Just a 14-year-old, Billie Eilish stepped into the spotlight with her single “Ocean Eyes.” Seemingly young for her talent, Eilish isn’t the first young star to make it big quick. Stevie Wonder had his first hit at 13 and Britney Spears had hers at 17. Taylor Swift’s first album debuted when she was 16 and Rihanna's musical career began at 15. So what sets Eilish apart?
Take one look at any of her music videos and you’ll see. One minute she’s drinking a glass of thick black liquid, only to have it ooze from the corners of her eyes the next. In another video she’s found hunched over with countless needles up her spine. With her signature dead eyes and blank stare, she would look the typical upbeat teen pop star in the face and snarl. Justin Bieber never had a tarantula crawl out of his mouth.
With her debut album dropping this past month, Eilish has gained quite the audience with over 18 million followers on Instagram and over 41 million monthly listeners on Spotify. Her influence has proven strong in the music industry. But what kind of influence is she having?
While Eilish has songs like “bad guy” where she seems to summon the naughty side out of listeners with lines like “I’m that bad type// Make your mama sad type// Make your girlfriend mad type,” many songs are packed full of deeper meaning.
Eilish’s third song on her album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO is called “xanny” and talks about the drug culture. Using her platform, she brings to her teen followers’ attention the danger of using Xanax, one of the most popular recreational drugs. She proudly declares she will never need a xanny because she’s seen what it has done to people her age. Not only does Eilish’s dark anti-pop side flip the teen culture on its head, but song’s like xanny upset the lifestyle Eilish despises as well.
Romans 12:2 is a verse many of us have heard before. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” But take a look at The Message translation of this verse and it suddenly relates perfectly to Eilish’s message in “xanny.”
Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
As creators, artists and followers of Christ, we are not supposed to fit into society. We are directed to call society’s attention to a higher lifestyle than it currently sits it. When we do this, we aren’t to wave a judgmental finger; giving slaps on the wrists of the deserving. However, taking an approach like Eilish does in “xanny” by showing people why she doesn’t fit into society, lets them decide for themselves.
Eilish may look bored and unamused in most of her photos, but behind the grimace, there’s a lot to learn from the way she creates and inspires, chilling spines along the way.