Updated: May 5, 2020
by Mike Scarfo:
Billie Eilish pulls off the unthinkable, as she becomes only the second artist ever to win the 4 major Grammy Awards categories: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best New Artist. How did the 18 year-old Los Angeles-based pop star get here?
When it comes to our individual taste in music, I feel there are two questions we subconsciously ask ourselves when an unfamiliar song floods our ears: "Do I find this song enjoyable?" and "How is this song relatable to my life?". In other words, this shit better bump in my car. And if it doesn't bump in my car, then it better make me feel something, some kind of emotion I can either relate to or learn from. Only the best of music accomplishes both. So when it comes to Billie Eilish, I think all of her fans agree: she more than passes the enjoyability and relatability tests. If you're confused how Billie Eilish's music could ever bump in the car, just blast "you should see me in a crown" riding through town on a busy Saturday afternoon and see if you don't turn heads. If you're still confused, well so is Billie. And that is what separates her as one of the most uniquely raw and relatable artists the music industry has ever seen.
Start with the short sentiment that brother, co-writer, and executive producer Finneas O'Connell echoed at the end of their Album of the Year acceptance speech:
"We didn't make [WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO?] to win a Grammy, we didn't think it would win anything ever. We wrote an album about depression, suicidal thoughts, climate change, and being the bad guy, whatever that means. We stand up here confused and grateful."
When you couple that with Billie looking visibly uncomfortable on-stage during her acceptance speeches (or lack thereof), and the fact that her masterpiece of an album was humbly created in her brother's bedroom studio, the picture starts to become much clearer. Billie is just any normal 18-year old kid with dreams; she wants everyone to know it and does not want to be convinced otherwise. She's even willing to deflect the warranted, worthy praise she's getting. So much so, it feels as though she spends more time raving about Ariana Grande's thank u, next than her own album during what is possibly the shortest acceptance speech I've ever heard on any award show.
In hindsight, it almost feels like Billie Eilish has always been destined to be much more than any normal teenager, even if a majority of us, including Billie, did not see it coming. At just 14 years of age, she received widespread acclaim for her breakthrough song "Ocean Eyes". This was the first time I had ever heard a Billie Eilish song (the "Astronomyy Remix" to be exact). I remember feeling the passion exuded into every falsetto note the song offers. Yet, no part of me imagined that a short 4 years later, she would be redefining what pop music can sound like before our very ears on her way to stardom. Her artistic decision to create industrial, experimental, bass-heavy cuts like "you should see me in a crown" on the same album as gorgeous piano-led ballads such as "when the party's over", seems nonsensical on the surface if the goal is accomplishing cohesiveness. However, Billie's vulnerable lyricism and attention to detail throughout prove to be the glue in keeping WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO? together. Look no further than the now two-time Grammy-winning hit single "bad guy". The contrast of the blunt, yet honest lyrics and the subtle nuances within the bouncy, wacky instrumental is a prime example of a brilliant duality she is able to pull off all over the critically-acclaimed project.
Ultimately, it is Billie's willingness to take artistic risks and unapologetically speak her mind that make her and WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO? as memorable as it is. If anything, the album experience maturely depicts the range of emotions we've all probably dealt with behind the closed doors of our bedrooms. Even the shear album title says it all: despite the fame and countless accolades, Billie still has the same questions about life that we all do. She goes through the same pain, anxieties, and tribulations any other normal person has. She wants you to know you are more like her than you even realize, while trying to convince you that what she is doing isn't special.
I've been on record, I don't always agree with what the Academy does in terms of the optics they create (see Episodes 6 and 18 of our show). It often irritates me when their politics blatantly create snubs on not only nominations, but winners (most notably in 2014, when Macklemore's The Heist beat Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, M.A.A.D City for Best Rap Album). The Academy recognized this year that when authenticity successfully meets creativity, you reward it. The Academy got this one right. A young, uniquely special artist has arrived. And something tells me she's just getting started.
If you want to hear my full album review and further analysis of Billie Eilish's WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO? with Cody, check out "Episode 10 (March 2019 Albums Review: Part 2)" in our catalog, available on all streaming platforms.