Billie Eilish Has Only Gone Quieter and More Unpredictable

Jagadeesh Tamilselvan 04 Aug 2021 103

Her first album made mutant pop with unconventional instrumentation, but Happier Than Ever is at once the more conventional-sounding body of work and the less predictable of the pair...

Billie Eilish’s meteoric ascent has seen much turbulence, both avoidable and unavoidable. By the time she entered the final year of her teens last December, she had already sold a million records, swept the major categories at the Grammys, topped both the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 charts, sang the theme song for a (still-yet-to-be-released) Bond film, starred in a documentary about her life, and struck up a friendship with her childhood idol, Justin Bieber. Parallel to all this, unfair criticism of her body and legitimate pushback for her more feisty music takes seemed to throw the young star into a defensive position. She fell back for a sec, then began to renegotiate her relationship with the public. She ditched the jet-black mop with slime-green highlights that had become a signature look throughout the rollout of her 2019 debut, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, and its tour, and bid farewell to the long, flowing suits some onlookers crassly compared to ’90s rapper clothes, returning to her natural blonde locks and unveiling a new wardrobe that challenged the presumption that she was leery of people’s prying eyes. Eilish returned to a public that was a bit harsher, a bit less forgiving than before. The training wheels are off. It’s easier to draw smoke. Old gaffes come back now. Her videos earn more scrutiny. She was accused of queerbaiting. She had to apologize for mouthing a slur in an old video. It has made Eilish by turns more protective of herself and more clear in her diction. The music she released this year opened new avenues in her singing and writing, pushing past the claustrophobic synth pop of her hit “Bad Guy” and, at times seemingly out of necessity, mirroring moments of unflinching honesty in The World’s a Little Blurry. Where do you go after your first album rakes in attention and accolades many artists never see in a lifetime?



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