2019’s When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was a breakthrough for Billie Eilish. What seemed like overnight, she was catapulted from an indie pop act to one of the most famous people on the planet. From here, her fame has only grown. By April 2021 even the fact she changed her hair color from skunk-green to platinum blond was enough to make international news headlines.
Can Billie Eilish Do It Again?
The pressure of fame is intense. The world watches Billie Eilish’s every move, a fact she is far from comfortable about. Love her or hate her, everyone has an opinion. Whether it is her body, her distinctive musical style, her clothing, her anime art, her popularity or simply her gender, few modern pop stars are so heavily scrutinized and debated.
Amongst Eilish’s haters are those who suggest When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was a fluke. This leads to a more sensible discussion as to whether Eilish’s debut album is the kind of success capable of being repeated. Even Billie herself seemed unsure of the fact on Fall Asleep epilogue ‘Everything I Wanted’ and, more recently, ‘I Think Therefore I Am’. Both seemed to suggest she was weary of her enormous fame. With the more modest chart performance of Rosalia collaboration ‘Lo Vas A Olvidar‘, even serious commentators began suggesting her star had begun to fade.
‘Your Power’ proves how wrong the critics are. The first official single from her second album Happier Than Ever, ‘Your Power’ is a song of Biblical proportions. (At least by pop standards.) The song sees Eilish draw on mythical religious imagery while tackling the thorny topics of sexual coercion and the abuse of women.
Billie is Born Again
Billie Eilish has made clear Happier Than Ever is an image shift. First, she dyed her hair. Now she appears as a Christ-like figure in a new music video. This clip is loaded with religious imagery. Like Lil Nas X‘s ‘Montero’, Eilish inhabits her own mythological world. Here she sits in contemplation perched upon a barren desert hill before finding herself slowly constricted within the coils of a Satanic snake.
‘Your Power’ also reflects the heavy burden of fame Eilish expressed in ‘Everything I Wanted’ and ‘I Think Therefore I Am’. “She said you were a hero,” Eilish sings. “You played the part, but you ruined her in a year. Don’t act like it was hard.”
The clip alongside the cover of Happier Than Ever, which depicts Eilish in a pose classical painters use to depict the Madonna in religious art, begs the question of whether Eilish herself is religious. Many have questioned whether Eilish’s faith runs below the surface. While she has shared she does not drink or consume drugs, the star has remained silent on any spirtual beliefs past the fact she was a “super religious” kid and does not currently believe in a god. A close connection with the Hillsong Church affiliated Justin Bieber might just hint about her past religious connections, though songs like ‘All The Good Girls Go to Hell‘ lean toward the idea that Eilish plays on religious themes to make social comments rather than endorse them.
A Bold Choice and a New Era
Eilish’s Christ-like image is far from the result of a messiah complex. She is using her platform to try and change the world, though she may, as many artists who have come before her have realized, millions of album and concert ticket sales are not a sign of the public’s willingness to change. Nevertheless, the music of ‘Your Power’ backs up the gravitas of Eilish’s anti-abuse message with music. What is more, she is not just speaking for herself. Eilish is voicing the frustration and depression of a generation hungry for change.
Despite a visual shift, musically this is still the same Billie Eilish as before. With her signature sound intact, she lulls listeners into a melancholy state with slow rhythmic guitar and soaring vocals. While ‘Your Power’ is instantly familiar, the calm tone feels more reserved than her previous work despite the heavy subject matter that comes with themes of coercion and abuse. It is a bold choice. The single strays far away from the usual heavy beats and catchy synths that are present in most pop singles. Eilish remains determined to lead and not to follow.
‘Your Power’ is a Protest Song
Billie Eilish is determined to reinvent herself as a more serious artist, even if this more mature role comes with a more melancholy undertone. She is stepping away from the alternative electronic horror theme of When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Amidst the real life of the horrors of the injustices sparking the Black Lives Matter protests and the coronavirus pandemic, such fantasy is justifiably left behind.
And perhaps so too of her childish playfulness as well. In this sense, she certainly has changed. Admittedly, Eilish has always tackled the heavier topics in her songs and accompanied her lyric with a minimalistic production that always allows her vocals and lyrics to shine through. However, the singles she released on her previous album were more in line with the term “certified banger” rather than the sad ballads she now leans more heavily toward.
Billie Eilish Takes Risks
Yes, she’s the Queen of Sulky Crooning. But there is no getting around the quality of her work. With ‘Your Power’ Billie Eilish delivers material that will not necessarily make the listener want to dance. ‘Your Power’ is a wake-up call. And while it may not make its listener jump for joy, it will make them think as well as feel a whole string of powerful emotions. Whether the whole album carries these sterner moralistic tones is a question on everyone’s minds.
Several layers of meaning
A much needed wake-up call
May alienate some fans
Pop stars and their messiah complexes
Will she ever make something danceable again?