Music

Billie Eilish Isn’t Your Pretty Little Pop Star

The “bellyache” singer gets real about exes, not playing it safe on social media, and comparisons to Lorde. Photography Robin Harper Styling Kat Typaldos.

Billie Eilish is the Beatrix Kiddo of pop. Like Uma Thurman’s Kill Bill heroine, there’s an unstoppable fury to the Los Angeles-bred 16-year-old singer-songwriter, a relentless drive for self-actualization that turns dreams into reality.

Case in point: In 2017, Eilish put out into the universe that she wanted nothing more than to work on a rap collaboration. A few months later, she teamed up with Vince Staples for “&burn” off her debut EP, dont smile at me. She also expressed her desire to create her own fashion line, soon after releasing a capsule collection with streetwear brand Joyrich. Then, Eilish launched her first headlining tour—which sold out within an hour.

The artist’s signature unbothered, no-fucks-given attitude also lends itself to her music, resulting in a post-emo sort of teen angst. Songs like “bellyache,” a slice of psychotic, Wild West-tinged alt-pop, and “my boy,” a tempo-shifting, trip-hop kiss-off to a pitiful ex, showcase the former dancer’s refusal to play by the rules. And why should she?

[Photo: Billie wears Clothing Celine, Earrings Tiffany & Co, Shoes Brandblack]

Though she may be one of pop’s most promising young stars in 2018, Eilish, who’s currently chipping away at her debut studio album, insists she’s no pop star. If anything, she’s pop’s assassin—here to slice and dice the genre and mold its mangled remains into something much cooler than before, even if it’s unrecognizable.

Below, Eilish opens up about about collaborations, getting back at fuckboys and why she’ll never smile for the camera.

 

ERICA RUSSELL When we spoke in 2017, you wanted to do a rap collab, and then you ended up working with Vince Staples. Since you’re clearly good at manifesting, what’s next on your list?

BILLIE EILISH I’m hyped to see what the fuck happens. [Laughs] That collboaration came so randomly, because we were trying to get a rapper for that song, but somebody was like, “If you could have anybody feature on that song, who would it be?” And I was like, “Uh, Vince.”

ER And now you’re going with the flow?

BE I feel like this is a time in my life where I’m changing the most. Right now, I’m on tour, so that’s what I’m focusing on. I’m making tons of music, and trying to put out an album within the next year or so—whenever it’s ready. It’s not even halfway done. It’s kind of exciting to watch myself change and watch myself create because I have no idea, you know?

There are tons of different artists that I’d love to work with… But the main thing I really want to start is a clothing line. I just released a collab with Joyrich, actually, which is so tight. I feel so happy about that.

Bellyache

ER Lorde tweeted about you a few months ago and called your vocal control impressive, which I thought was the coolest compliment.

BE That tweet was cool. She had mentioned me in an interview with Zane Lowe at some point last year and seeing that was kind of crazy.

She got big when she was sixteen and I’m sixteen right now, so it’s interesting because of the way people treat it. After she tweeted that, she DMed me. She wrote this little thing about how we should hang out, how we should get tea. I was like, “Fuck yeah!” It was really sweet. She was just like, “If you wanna know my experience being a sixteen-year-old and having weird things happen, I got you.”

ER I know you’re a massive hip-hop fan. In the past few years, the rigid lines between different genres of music have started to break down. Do you think that the line between hip-hop and pop music have started to blur?

BE I hate the idea of genres. I think the word “genre” is just so stupid. Good music is good music. I don’t care if it’s hip-hop or pop or alternative or R&B or fuckin’ whatever. If it’s good, it’s good. They shouldn’t have to be categorized and put in a box with a bunch of other things that sound exactly the same. A lot of my inspiration comes from hip-hop and rap and that sort of world.

I don’t think of myself at all as a pop singer. I don't think I am. I try to make something that doesn’t exist yet. Obviously, that’s impossible, but I’m doing the most that I can on that front. I just think that genres are so dumb. Like, “Fuck you, dude, I’m gonna make what I want and my genre will change!”

ER I don’t think any music listener just listens to one type of music anymore. As an artform, do you prefer music to be reactionary, or more steeped in escapism and fantasy?  

BE Honestly, it’s not either or. I’ve written tons of songs that I’ve never experienced. It’s like, random fiction shit and I do listen to music like that. But I write tons and tons of stuff about the way that I feel and the things that I’ve gone through and the things that I’ve felt. I don’t restrict myself from writing or listening to one kind of thing.

ER I heard that your song “My Boy” was written about an actual ex. Do you know if he’s heard the track?

BE He’s heard everything about all of it. I’ve never had a boyfriend so he’s not really my ex… He is, but he’s not. It’s very complicated! When I think back to that time, that’s not even who I am. I wrote that with my brother when I was still with him or whatever. I remember playing it for his friends and they played it for him. They told me that they were in his room and they were listening to it. I don’t give a fuck, fuck him! [Laughs]

Not really, though. He’s like, nice, or whatever. No shade. They told me that they played the song and he put his hood over his head and he tightened the strings so tight that his face wasn’t even there anymore. He bumped into a chair because the song’s about him. But you know what? He just ruined two years of my life, so he can handle it. He didn’t even do anything really bad, really… I mean, he did, but we don’t have to get into it. It was a stupid period of my life and his life and I think those stupid periods collided in the wrong way.

ER I’m glad that you were able to get that experience off your chest.

BE Yeah, oh my God… It’s great! Obviously I have a lot of songs about people I know and most of them are aware, but some of them are completely oblivious. It’s kinda hard because, for the people who are oblivious, everybody else knows it’s about them. It’s kind of rough, but I don’t care. [Laughs]

ER The title of your EP is dont smile at me. How do you feel about smiling?

BE What the hell is the point of smiling anyway? Is someone going to take a picture of you and someone else? Like, who made a joke? Nothing is funny, you’re just fucking there...I don’t really smile in pictures ever. People are always commenting like, “Smile, you’re ugly when you don’t smile.” Or, “You’re a girl, you have to be polite and pretty.” Like, what the fuck? No. Stop.

ER I wanted to bring up one of your tweets that I thought was hilarious. You called Tomi Lahren a “pussy ho.” What’s your opinion of people who are afraid to say what they feel, or are afraid to make their opinions known?

BE Well, it makes sense because half the world will hate you and half the world will love you. Obviously, I’m someone that has definitely gone through that. Being a human being, especially a female human being, who has opinions and feels certain ways about things and has a personality... I think universally, girls and women with personalities are hated in general. That’s kind of the way that it is and the way it’s always been, which I think is so fucking lame.

People wanna be safe. People wanna not be hated. They wanna feel liked and loved. Those are just weak people that can’t stand the idea of anybody not liking them. Speaking up about something that needs to be spoken about takes a lot of strength to actually say what needs to be said. It’s hard, but it’s like, fuck, why not just say what you feel right now? You’ll die one day and it won’t matter.

Makeup Melissa Murdick (Opus Beauty) using Make Up For Ever

Hair Iggy Rosales (Opus Beauty) using Kevin Murphy

Photo Assistants Carl Duquette and Alexandre Jaras

Stylist Assistants Kindall Almond, Shari Bisnaught, Olivia Typaldos

Location and Equipment Smashbox Studio

Catering City Kitchen

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