Billie Eilish Marches to the Beat of her Own (Synthesized) Drum

Billie Eilish isn’t your average pop star. Her music is one-of-a-kind, her clothing style is unique, and her songs are unforgettable. Knowing a little about Eilish’s background can explain a lot about her. The 18-year-old has been candid about the fact that she didn’t have a typical childhood experience. In fact, Billie was homeschooled! She said, “I grew up homeschooled, stayed homeschooled, never was not homeschooled.”

Billie told Paper, “I don’t even know what school is like. My brother is homeschooled also, so it’s something we do together. Also there are co-ops and homeschool events. There’s something called Park Day where we meet up with a bunch of homeschoolers every other Thursdays.” So while your parents may not approve of some of her lyrics or language, it can’t be blamed on the public school system. 🙂

Early Childhood

Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell – that’s her real name! – was born in Los Angeles, California, on December 18, 2001. She is the daughter of actress Maggie Baird and actor Patrick O’Connell, both of whom are also musicians; so is Billie’s older brother, Finneas, who was born on July 30, 1997. Billie and Finneas grew up in Highland Park, a historic neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles. The 2013 movie Life Inside Out  (co-written by her mother; starring her mother and brother) was filmed at their house. Billie still lives there with her parents.

Baird and O’Connell encouraged Billie and Finneas to express themselves creatively and explore whatever they wanted in their homeschool, including art classes, acting, dance, and songwriting. Baird said, “Homeschooling allows us to let them do the things that they really love to do and not have a giant academic schedule on top of it.” Finneas had his own band, while Billie performed at talent shows and joined the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus at age eight, where she perfected her vocal abilities.

Billie wrote her first song – about falling into a black hole – when she was only four years old. So apparently her talent for composing dark songs started at an early age! Eilish wrote her first “real” song at age 11 for her mother’s songwriting class. The song was about the zombie apocalypse, inspired by the TV series The Walking Dead, from which she incorporated script lines and episode titles into the song as part of the assignment.

Music Career

Billie Eilish first gained media attention at age 14 when she uploaded “Ocean Eyes” to SoundCloud late one night. When she woke up the next day, the song had gone viral. The sweet yet haunting ballad was written and produced by her brother Finneas. It was released to all streaming services on November 18, 2016, through Darkroom and Interscope Records.

In 2017, Billie’s debut EP, “Don’t Smile at Me,” reached the top 15 in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. Eilish’s first studio album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” was released on March 29, 2019. Eilish co-wrote most of the record with her brother, who also handled its production.

Finneas has been his sister’s creative collaborator on everything from lyrics to music videos to live shows. O’Connell thinks their brother-sister connection helps make their music stand out. “We come from a place as outsiders because we’re still in our childhood bedrooms making music,” O’Connell told Switched on Pop. According to Paper, they “like to completely make up things and become characters” and “have songs that are really fictional.”

In 2019, Billie Eilish received six Grammy Award nominations including Best New Artist, Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year (for “Bad Guy”). She also won New Artist of the Year and Alternative Rock Favorite Artist at the American Music Awards (AMAs). In 2020, she won all four general field categories at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, making her the first female and youngest artist (age 18) to do so, and the youngest solo act to win the prestigious Album of the Year award.

Along with her other awards, Billie has also received two MTV Europe Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, a Brit Award and NRJ Music Award. She even earned two Guinness World Records – one for being the youngest female at No. 1 on UK album charts, and another for having the most simultaneous US Billboard Hot 100 entries by a female musician.

On February 13, 2020, Eilish released the latest James Bond theme song “No Time to Die,” which became her first number one hit in the UK. In the goosebump-inducing tune, which Eilish co-wrote with Finneas, her ghost-like whisper gradually builds up to a sultry crescendo, effectively setting the mood of the movie and matching the haunted solitude of its leading man. It even includes nods to Bond tunes from times past. The 18-year-old star is the youngest musician ever to write and sing the soundtrack to a .007 film.

According to Vox, “Eilish is full of contradictions. Her music is both brooding (“When the Party’s Over”) and bitingly satirical (“Wish You Were Gay”). It blends disparate styles: pop, EDM, industrial, trap, and even jazz. Its eclectic palette is surprising, yet cohesive, held together by her distinctively quiet vocals and irreverent delivery.” Billie frequently sings from changing points of view. For example, “Bad Guy” is a pounding song that pokes fun at distorted perceptions.

