There's a slight chance you might not have heard of Billie Eilish. If that's the case, it's time you crawl out from whatever rock you are currently living under and expose yourself (musically speaking) to this 17-year old from Los Angeles.
In her albeit brief musical career, when she released her debut single "Ocean Eyes" to SoundCloud in 2016, Eilish has managed to set fire to whatever pop star playbooks that still exist (especially for females), and has carved out a career on her own terms, gaining a loyal and rabid fanbase in the process.
If you're asking yourself 'How is this remotely possible?' consider this list of the top 10 best Billie Eilish songs as further proof, that Eilish is no fluke. No flash in the pan. Just an artist who has tapped into the emotional sensibilities of her fellow teens while creating music that is relatable to all ages.
From Eilish debut EP Don't Smile At Me, "Hostage" sounds as if Laurie Anderson composed it specifically for Twyla Tharp to lend her choreography skills to it (and the music video for the songs shows what that might look like). Detailing a relationship that borders on the obsessive, Eilish sings of wanting her to crawl through her lover's veins adding "I'll build a wall, give you a ball and chain." This girl plays for keeps.
Throwing shade at those who try to cop both her manner and her glamour, Eilish uses her originality as a weapon backed by some seriously dark programmed beats. A delicate flower she isn't as she pointedly states to her wannabe clones "You're italic, I'm in bold." Ouch. Who knew a font reference could sting so badly?
If you only listened to the melody and song structure of "Watch," it would seem like a very lovely and sweet composition. But scratch below the melodic surface and you'll find a tormented singer asking to watch her heartburn. Written by her brother Finneas O'Connell (a composer or co-composer on all of her songs), Eilish convincingly sings of fake love and high demands, something all the melodic sweetness in the world can't disguise.
It's fun to hear Eilish borrow hip hop elements including its bravado and braggadocious nature with lyrics including "Bite my tongue, bide my time, Wearing a warning sign, Wait 'til the world is mine" and "You should see me in a crown, I'm gonna run this nothing town." You'd be a fool to doubt her.
On the latest single from Eilish, she takes some musical ventures, adding industrial and electronica elements a la Nine Inch Nails and Goldie and using a vocoder on her voice. Eilish also gives the listener details into her rapidly ascending career and how it damages relationships. "Keep you in the dark, what had you expected? Me to make you my art and make you a star, And get you connected?" Time to bury that friend indeed.
It's a bit adorable to now hear Eilish in the early stages of her career (this was her second single) singing about just being a teen hanging with her friends ("Sitting all alone, Mouth full of gum, In the driveway, My friends aren't far, In the back of my car"). But instead of dissolving into bubble gum pop (which Eilish might be incapable of doing), there's enough substance going on for Vevo to name her their first 'Artist to Watch' on their 'dscvr' series for 2018.
Whatever party had been happening, it is definitely over as Eilish begs her lover to "Let me let you go." Musically, the song is sparse and remote - as distant as Eilish as she tells her lover (who apparently is a masochist), "Don't you know I'm no good for you, I've learned to lose you, can't afford to, Tore my shirt to stop you bleeding, But nothing ever stops you leaving."
You know you're gaining some serious musical cred if Dave Grohl and his daughter Violet are covering your song (which they did at 'Autism Speaks: Into the Blue' gala last year. Side note: Mr. Grohl is obviously raising his children right). And while Eilish appeals to both generations of Grohls, the still-a-teen-herself shows wisdom and talent beyond her years both lyrically and musically with a ridiculously strong bridge.
What could've gone down as a depressing Billie Eilish song takes on extra texture as Khalid joins her in her misery. The result is hearing both sides of the story as the listener witnesses a relationship dissolving in what seems to be real time.
1. "Ocean Eyes"
This ethereal debut single from Eilish set the stage for what was to follow both musically and lyrically. Only 15 when she recorded the song, she shows the wisdom of someone more than twice her age when she sings "You really know how to make me cry, When you gimme those ocean eyes, I'm scared, I've never fallen from quite this high."