"Her fans are like no other fans I've dealt with. Any time she mentions me on Instagram or she tags me, my Instagram goes f*cking bonkers for like three days, with fans DM'ing me nonstop. It's so funny… She's a young kid and she's super relatable because a lot of her fans are her age.” - photographer Kenneth Cappello
THE BILLIE EILISH APPEAL
Billie Eilish’s debut album is titled: “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” Its content has been spoken about as ambitious, fun, scary, beautiful, weird, forlorn, risky, unique, engrossing and self-aware - descriptors that suit its creator perfectly too. The 17 year old writes and makes music with her 21 year old brother, in their bedrooms. They were homeschooled. This, they’ve said, allowed their creativity to flourish, untainted:
“Being homeschooled is all about self-discovery… I’m not at a high school where I have to base my self-worth off what other people think of me.” brother and collaborator Finneas O’Connell
This ‘untaintedness’ manifests in Eilish’s undeniably authentic demeanour - a standout creative quality her fans really value.
“Her creative process is amazing - like sampling drill sounds from a visit to her dentist. Her lyrics are so tight. Is there anyone that sounds like her?” Stephen, 29
Eilish doesn’t come across as a ‘polished’ individual. She’s a teenager who wears baggy clothes and bares-all through her raw creativity and attitude, and that’s awesome. She’s spoken out about living with tourette syndrome. As one YouTube user commented:“She’s really humble and grounded, I think all of us can learn something from her about what it means to be human.”
Music critics have seen this translate in her music output, noting that Eilish seems mature beyond her years: “her unfiltered tongue and readiness to expose her insecurities set her apart from her peers.” The diverse themes that the young songwriter explores include references to failed relationships and self-medicating. This diversity comes across sonically too. In 3 years “...she's gone from slow-burning ballads ("Ocean Eyes") to snarling trap-pop ("You Should See Me In A Crown") while also interpolating elements of rock, R&B, folk, electronica, and whatever else she damn well pleases. That genre-less approach to music has made her a natural fit in the spastic streaming world, helping her notch over a billion streams worldwide - before even releasing an album.” Madeline Roth, MTV.
Older generations would be mistaken to underestimate both her and her fans’ experience or capability - there’s certainly no depth or exploration lacking here. Rather, an explosion of genuine curiosity about the way we share and experience this world comes into being in the interaction between the two.
THE BILLIE EILISH EFFECT
Reviews of the audience reaction to her live shows not only show us how powerfully resonating her songwriting is - they also highlight the dedication of her young fans, who know every song and sing along to every word, together in unison.
“She was my most listened to artist in 2018. Her music is amazing. I feel she puts so much feeling into it, and her voice is just perfect - so relaxing to listen to. I do think her new songs are a lot more on the dark and depressing side, but doesn’t change the fact she’s still extremely talented.” Leah, 17.
"My daughters are listening to Billie Eilish and they’re becoming themselves through her music. She totally connects to them. We went to go see her play at the Wiltern, and the connection that she has with her audience is the same thing that was happening with Nirvana in 1991. ...When I look at someone like Billie Eilish, I'm like... shit man... rock and roll is not even close to being dead." Dave Grohl
This fan dedication is seriously valued by Eilish. In fact, her close relationship with her fans is telling of her rise to fame - they are a part of her art. Her video for “When The Party’s Over” was apparently based on a fan’s drawing - given to her after a gig.
THE BILLIE EILISH EXPERIENCE
“I just wanna create stuff that people can feel.” Billie Eilish
In collaboration with Spotify, The Billie Eilish Experience marked the launch of the singer’s debut album. The connection that Eilish has nurtured between herself, her music and her fans (online through the likes of Instagram), is reflected in the project, which brought to life the songwriters vision behind each track on the album. Speaking about the collaboration, she said:
“I wanted it to literally be like an exhibit, a museum, a place to smell and hear and feel. Every room has a certain temperature, every room has a certain smell, a certain color, a certain texture on the walls. A certain shape, a certain number.”
Both Eilish and her young fans place huge importance on visual experience when it comes to music. Eilish has synesthesia, which makes her see colours or smell sounds when she listens to music. She spoke about wanting to take that and “give it to the world and show everyone what it feels like”. Every track was given its own room - its own world - that immersively showcased the emotional undertones and personal sentiment behind each song. There was a cloud room full of pillows. There were arts and craft stations. There were rescue puppies. Fan artwork and messages were displayed on the walls.
In the age of streaming, the celebration of the ‘album’ can be observed as something somewhat unique. Eilish revealed that she wanted each song to be different, but also cohesive, as one body of work:
“The contrast between having 14 songs that sound completely different but all make sense with each other that sound like one body of work, I feel like I'm most proud of that.”
And for true music fans, it’s not just about passively listening to one or two songs. For many, there’s a longing for more closeness with the artist - The Billie Eilish Experience is a perfect example of the acknowledgement of a dedicated, two-way relationship. Intimacy with the art and creative process that hardcore music fans can sometimes only dream of, comes to fruition with Billie Eilish in a way that stays remarkably true to her, her fans and their unique place in time.
Eilish is a youth superstar because she lets fans in to her creative process and the inspiration behind her music. They feel closer to her because of her age and the emotional range of her music. Experiment with ways you could mix up your own creative process to create something that fosters emotional connection.
Eilish is growing up and discovering things about herself and her world, just as her teen fans are. They value her sharing her subjective experience, because it helps them to appreciate the output, and also reflect on their own. How could you create more depth and nurture discovery in the fan experience?
Recently, The Carters (Beyoncé and Jay-Z) released a symbol-filled viral music video that we are still talking about. It's spawned a similar reception to Gambino's...