Billie Eilish, 16-year-old indie-sensation, shows a lot of contrast when it comes to her music and her stylistic presentation—and perhaps it is not the contrast she deserves to project.
Eilish, like many indie artists, grew up in Los Angeles, CA singing since she was young—well, younger. Eilish was discovered via SoundCloud, where she first published “Ocean Eyes” in 2015 with her older brother for a class project. She released her first EP soon after, titled dont smile at me, and featuring 9 trance-like, “anti-pop” pop songs. dont smile at me is featured on the Billboard 200 and has gained extreme popularity in the Art Pop genre, along with Billie herself, who has over 700,000 followers on Instagram and a combined 7 million plays of dont smile at me on SoundCloud.
Eilish’s rising popularity is obviously beneficial for the listener, but her behavior as a young artist raises a lot of questions—especially when it comes to her fashion. Harper’s Bazaar called Eilish “intimidating as hell” in an interview where Eilish described her own style as “pretty weird.” But “weird” may not be exactly the word Eilish was looking for. In her style, “weird” is apparently synonymous with culturally appropriative.
In pictures on her instagram, Eilish is seen wearing baggy clothing, chains, and bandannas over her face—seemingly attempting to project an image more closely to that of rappers, Hip Hop, or R&B musicians. For decades, Hip Hop and fashion have been closely related and even exalted by artists, who pride themselves in utilizing fashion as a medium to express status, real or not. Yet Eilish’s music falls far from the realm of Hip Hop and therefore raises the question of whether or not her style is a style that she deserves to sport.
Since self-expression through fashion is an essential part of the ‘branding’ of young artists, it is hard to say whether or not Eilish’s style choices are right or wrong. If the artist truly believes her fashion choices represent her, then her music is worth thinking twice about. Though it seems to lie in arguably stark contrast to anything in the realm of Hip Hop, rap, or R&B, perhaps Eilish is trying to express a similar message that those artists were. Yet her way of life and her privileges of being a beautiful young white pop star certainly do not warrant her an exploitation of the genres that described a very different struggle.
Sources: Spotify, Soundcloud, BBC, Harper’s Bazaar, Instagram, Twitter