Billie Eilish, 19 year old Gen Z Icon

Billie Eilish went from a 14-year-old girl going to dance classes to becoming the youngest multiple Grammy-winning artist. An artist that embodies the spirit of Gen Z with her music as well as her persona. Her music embraces the insecurities of a teenager in the new decade, but it’s not something that is given to her as a marketing model but the honesty she put into her art.  

Born Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, the 19-year-old musician became an overnight sensation when she uploaded a song “Ocean Eyes” to SoundCloud for her dance teacher to hear. But little did she know the song would become a viral hit. The song inspiring various remixes made its way to one of the major labels in the music industry and Billie officially signed with Darkroom and Interscope Records. It’s been only uphill from then on.

In August of 2017, she dropped her EP, Don’t Smile at Me, which was both commercially and critically successful. She released her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? In 2019. The album landed atop the US Billboard 200, also reaching no.1 in the UK.

At just 17, Billie crafted one of the best-selling and revered albums of 2019. At 19, she has several accolades under her kitty including seven Grammy awards, a Guinness World Record, multiple MTV Video Music, and Brit Awards. She was featured in Time 100 list in 2021 and has certified her position as one of the most successful artists of the 2010s. All of this at just 19.

For Billie Eilish, her sense of creative freedom and independence is very important and a pivotal part of her identity. “What the hell would the point be if I was just creating something that somebody else wanted me to create that I had no say in?” she told Vanity Fair in a 2018 video interview. An artist of the digital age, Billie rose to pop stardom through a solid user-based platform, gaining a following quite on her own. Unlike many major label artists working with teams of songwriters and producers, Billie’s sole collaborator of her career yet is her brother Finneas O’Connell.

The two were homeschooled and share a very close bond.  “We come from a place as outsiders because we’re still in our childhood bedrooms making music,” O’Connell said of their partnership. Finneas has described their songwriting process as “extremely blunt”. They talk about things, their feelings and emotions first as siblings and then manifest them into their music resulting in poignant and heavily relatable songs.

Her music has a very distinct sound. It dons a confessional quality mostly, often termed as a whisper, as she pours out lyrics filled with teen angst, insecurities as well as confidence. The lyrics are often unsettling and music videos artistically grotesque; she often breaks away from traditional arrangements. Songs like “Bury a Friend” and “Bad Guy” as well as “Xanny” are about things that people of her age are preoccupied with.

What cements her status as an icon of her generation is how she doesn’t lose her unapologetic individuality that often accompanies teenagers. But it’s not like she only showcases it unfiltered on social media, an aspect inseparable from Gen Z. On her thoughts on social media, she said “do whatever the fuck you want; don’t care, I mean care a little bit, but don’t; post whatever you want … bad looks good; [and] as long as you don’t hurt anyone else, do whatever the fuck you want.”

Her idea of rejecting labels and boxes and carving her own style also inspires the young generation as they become increasingly eager for personal identity. She blends her myriad influences in themes of music, fashion as well as sound. From themes of love and depression, fancy yet comfortable sweatsuits, her music reflects a postmodern society which her generation remakes on the daily. Her most recent release, her second album “Happier Than Ever” sees her transition from teen to adulthood. Her impeccable growth and Genuity with the tender innocence of a teen figuring her way in the world make her a voice and embodiment of her generation.

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Written By: Aakriti Bhandari

Editor and Team Lead: Ashutosh Sharma

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About The Author(s)

Chemistry major with self-proclaimed good taste in Books and Music.

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Aakriti Bhandari
Part time literature major and a full time K-pop enthusiast.
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