July 17, 2019 | 75° F

KEMBURU: Billie Eillish: Breaking stereotypes while creating good music


Opinion Column: An Optimist's Opinion


At 17 years old, Billie Eilish has made a place for herself in the music industry with a style of music that is distinctly different from what we are used to hearing from the genre of pop. Born in Los Angeles, Eilish is the daughter of Maggie Baird and Patrick O’Connell, two individuals who have had their fair share of experiences in the entertainment industry, and her sibling is Finneas O’Connell, who has worked with her on almost all of her musical projects. 

Her rise to stardom was both accidental and unconventional. Her first hit song “Ocean Eyes” was written by Finneas O'Connell and sung by Eilish. It was originally intended to be the soundtrack for one of Eilish's dance routines. After uploading it onto SoundCloud for her dance teacher, Finneas O'Connell and Eilish's song became viral, and the release of its music video only amplified her popularity. After that, success seemed to follow Eilish wherever she went. A couple of EPs, several singles and one very successful debut album made her into a star. 

“WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” has debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and Eilish herself has made history as the youngest solo female musician to top the albums chart. A large reason for this following is not only because she is insanely talented, but also due to how genuine and honest Eilish is to herself and to her audience. 

Eilish has made it quite clear that she knows who she is, or better yet, how she wants to be perceived: “I just like dressing out of my comfort zone. I want to dress in a way that if I was in a room full of people wearing regular clothes, I would be like, 'Oh I bet everyone’s looking at me' … I love being judged. I’m here for it.” Both her style and music have proven to be different and the kind of thing that garners people’s attention, as is her intention.  

Eilish’s look consists of colored hair, baggy clothes, minimal makeup, gothic and gaudy necklaces and rings. Her music and music videos follow suit in terms of her unconventionality, with her inspirations ranging from Tyler the Creator to Lana Del Ray, filled with her soft tone, hard beats and dark images. In her first album, Eilish explored topics considered taboo: “xanny” questions the irresponsible use of the drug Xanax — which is popularly known for being used recreationally — and “listen before I go” is centered around suicide. 

Critics and other artists have been quick to applaud Eilish’s album, but in the same place that success and fame is bred, hate also grows. She has been called overrated, annoying and the very persona that brought her fame is also what some dislike about her. I understand that at that level of fame, there will be people who dislike her and not everyone is obligated to love her, but in the past couple of years I have observed a phenomenon that I call the "teen girl effect.”

The "teen girl effect” is when an artist’s main demographic primarily consists of teenage girls, so the artist is more likely to receive hate and their work or success is more likely to be discredited by the public. This happens to male artists more often, and with male artists, people assume that teenage girls are fans of them solely due to their looks, not their music. In Eilish’s case, people assume that teenage girls are fans of her because of how “different” and alternative she is. People even dislike her because she herself is a teenage girl. 

Our society as a whole has made the assumptions that teenage girls are shallow and superficial, that they are too young to know what real feelings are, that they jump on bandwagons and that they do not necessarily have opinions of their own. What makes this even more interesting is the fact that the music or likings of teenage males, in comparison to that of teenage girls, are barely ever commented upon or made fun of. Why this is the case I cannot really say, other than it may be a notion deeply ingrained in society that women and their opinions are less than those of a man’s. 

This can be seen in multiple facets of our culture. For years, girls have been made fun of for the things that they like, whether that be Uggs, Starbucks or "Twilight." And God forbid they like something that is considered to be something “only” a man likes, like video games or sports. Girls are then considered imposters or forced to prove that they are true fans. 

But you see, I think that teenage girls are so great because they are never afraid to make their love for an artist seen and heard. Their passion is true and they never think that they are “too cool” to show it. 

And who better to love than a teenage girl who is breaking stereotypes and creating amazing music all at the same time? 

Anusha Kemburu is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year majoring in political science. Her column, “An Optimist’s Opinion,” runs on alternate Thursdays.

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Anusha Kemburu

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