for being “brave”.
How is her relationship with her body now? “Gurl!” she says, throwing her head back. “Nowhere good. My relationship with my body has been a truly horrible, terrible thing since I was 11.” This was the age she was diagnosed with Tourette’s, which can be “very exhausting”, she says, brought on in times of stress, manifesting in eye rolls, moving her ears and twitching her head back. “I love that my body is mine and that it’s with me everywhere I go,” she continues. “I kind of think of my body as my friend. My ugly friend! It’s complicated. But what are you gonna do?”
Eilish is cycling through all the insecurities of youth – in front of millions. She didn’t really know who she was “until, like, probably the end of 2019. Then Covid made me go right back down into the spiral of, who am I?” Her tour was postponed and she went home to LA. “I remember thinking, ‘I need to figure out who I am right now’. Then halfway through Covid I felt as if I was starting to have an identity again – Let’s do different things, let’s have different experiences. And then it happened again.” Another identity crisis.
Thank goodness Jesus is coming back soon to restore sanity to a world gone mad.