Picture this. You’re 18 and in 2019 you toured 19 countries. Your debut record is the album of the year. You are worth an estimated 53 million dollars. Then, as the public are eagerly awaiting your next move, the world stops turning. For Billie Eilish, this was the year that was.
Billie Eilish Sweeps the Grammys
For Billie Eilish, the start of 2020 must have felt like a dream. In January she swept the Grammy Awards. Winning five of six nominations, Eilish took home the award for Best Pop Vocal Album, Best New Artist, Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. She was the youngest artist in history to win four major Grammy categories, and the only woman ever to take home four awards in a single night.
In February Billie continued to soak in the public’s praise. Appearing at the Brit Awards she took out the award for Best International Female Solo Artist. Two weeks later she stunned an audience at The Oscars with a cover of The Beatles‘ ‘Yesterday’. She then dazed the world with her first 2020 single ‘No Time to Die’. (The theme song for the long-delayed James Bond movie of the same name.)
On her 2019 tour, Billie Eilish performed to more than 300,000 fans. The 65 date tour stretched over 8 months and was estimated to have grossed more than 18 million dollars. With the popularity of When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? only having grown, her 2020 touring plans were more ambitious still.
The Where Do We Go? World Tour commenced on March 9th in Miami, Florida, and was set to conclude on September 7 in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. Yet just as Billie was setting foot on her tour the world was flipped on its side.
Billie was only three shows into the tour when news broke that the remaining dates would have to be postponed. The cause? The global outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. In December Eilish shared with her fans that the tour was officially canceled.
No Time To Die
As the Coronavirus affected billions across the globe, Eilish, like many others, spent the year in lockdown. Faced with this crisis she chose to make the best of a bad situation. From the bedroom she lives in at her parent’s home Billie Eilish continued to solidify her position as pop’s brightest star.
Many people saw their mental health affected this year. Eilish was no exception and explored this in her music. Showing her endurance and persistence in times of adversity, she took advantage of her free time in lockdown to record three singles. All shot to the top of the US singles charts and enjoyed similar successes across the globe.
When Livestream concerts appeared as substitutes for appearing live, she produced some of the most memorable video performances of the year. Notable mentions include an NPR Tiny Desk concert, her American Music Awards performances, and October’s full-length digital concert Where Do We Go? The Livestream. Millions followed her across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tik Tok as she performed. She would also use these platforms to speak openly about social issues and share her personal beliefs.
Systemic racism within US government institutions was one issue Billie refused to stay quiet about. Throughout the mid half of the year, Eilish attended protests while urging her 72 million followers to do the same. In May, Eilish posted a detailed note on her Instagram as a response to the “All Lives Matter” movement.
The statement, a common response to Black Lives Matter activists, found little purchase with Billie. “No one is saying your life doesn’t matter,” she contended, “no one is saying literally anything about you at all… stop making everything about you. You are not in need. You are not in danger”. A few days later Eilish was spotted kneeling in solidarity at a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest.
Many celebrities have faced backlash over performative activism and jumping onto trending topics. Billie proved herself different. One example is the support she showed for the 2020 Hong Kong protests. Due to the power of the Chinese Communist Party, many artists shied away from discussing Hong Kong’s turmoil. For almost two years, citizens of Hong Kong had been fighting against their violent and oppressive Government to gain independence. Billie wasn’t afraid to use her voice her support. Her brother Finneas also shared a post urging fans to be more critical of propaganda.
Billie Eilish at a Black Lives Matter Rally, June 2020.
Billie Eilish vs. Donald Trump
Billie also took aim at 45th US President Donald Trump. Throughout the year she urged fans to “vote the orange man out.” In July, single ‘My Future’ was released. It was followed by a live performance of the song. The clip ended with a 48-second video in which Eilish urged the public to vote in the upcoming American election.
“Silence is not an option and we cannot sit this one out,” she contended. “We have to vote like our lives and our world depends on it because they do. The only way to be certain about our future, is to make it ourselves.”
‘My Future’ portrays themes of leaving behind an old relationship or burden and places into perspective how this will affect the future. In arguably Eilish’s most personal release yet, detailing her depression while cleverly linking it to a bigger social issue. It was not just about how she felt about herself but also her overriding urge to vote Donald Trump out and presidential candidate Joe Biden in.
Eilish continued to vocalize the importance of the election through her Where Do We Go? livestream performance. She would also address global warming, ending a memorable rendition of ‘All The Good Girls Go to Hell’ with the statement “No Music on a Dead Planet” projected behind her. “We need to do something,” she declared, “the world is dying, we are dying, and Trump is the worst”.
