Why I hate Billie Eilish


Elizabeth Johnston, Editor In Chief

It’s no secret that 17 year-old singer-songwriter Billie Eilish has seen a meteoric rise in the past few years. With several hit singles and a notable teenage following, Eilish has climbed her way to the top of the charts time and time again. I myself can recall my own infatuation with the singer, and what I liked about her at the height of my obsession. About two years ago, when Eilish was one of those barely-heard-of artists that occasionally popped up on a Spotify playlist, I really enjoyed her music at first listen. And as one who is never opposed to discovering new artists, I decided to dive into her catalog more deeply.

Initially, I admired her sound: the harmonies, easy beats, and her consistently mesmerizing, siren-like voice were all likable. My fascination with Eilish’s songs was kind of like eating potato chips: I couldn’t have just one. I’d listen to one song, crave another, and soon enough, I’d be through her entire discography in a matter of hours. In no time, I’d curated a playlist of her best songs to listen to on loop, turned on post notifications for her Instagram, and even made the arbitrary discovery that “Eilís,” is the Irish name for Elizabeth—we had something (sort-of) in common! For a few short weeks, I was enamored. But the obsession was short-lived—and even our similar name couldn’t keep me a fan.

I really don’t make it a habit of flat-out rejecting an artist after seeing a few questionable or distasteful interviews. If the music’s good, of course I’ll stick around—but only for the music. With Eilish, that’s exactly what she’s lacking: killer music that compensates for her inane theatrics. First, you have the issue of her “I don’t care” attitude. In all honesty, I think half her appeal has to do with the brand she created for herself; everyone loves a good brand, a distinct aesthetic that someone can claim their own. That’s the entire appeal of Eilish. It seems as though she employs the dark, moody, mysterious persona in an attempt to set her apart from the crowd. Of her personality, she says: “I’m really different from a lot of people, and I kind of try to be. I don’t like to follow the rules at all…If somebody starts wearing something a certain way, I’ll wear the complete opposite of that. I’ve always worn what I wanted to and always said what I wanted to say. I’m super, super out there…I like to be remembered, so I like to look memorable. I think I’ve proved to people that I’m more important than they think…I’m kind of intimidating, so people will listen up. I’m kind of scary. A lot of people are just terrified of me.”

Gimmicky, no? She’s clearly given a lot of thought to her outward presentation, but I can’t help but feel like she’s taking herself a little too seriously. In any other scenario, I’d be able to overlook the self-aggrandizing speech and focus on an artist’s music, but here, the music simply isn’t captivating enough to make me a Billie convert.

Given the timeline of Eilish’s success, it’s easy to root for her just because she’s young. While her extensive background in dance and music is impressive, I’d hardly call her prodigal. The notion that Eilish is a “breath of fresh air” or “a real change in the music industry” seems like a decidedly narrow scope of things; minimalist music is popular, and has been for quite awhile. But Eilish’s music is only vaguely different from mainstream pop. True, the juxtaposition of her whimsical vocals with headier beats is something you don’t hear every day, but it’s not really enough to warrant all the praise. She’s no maverick.

The fact of the matter is that Eilish is signed with Interscope records. For context, this is the label of Eminem, Lana Del Rey, Kendrick Lamar, Guns N’ Roses, The 1975, and dozens more. If you’re signed with Interscope, you’re going to be heard. That’s the way it works. Eilish has also had a lot of help from her brother, Finneas O’Connell, a musician, producer, and singer-songwriter. (O’Connell originally wrote Eilish’s debut single “ocean eyes” for his band.) I’m not one to knock someone’s work ethic or discredit their creative process, but given her label, and the influence of her brother, it doesn’t seem so irrational to believe that her popularity was just kind of handed to her by default of her record label.

Thematically, Eilish’s music seems match up with her edgy facade. While artists obviously have artistic license over their work and can decide what their music is about and what themes to draw from, Eilish seems to exploit sadness and depression, painting them as nothing more than personality traits. While it’s true that growing up comes with its fair share of hardships, it’s clear that she feels called to separate herself from others in a dramatic way, which means appealing to the sadness “trend.” The self-deprecating lyrics and unsettling music videos are clear indicators of this, yet somehow, everyone loves it.

The biggest faux-pas in Eilish’s career is that it seems like her audience isn’t actually invested in her music, but rather her appearance and actions. It’s as if her personality is what’s informing the value of her music; the shock factor of her music and visuals give the illusion that she’s different and ambiguous, and is precisely what leads fans to overestimate her talent.

I don’t wish to criticize young talent. Finding something you love at a young age is admirable, and being able to do it as a career is even better. More power to the young visionaries of the world who are making their dreams happen, Eilish included. While I hardly believe that Eilish’s music alone is special, the fact remains that music is subjective, and nobody’s taste aligns perfectly with someone else’s. Different artists appeal to different musical preferences. My most favorite artist could be your least favorite. And that’s the beautiful thing about music.