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Billie Eilish’s ‘Your Power:’ The rise of the self-aware pop star

| Thursday, May 6, 2021

Elaine Park | The Observer

“Try not to abuse your power” is Billie Eilish’s message for the music industry at large. In “Your Power,” she strips back the thumping bass of her Billboard chart-topper “bad guy,” and the bravado of her latest hit “therefore i am,” to gentle acoustic guitars and breathy, vulnerable vocals. She sings of abusive lovers, of coercion and of willful ignorance. The juxtaposition of the dreamy ensemble with the power of the lyrics is a haunting experience. When she sings, “How dare you? How could you?,” demanding an answer from the abuser, the full weight of her incisive songwriting is evidenced.

At surface level, “Your Power,” presents a striking contrast to the creepy, off-putting aesthetic of previous album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” A deeper search into the mind of the artist, though, reveals a connection between the horror movies, the sob stories and the seeming arrogance present in different pieces of her catalog. Billie Eilish is, through and through, unapologetically herself.

Her songs are a raw reflection of her thought process, from twisted desires to egotistical delusions to mournful ruminations. Song after song, Eilish fishes out a new piece of an autobiographical puzzle, diving into a new obsession, fear or reflection to furnish her musical self-portrait. She is self-aware in a way famous people simply are not, addressing topics of suicidal ideation, the “monster under her bed,” and in “Your Power,” abuse of power in the music industry and society at large. On a recent interview with Vogue, she says about celebrities:

“There’s all these people who are incredibly vulnerable and would honestly do anything you say. That’s a crazy feeling. Nobody should be given the power that we’re given.”

Self-awareness and humility aside, the seven-time Grammy winner is calling the shots in the music industry. She sets the trends, and others follow. And she’s steering the industry in a new direction: one of down-to-earth, raw superstars. She has a poetic sensibility, reflected in the snakes, needles and spiders in her music videos, but her lyrics are honest and insightful. And it works.

The meteoric ascent of Billie Eilish into superstardom has created the self-aware superstar, which does away with the aura of omnipotence other artists have cultivated in the past. Her hair might go from grey to green to blonde, and her fashion is anything but ordinary, but her personality is a breath of fresh air. She really is just a 19-year-old writing songs from her heart, saying what she wants to in the best way she can. She speaks out about the injustice she sees, she cries out in pain and rejection and she explores her darkness. The gears are turning in the music industry — there will probably not be a new Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake anytime soon.

The new wave of relatable pop stars is growing: Doja Cat, Khalid and Lewis Capaldi are just a few examples. The new generation, in a world of climate change, job market challenges and racial injustice, seeks less glitter and more imperfection. They seek the genuine and pop culture reflects it. Billie Eilish is a bright star in an emerging constellation — good things are in store for the future of music.

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