photo & text by nacrowe
BILLIE EILISH is arguably the most transformative pop icon since LADY GAGA. maybe even more so. i remember being in a rural village in ALBANIA when local kids were outside dancing to a small radio asking me and my fellow PEACE CORPS volunteers if we knew about LADY GAGA. just the idea that a FREDDIE MERCURY-obsessed singer who was unapologetic in her presentation, politics and demeanor could still translate to the youth of such a socially conservative country made me optimistic about AMERICAN culture at the time.
this was pre-TRUMP of course.
i think in BILIE EILISH you have someone just as adventurous and experimental as LADY GAGA in a pop setting, while also being remaining APPROACHABLE and KNOWABLE. for all of her alien-like costumes and ELTON JOHN-esque histrionics, at the end of the day LADY GAGA still plays by the same GENDER NORAMATIVE rules as BRITNEY SPEARS, ARIANA GRANDE and RIHANNA. EILISH is just as compelling and artistically deliberate and compelling, while playing by her own rules and seemingly making no concessions to staid and outmoded media representations of FEMININITY. i am not even trying to put LADY GAGA down or put her against another woman, instead im just pointing out how EILISH has carved a new lane that arguably only PATTI SMITH, CHRISSIE HYNDE or PJ HARVEY have ventured before.
sonically and visually, WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? (INTERSCOPE, 2019) is its own zip code in the pop scene of recent years. produced and written in collaboration with her brother FINNEAS, it is an aurally MINIMALIST affair that puts all the focus on EILISH's intimate, low-key sing-speaking voice and her lyrics. normally the least compelling aspects of modern pop music are the words and ideas being introduced, but here in EILISH's world we are entrapped in a WARPED, PARANOID reality which is probably not that far off from what it is like to be a female teenager in today's social media-obsessed digital age. her ARTISTICALLY DAMAGED music videos for the likes of "BAD MAN," "ALL THE GOOD GIRLS GO TO HELL," "WHEN THE PARTY'S OVER," "BURY A FRIEND" and "XANNY" in essence are dramatic avatars for complex emotions that seemingly defy and complicate what is expected in the representation of young women. in EILISH i dont see someone projecting a fantasy, no matter how overly goofy, gothic or OPAQUE her videos may seem.
i am instead witnessing someone being herself and presenting all her COMPLICATIONS for the world to see. WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? is definitely worth checking out as well as her recent creative output. EILISH is something SPECIAL and much needed in the modern pop world.