Generation-defining deals don’t come any more real than either Nirvana or The Smiths. And not even a year on from her debut album When We All Fall Asleep,Where Do We Go?, Billie Eilish has already been lauded by former members of both those bands.
Dave Grohl correctly raved that “the connection that she has with her audience is the same thing that was happening with Nirvana in 1991.” Johnny Marr, meanwhile, who has just worked with her on what is comfortably the best, most alternative Bond theme in a decade, commented of his collaborator: “I know a great musician when I see one.”
The reason Billie Eilish’s music is connecting so potently with millions of people her own age and such legendary musical figures is simple: she is sneaking alternative, subversive ideas right into the very top of the mainstream in a way that no one else has for decades.
There are lyrics – “I’m in their second-hand smoke, still just drinking canned coke," – that feel effortless in encapsulating the outlook of teenagers in 2020.
Meanwhile, Eilish could have teamed up with any hit-machine songwriter she liked and worked in any of the glitziest, most expensive studios in the world. But she prefers for her and her brother, Finneas, to hunker down in a tiny room with only the most rudimentary equipment, and it shows: there is a rawness, an intimacy to the likes of Bad Guy or Bury A Friend that is completely at odds with all the other music selling in the same quantities.
In a year’s time, guaranteed, there will be dozens of Eilish soundalikes all over the place, and there can be no greater proof of cultural, musical importance than turning up and seeming like an alien at first, then making everyone else want to follow you.
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