Mental Health

Eilish has stated that she has a sensory condition called synesthesia, as well as Tourette’s syndrome (just like another homeschooled musician, Jamie Grace Harper). In addition, she has experienced anxiety and depression – all of which certainly must influence her wildly inventive, moody, edgy style of music.

“Billie Eilish has taken the world by storm with her incredible voice and genre-defying sound,” said IFPI Chief Executive Frances Moore. “She is also an artist who addresses important issues like mental health in her lyrics that clearly resonate with her fans all over the world,” Moore said. Billie admitted, “I’m not going to lie in a song and talk about how I’m feeling good when I’m not.” So you will hear quite a few references to her ex-boyfriend throughout her songs (“Alright, dude, go trip over a knife”).

While she’s not quite emo or goth, some of Billie’s subject matter is rather disturbing. Her music videos have featured blood, poltergeists, ingesting poison, being stabbed with needles, forced contact with repulsive insects, confinement, confessions of a psychopath, etc. Eilish’s song “Bored” was featured in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why about teenage angst and suicide.

Eilish might seem antisocial, but she claims she’s not, even though she doesn’t mind being alone. “I love my friends, I can’t wait to see them, I do miss them a lot, but at the same time, I’m good,” she said about social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. “It sounds so introverted and loner-ish, but I’ve been really enjoying being alone,” she told the German Telekom Electronic Beats podcast. Still, she adopted a puppy to keep her company. 🙂

Fashion Sense

Billie’s signature style consists of loose-fitting outfits, high-top sneakers, neon-colored hair, two-inch-long acrylic nails, spiked chokers and chain necklaces. She even designed her own logo, the Blohsh. The moniker supposedly represents her name pronounced really fast, and the image symbolizes a generic person (and kind of looks like a hangman icon).

Not wanting to be labeled, Eilish wears oversized clothing to maintain a sense of mystery and keep the attention away from her figure to avoid being objectified and judged. In a #MyTruth Calvin Klein ad, she stated, “I never want the world to know everything about me. I mean, that’s why I wear big, baggy clothes. Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath, you know?”

Billie Eilish hit back at body shamers during night one of her “Where Do We Go” World Tour, in the middle of the kick-off concert at the American Airlines Arena in Miami on Monday, March 9th. Her commentary on body shaming, and the unrealistic beauty standards young women feel pressured to fit into, was a poetic statement about self-image and self-empowerment.

Billie Eilish’s “Where Do We Go” Speech

You have opinions
About my opinions
About my music
About my clothes
About my body
Some people hate what I wear
Some people praise it
Some people use it to shame others
Some people use it to shame me
But I feel you watching
Always
And nothing I do goes unseen
So while I feel your stares
Your disapproval
Or your sigh of relief
If I lived by them
I’d never be able to move
Would you like me to be smaller?
Weaker?
Softer?
Taller?
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?
If I wear what is comfortable
I am not a woman
If I shed the layers
I’m a slut
Though you’ve never seen my body
You still judge it
And judge me for it
Why?
We make assumptions about people
Based on their size
We decide who they are
We decide what they’re worth
If I wear more
If I wear less
Who decides what that makes me?
What that means?
Is my value based only on your perception?
Or is your opinion of me not my responsibility?

– Billie Eilish

Upcoming Concerts

Unfortunately, right after she had just gotten started on her world tour, Eilish was forced to postpone the rest of her March and April shows over coronavirus concerns. The “Where Do We Go” tour dates that had to be cancelled are being rescheduled. Future concerts are posted at BillieEilish.com.

You might not get to experience the thrill of physically attending a live Billie Eilish show while we’re all social distancing, but this month she will be playing in a benefit concert along with Lady Gaga and many others, to help raise funds to support the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The two-hour prime-time special, called “One World: Together at Home,” will air at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 18. It will be live-streamed online and televised on ABC, NBC, ViacomCBS Networks, iHeartMedia and Bell Media networks, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yahoo, Twitch, Amazon Prime Video, Apple Music, Roblox, Tidal, Alibaba, beIN Media Group, LiveXLive, Tencent, TuneIn, AXS TV, beIN Media Group, MultiChoice Group and RTE. BBC One will broadcast it on Sunday night.

On Homeschooling

In an interview with the music magazine Pitchfork last summer, Billie Eilish said that she views traditional K-12 education as the equivalent of being forced to eat vegetables. “I feel like when you’re sat down and somebody’s like shoving things in your throat, you’re not gonna want to eat them.” She tells more about homeschooling in the video below.

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