Since the release of her debut album, Billie Eilish has fought hard to maintain control of her identity. Far from content to be a pop caricature, she continues to subvert expectations. Following her own conscience, Eilish rejects many of the rules and conventions society places upon her. The recent change of her signature skunk green mop top for a buttery blonde look, is but one example. And while acts like these captivate millions, there has been a far greater transformation going on beneath the surface.
Billie Eilish showcases her ‘Happier Than Ever’ clothing line.
Eilish’s visual change mirrors artistic growth
Billie Eilish’s recent visual transformation goes hand-in-hand with the personal changes she presents to the world on new single ‘Your Power’. The song is an emotional and autobiographical ballad. Here Eilish recounts how an unnamed music business executive sexually assaulted her as a child.
When this occurred is unclear. (Eilish has been performing since age 13.) And while the story of what really happened remains a mystery, her sentiment is crystal clear. He was a man, she was a child and he abused his power.
Lyrics like “You ruined her in a year, don’t act like it was hard,” and “Does it keep you in control to keep her in cage?” paint powerful images of gender inequality. What is more, they also bear a striking maturity. With ‘Your Power’ Eilish discusses trauma many find too uncomfortable to openly reveal.
More than ever before, Eilish is speaking honestly about her life and experiences. I see this as Eilish reaching her full potential as both an artist and a woman. Gone is the 15-year-old who writes a love song about someone with ‘Ocean Eyes’. In walks the women who will call out any man who dares to disrespect her.
A rebel from the start
While Eilish has never sung more directly than on ‘Your Power’, the roots of her rebellious spirit are obvious in hindsight. Eilish has often had something poignant and original to say, especially within her lyrics. Admittedly, her debut EP Don’t Smile At Me plays more akin to the typical worries-and-woes-of-a-15-year-old record than the era-defining statement which followed. However, there are glimpses here of Billie growing into the person on When we all fall asleep, where do we go?
‘COPYCAT’ and ‘Bellyache’ are the seeds that started to bring in this horror meets gothic electronic sound. “I want to make ’em scared,” Eilish sings on ‘Bellyache’. These lyrics are less pointed than ‘Your Power’ but still speak volumes. Eilish is showing us the pent-up rage and passion she was already carrying inside.
Billie Eilish has feminist roots
With When we all fall asleep, where do we go? Eilish came into her own as a songwriter and vocalist. On hit single ‘Bad Guy’, she sneered at men who think they are tough. Eilish actively made a joke out of the overly inflated male egos she encountered on her way to the top. The title of ‘all good girls go to hell’ likewise held all the implication of a feminist statement, though publicly Eilish discussed the song as being inspired by frustrations over other’s indifference toward global warming.
‘You should see me in a crown’ similarly challenges the bravado and dominance of the male ego. Its opening lyrics say it all. “Bite my tongue,” Eilish sings, “bide my time, Wearing a warning sign, Wait ’til the world is mine.” These lyrics put across a powerful picture of the state of Eilish’s mind when she recorded her album.
There are also, of course, moments where we are reminded that we are dealing with a 17-year-old girl. Her intro statement, titled ‘!!!!!!!’, declares, “I have taken out my Invisalign and this is the album!” before erupting into a series of cackles and giggles.
In my opinion, the best part of all of this that we have to be reminded Eilish is so young. The lyrics that are featured on her first album are so accomplished they sail through a myriad of complex social issues with effortless ease. They could easily be coming from someone well beyond her years.
Billie Eilish owns her power
In this new era starting with ‘Your Power’, Eilish is no longer willing to remain ambiguous about who she is or what she believes on. On ‘Bad Guy’ she mockingly played the part of the man who thinks they hold power. On ‘Your Power’ she is unequivocally the woman who owns hers.
There is definitely a sense that fans are going to be listening to more songs from Billie Eilish that deals with such hard hitting topics in future. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that Billie has already been hinting at these views for some time. She was just doing it in a more subtle fashion, likely out of a fear that to speak more honestly would cost her a career. Now her platform is firmly established, she is talking more directly about her feelings.
Eilish on the set of ‘Your Power’.
The significance of ‘Your Power’
When people try to suppress something it is generally because that thing holds power. There is power in Eilish’s words and in her voice. She is not afraid of expressing who she is. Neither is she shying away what she and others have been through. Which is what makes ‘Your Power’ such a cathartic moment. Not just for her but for millions of others who have had similar experiences.
As a fan, I find the way she stays one step ahead of the criticism and prejudices leveled against her as a woman inspiring. They are a microcosm of what millions of others are experiencing every day. And in this sense, ‘Your Power’ reflects the sprint of the times. Following its release, others like Lady Gaga have come forward and begun speaking out against past sexual abuse. Gaga’s revelations and others like them echo the lyrics of Eilish’s new song hammers home: Some things are far too important to be implied.
At age 19, Billie Eilish now talks openly about feminist and social issues. A nonconformist, she refuses to let others define who she is. Millions relate to her. And in this sense, Eilish acts out not only the highs and lows of her own life but those of a generation.