I love having opinions. I know, maybe it’s not a huge surprise (especially if you know me), but it’s true. One of my favorite things to do is blow up at people in passionate blasts of my own thoughts. Mention High School Musical, and you’re in for some impassioned oratory about how the second installment is just objectively better than the first (and, of course that the third one is not even worth the watch).
You see, in my opinion, it’s not worth even having opinions if they don’t cause a scene. You gotta add some pizzazz, some flavor to your conversations. Please never come to me and say, “I’m pleasantly amused by this artist” or “I guess that movie is okay.” Like, really? To me, that screams that you just haven’t put much thought into it. Dig deep, sweetie. I’m sure you’re bold enough to come up with something interesting.
So there it is. I’ve officially come out as an opinionated person. How brave of me. The problem, though, of having such an outlook on life is that you sometimes are confronted with the worst possible situation.
Imagine this. You’re sitting around talking with your friends and one of them brings up Billie Eilish. He mentions how she’s so overrated and caters to a specific audience of tweens who think they understand the world. You come to the swift and heart-rending realization that you, in fact, know very little about Billie Eilish. You’ve absorbed some opinions via Twitter-osmosis and general conversations with people who pretend to know what they’re talking about (funny how this kind of opinion spreads like that), but certainly have nothing new to add to the conversation. Do you
- Silently agree with his statement and add nothing, effectively resigning yourself to join the mind-numbing mass of sheeple who live their daily lives nodding their heads and never gracing the world with the wonderous whims of their mind?
- Enter the conversation guns-blazing, armed with the power of poorly formed opinions, having condensed all the various Internet witticisms you’ve read into one masterfully crafted pièce de resistance, your proverbial Molotov cocktail to throw into the conversation to watch literally blow the minds of everyone else in the room: “Billie Eilish’s core demographic is just fake-deep Tumblr teens.”
This was the moment I began hating Billie Eilish. It wasn’t for any well thought out reason or genuine musical judgement, but simply because it seemed at the time the most utilitarian to my attention-craving, self-imposedly opinionated persona.
This then became my party line. Mention Billie Eilish and I would opine all about how she’s just pandering to a dumb demographic. I jumped down her throat about the cookie-cutter edginess of a song like “bad guy,” claiming it was her just posturing to appeal to an age-group that desires more than anything to be taken seriously and to seem cooler than they are. Little did I know that in just a few short months I would be part of that demographic (but like, not as basic, I guess, since I appreciate the music and not just the aesthetic?). But before we move forward in time to my glorious redemption arc, we should rewind a bit.
The year is 2017. I had just gotten Spotify (or more accurately I had convinced my dad to buy the Spotify family plan and I now had my own premium account). It was truly revolutionary to my music listening experience. Before this point, I used to just buy full albums of artists that I wanted to listen to (which for reference was like Halsey and Troye Sivan because I was QUIRKY).
Just for clarification though, I wasn’t the “go to the record store and buy the album of the artist I liked because that was my lifestyle choice and I miss the old days when that was the only way to do things” kind of person. When I say “I bought the album” I mean I logged onto the iTunes store using the @comcast.net email address that I hadn’t had access to in maybe four years and downloaded it onto my 2nd generation iPod Touch. I had the entire discography of mankind at my fingertips and my choice was to purchase a Melanie Martinez album and listen to those songs on repeat for weeks on end. Needless to say, I was in dire need of some musical diversity.
Spotify opened the door for me to discover single tracks from all sorts of artists. My Discover Weekly (before it became overrun with Broadway showtunes and country music—my dad accidentally used my Spotify for a few months and tragically permanently tainted my online musical personality) was my favorite thing ever. Not only was I able to find new songs to listen to, but I also unlocked a whole trove of artists I could pretend to know about (wow I’m really exposing myself as super fake but I guess it’s in the service of Billie Eilish so it’s okay). One such artist was Billie Eilish herself. In fact, “ocean eyes” was one of the first songs I ever downloaded on the app in February of 2017.
This is not to say that I was some sort of early adopter “before she was cool” hipster asshole, but I was familiar with her work. Most of all though, I was unbelievably jealous that she was literally 15 years old. Bruh, I was out here in Junior year of high school auditioning and getting rejected for solos in my a cappella group and she was making aural masterpieces in her bedroom closet. Completely unfair. Yet still, I pretended I knew who she was for a few months, I told people that I had essentially discovered her if she ever came up in conversation, but then I gradually forgot about it all.
Back in the present, my realization about her immense talent came not from a deep-down recollection of the power of her music from 2017, but instead from hate-listening to her newest album, when we all fall asleep where do we go. Billie Eilish had come up in a Nass meeting (one of my favorite spaces on campus to spout my opinions to the masses), and I joined in on the conversation by mentioning something I had seen on Twitter that morning. There was some juicy controversy surrounding “wish you were gay,” a song which on the surface-est of levels seems like a queer anthem, lamenting that all-too-familiar feeling of crushing on someone unattainably straight (James Charles is quaking). In reality, the song is Billie wishing that the man who rejected her were gay so that she could have some concrete explanation that doesn’t look bad for her. In my passionate commentary I railed on how problematic that was and how it continues to fit into her stereotypical image as “teen who creates ‘relatable’ content for other teens.”
Then I actually listened to the song. It’s admittedly extremely catchy—her voice has this alluring, ethereal quality that just makes you want to listen to more. So I kept playing. I ended up listening to the album on repeat for the rest of my night (I guess I’m back to my old iTunes days again). And then I was hooked. I won’t come forward and say that I agree with all the aesthetic choices of the artist. I wouldn’t say that I am a Billie Eilish stan in the same way that someone can be a BTS or Taylor Swift or Ariana Grande stan. I don’t know her birthday. I don’t idolize her fashion sense. I just really love her voice. The way she lingers on haunting low notes or soars up into her higher register with precision and ease is just incredible. Her songs have such range to them: the demonic, driving beat of “all the good girls go to hell,” the soulful sentimental vocals of “when the party’s over,” or even the unapologetic craziness that is “bad guy.”
As many music critics and entertainment news sites have said before me (to continue in my tradition of not having any original opinions), Billie is a refreshing take on the pop star form. Her vocals are nothing like any other artist in popular culture, and she brings a completely new energy to the mainstream. While, yes, it may be an energy that feeds a certain demographic thirsty for an aesthetic, it’s not fair to the brilliance of her music to throw the Billie out with the bathwater.
And hey, I’ve even come around to “wish you were gay;” I’ve come to the realization that, while it may not have been her intent, it is still perfectly valid for me to cry to that song in the shower and pretend it means what I want it to mean. Because isn’t that the uncanny ability of music? To reach audiences with emotion and lyrics that go beyond the lived experiences of the artist. But anyway, beyond my philosophizing on the concept of music, I’d say give Billie Eilish a shot. If I can swallow my immense opinionated pride and go back on such a strong (and unfounded) dislike, then maybe she’s worth a listen.