A while back I was food shopping and I came across a chartreuse-haired wonder with dramatic black highlights and a don’t-****-with-me aura. She was elevated above the masses on some sort of platform boots, and her long green talons were wrapped around an orange like the Evil Queen clutching a poisoned apple. She raised the orange to the front of her face to appraise it—a witch gazing into a crystal ball. I decided she was fabulous and moved on.
Do you think anyone can pull off chartreuse? Forget about it. Chartreuse kills or empowers, depending. Chartreuse is for the brave. All others need not apply.
A week went by and I spied another chartreuse girl, black ends, big mismatched boots. Then another. Is something going on?
Eventually, the name Billie Eilish landed in my tinnitus-laden ear like a butterfly resting on a colostomy bag. Something was going on! I proceeded to google:
A figure dressed in polluted yellow rips through a similarly colored screen removes a lump of something large and creepy from her mouth and hands it to a stoic bouncer type. She bops around a bit and, in a living-dead voice that could hardly be bothered, she explains “I’m the bad type/ make your Momma sad type/make your girlfriend mad tight/might seduce your dad type…” It was love at the first video.
In the mysterious way of the internet, my Quora feed became flooded with Billie Eilish babble, mostly old people bitching. I’ll paraphrase,
‘She’s just a kid, what does a kid know of pain?
She thinks she so special, she ain’t so special.
She’s nothing but a pretentious faux-angst-filled privileged little brat.
She’s a corporate creation, built out of butterfly tears and Marilyn Manson farts. This is what’s wrong with music today, ya know? God, I miss the Big Bopper.’
She was negated because she came from money. Then the idea that she came from money was challenged. This went back and forth for a while, then petered off to another accusation of faux-angst pretension. The idea that money and pain can exist in the very same person was not broached. Well, I’m here to broach it. Rich people feel pain too. There. I’m done. Now I’ll broach other shit as well.
Here’s a shocking fact: if you’re over twenty years old Billie Eilish is not singing to you. If your balls are hitting toilet water or your tits are flatter than day-old pancakes you are not her intended audience. At 61, I’m not either. I can flap my saggy geriatric jaw till it falls off, but there’s no way to construct my words into any kind of cultural relevance because none of this is about me.
The understanding that my opinion is irrelevant to the audience of a new pop-star is an important one. More often than not it stops me from being an asshole. “Madonna is a one-hit wonder.” Yeah, I sure called that one.
So I should probably shut up now and I will—tomorrow. In the meantime, I feel the need to proclaim my appreciation for Billie Eilish. I think her videos are captivating, lyrics provocative, and I’m an absolute sucker for the droll zombie persona she packages her pain in.
To me, this George Sanders-Ian Curtis-Peter Noone hybrid is completely new. I guess we could locate her origins in goth, but goth was chilly, holding itself at a remove from the audience as well as life itself. Billie Eilish has the capacity to thaw. Have you seen any of that concert footage? She’s your new best friend, reaching out to touch your hand, holding a microphone over a crowd of kids who know every single word to every single song and will voice them at will as long as they can stop crying long enough to do so.
She projects authenticity; when she sings I believe her. I believe she’s been through a boatload of shit, and I believe she contains the impulse that some survivors contain, namely, to be of help.
I imagine Billie Eilish was concocted in the minds of a bunch of corporate suits, as well as in the blackened mind of an alienated kid and her talented brother. All sorts of contrived choices and personal mishaps go into a product roughly labeled art. After all, art is series of decisions made, as well as guts spilled. But why does that discount her? I’ve got news for you, conceived in a boardroom or not, the Monkees were great. Have you listened to Pleasant Valley Sunday lately? It’ll knock your socks off.
I’m pretty sure that if I was sixteen I’d be in that audience: mouthing songs, enthralled as a refreshingly lumpy girl with ever-morphing hair spells out her pain—our pain, as if we were the first people in the world to really feel it. That’s what it’s like to be a teenager. And if you’re too old or jaded to remember any of that, let those of us who do remind you.
Disclaimer: It’s been pointed out that I spend much of the post discounting the opinion of oldsters while I, as an oldster, proceed to spout my opinion. Ok, ok, there’s a contradiction there. Leave me alone.
Anyway, I might have the body of an old man but I have the soul of a sixteen-year-old girl. Ask anybody.