Fashion icon with his own head and fresh sound: Billie Eilish is the most exciting pop superstar of her generation. Now the second album gives new insights into the life of the 19-year-old.
The US singer Billie Eilish is only 19, but for at least three reasons has been a sensation in the music business for years. Above all, together with her brother Finneas O’Connell, she writes her songs and allusive lyrics herself, instead of singing pre-produced trivialities from the Disney pop cosmos.
In addition, she fights offensively against beauty ideals and emphasized for years that she only wears a baggy look so that others do not co-opt her body – in order to take the liberty in June to appear on the “Vogue” cover in a skin-tight corset and old-fashioned Hollywood look.
The cover of the album “Happier Than Ever” by Billie Eilish
© Universal Music/dpa/Montage: Sabine Schmid
And finally, in many interviews, she emphasizes how important it is to go one’s own way – but does not sink into cool anti-establishment poses, but allows herself enthusiastic collaborations with superstar Justin Bieber. Or she has the US cable provider HBO max shoot a documentary about her life.
From the outside, it looks as if the American – with full name Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell – succeeds in several spagates in a business that has often been relentless for many women of her age. And yet there is always the question of how much eilish’s persona is calculated and how much is “real”.
If you want to put this puzzle together, you will get some new pieces from Friday. Then comes “Happier Than Ever”, the highly anticipated second album after the debut mega-success “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”, which paved the way for Eilish to the first five of seven Grammys so far.
The new songs also offer at best hints for deeper discovery of the star. Already on the cover the game with the identities continues, because after the album title “Happier than ever” she does not look. Instead, Eilish is staged as an expressionlessly upward-looking woman with blond hair, a hairstyle that has fallen out of time and plump lips.
Even the media did not get to hear the complete album in advance – Billie Eilish is a pop high-caliber, whose latest music is shielded until release. In the initially released five songs, however, there is a greater seriousness than in the impetuous debut.
“Your Power” is about a man who exploits a woman’s innocence. In “My Future,” Eilish wonders, among other things, where her place is in the celebrity world and how she can preserve the opportunity to go her own way. “I know I’m supposedly lonely now,” she flatters. “I know I should be unhappy, without anyone. But amN’t I also someone?”.
The slightly enigmatic mid-tempo track “NDA”, on the other hand, is about “non-disclosure agreements” – those non-disclosure agreements that are intended to ensure in the US business world and in the environment of many celebrities that others do not leak private details.
Perhaps this is a secret of success: Although these topics sound aloof at first glance, in the end Eilish’s music is about exactly those things that are also important for the fans of her generation. These include the power and powerlessness of young women, the constant work on their own image in a 24-hour online world – and what is a star “NDA” other than the request for secrecy that teenagers demand from their loves?
Musically, despite some playful loops, all this is closer to the ethereal-restrained sound of Lana Del Rey than to his own bass-driven megahit “Bad Guy”, which achieved more than two billion views on Spotify in its two most successful versions alone. However, the songs of the young star from Los Angeles are never as bored as with the almost twice as old New Yorker.
When Eilish tracks running in the background, they do not irritate. But if you listen more closely, you will find more depth than with Del Rey or the more poppy other shooting star of the past year, Olivia Rodrigo (“Driver’s License”). In the end, only Eilish’s closest environment knows how sincere all the confessions actually are, or whether they continue to play cleverly with images.
For the rest, there is careful control, for example, detailed lists of prohibited topics are sent for interview requests. But at least an optimism shines through in the new album, which shows that Eilish has not had enough of all the circus yet. In the already published “My Future” it says: “I changed my plans because I fell in love with my future. I can’t wait to meet them.”