Billie Eilish has a reputation for going against social norms. Rising to fame at a time when thousands of artists, celebrities, and influencers were using their bodies to market themselves, Eilish instead chose to wear baggy clothes. Going against pre-existing trends she created another of her own by dying her hair bright green.
Wearing chunky chains and sneakers, she refused to be labeled as “lady-like”, pretty or delicate. “I never want the world to know everything about me,” she has previously explained. “That’s why I wear big baggy clothes. Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath, you know?”
Subverting even these expectations in January, Eilish posted a video to her Instagram showing herself showering on a Hawian beach vacation with her family. The photo caused flurries of comments. It seemed like every fan on the internet had an opinion on how about what Eilish really looked like under her baggy clothes.
“I saw comments like, ‘How dare she talk about not wanting to be sexualized and wear this?!’,” Eilish later shared. “It was trending. There were comments like, ‘I don’t like her anymore because as soon as she turns 18 she’s a whore.’ Like, dude. I can’t win.”
Not Her Responsibility
Such comments were but the latest in a longrunning stream of criticism of Eilish’s body. In May Eilish released a short film written and directed by herself titled NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY. The clip showcased Eilish stripping away her clothing just before the beginning of her global tour. Over 3-minutes, Billie slowly undresses as she sinks into a black liquid.
“Would you like me to be smaller? Weaker? Softer? Taller?” she narrated. “Would you like me to be quiet? Do my shoulders provoke you? Does my chest? Am I my stomach? My hips? The body I was born with. Is it not what you wanted?”
Despite taking off her clothes, Eilish continued to reveal nothing. the video symbolized the world’s unwanted assumption about her actions, fashion, and her body.“Is my value based only on your perception?” she asked. “Or is your opinion of me? Not my responsibility.”
The Shaming Continues
When secretly taken photos of Eilish wearing a singlet leaked online in October, things turned nasty. Billie had been battling with the ‘slut-shaming’, ‘fat-shaming’, and ‘body shaming’ but the comments surrounding the image finally brought matters to a head. Twitter user Game Nosh went viral after comparing “mid-30s wine mom”.
Eilish responded. by sharing a video by blogger Chizi Duru. “Can we normalize normal bodies?” Duru pleaded. “Y’all got to start normalizing real bodies, ok? Not everyone has a wagon behind them, ok? Guts are normal. They’re normal. B*obs sag, especially after breastfeeding. Instagram isn’t real.”
Billie Hits Back
Eilish addressed these frustrations and many more with the third and final 2020 single ‘Therefore I Am’. The song was a response to her all of the critics. “Don’t talk ’bout me like how you might know how I feel,” she sang. “Top of the world, but your world isn’t real. Your world’s an ideal”.
The song’s accompanying music video showed Billie running around an empty shopping center stuffing her face with a giant pretzel – her way of raising her middle finger to body shamers. If there was one thing Billie Eilish has proved to the world in 2020, is not only her ability to produce the best pop songs of the century, but she will never stop fighting for what she believes in.
Shark The Dog
On November 30, Eilish conducted her annual interview with Vanity Fair. Previously Eilish had stated she would, without doubt, have gotten a hidden tattoo by the close of 2020. Well, that plan didn’t go through. Instead, she adopted a foster dog named Shark.
“I’m definitely not where I thought I’d be currently,” Eilish confided, “but I’m also not mad at it…I’m very lucky to have this year play out the way it did, because for a lot of people it was literal hell… I am very aware that I have been pretty blessed for the fortune that I’ve had this year.”
2020 has not been an ordinary year for anyone. In these confusing times, Eilish managed to keep a level head. While many people attempted to hide from the grim realities of 2020, Billie Eilish has faced them head-on. While rich and famous contemporaries threw wild maskless parties, Eilish stayed home and walked her dog. She, like millions of her fans, kept her head down and did the best she could to keep moving forward.
Billie Eilish represents a new generation of pop star. Not only is she expected to release music but also use her role to tackle social issues head-on. Billie has never hidden from this responsibility. Over the last 12 months, she has acted as a voice for young people around the globe, taking on issues concerning mental health, politics, and humankind’s role on earth.
Now, with the close of the year in sight, the singer has released a trailer for her upcoming documentary The World’s A Little Blurry. Arriving in February 2021 the film, which Apple TV+ reportedly offered Eilish 25 million dollars to star in, promises to take an intimate outlook at her rapid rise to fame. The trailer emphasizes what many fans already know. Billie Eilish remained grounded in the dizzying world of fame. Eilish is, after all, not just the world’s youngest pop superstar. She is also its most relatable.