At some point in the last six months or so, the name Billie Eilish kept popping up as a teenage YouTube sensation, with some ridiculous number (millions) of downloads. I initially (mis)interpreted her appeal as something for pre-teenage girls – her being sixteen and all. But ever curious, I thought I’d check it out.
Let’s just say that my initial perception was spectacularly wrong.
Yes she’s a teenager who writes and records songs with her big brother in his bedroom at their parents house. Yes she is hugely appealing to teenage girls. Yes she became known as a YouTube artist – or at least that’s where they initially posted their music.
But the music (and it’s production), for me, is undeniable. Her and her brother are the real deal. The first thing I heard I was their cover of Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” which stopped me dead in my tracks. It’s just the two of them, and the only musical accompaniment is Finneas’ acoustic guitar. The first thing I was struck by was their ability to come up with a completely different take on the song – the second was their groove, and the third was their ability to create an arrangement with a lot of space. If you write and arrange music, this is a pretty big deal, especially when you’re young – because it requires using restraint, which is something that normally comes with maturity.
The second song I heard was “Ocean Eyes,” this one was done in a studio (Finneas’ bedroom?). It immediately reminded of two of my favorite artists – Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel. WTF!? This is from a sixteen year old and a 21 year old in 2019? Recorded in their bedroom? I’m confused – are kids aware of this stuff? I’m pretty sure Finneas is…
See, art comes from wherever it wants to. It just is, and often, especially when you’re an adult, it shows up in places and genres that you wouldn’t expect. But when I find it, even if I’m a 62 year old man and the artists are teenagers, I just go with it – because the real shit doesn’t show up very often, and when it does age has got nothing to do with it.
Now, I’m just speaking for myself – YMMV. But for me, their stuff is pretty fucking cool.
So to both of them I’d like to say: Nice work. I’d be proud to have made any of this stuff myself, and I don’t say that lightly.