Billie Eilish What learned from her own ‘Barbie’ song,
Billie Eilish : This is kind of dark but recently I was reading Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note, Billie Eilish explains.
The 21-year-old pop superstar lies down on a sofa in a Los Angeles studio — black pants, black and red hair — and puts down an acai bowl in her hand to explain.
“It’s horrible. I mean, it’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. He was such a pure person and a genius,” he says of the late Nirvana frontman, “and I’m so deeply in love with him and his life. , deeply, deeply hurt and where did it go. In the letter he goes, ‘I have everything in the world, and I absolutely hate it.’ He was so ashamed that he wasn’t enjoying it.
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“And I understood why he was feeling that way,” she adds. “It’s not what you think.”
Billie Eilish didn’t wake up this morning wanting to complain about being the world-famous celebrity she has been since her 2019 debut, “When we all go to sleep, where do we go?” went quadruple-platinum. And making her the youngest person in history to sweep four major categories at the Grammy Awards in one night. While some have praised her for bringing a welcome element of darkness to the bubbly Top 40, she knows that crying from a place of privilege can be a bad look.
But because I asked her, Billie Eilish is recounting the emotional circumstances that shaped her latest single, the vaguely gorgeous “What Was I Made For?, Over the saddest-sounding piano, she sings of forgetting how to be happy. Strings in the world. Cobain, who died in 1994, came across as an artist she and her brother-producer, Phineas O’Connell, often sought for their understanding of the loneliness of success.
She describes it as an existential crisis in which you might sit in a room with your loved ones and feel as though everything is falling apart.
Should it be surprising that this ballad of a young woman’s delusions came as part of the Hollywood juggernaut that is “Barbie”? Greta Gerwig’s pretty-in-pink blockbuster is packed with music, including streaming hits by Dua Lipa, Charli XCX and the duo Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice. Most of the movie’s songs share its frothy spirit and catchy surfaces; Yet “what was I made for?” Different: smaller, slower, infinitely more introspective.
Barbie’s heart song, a song that is at the center of her and that she doesn’t even completely understand but begins to hear more clearly during the movie, is what Gerwig claims she requested Billie Eilish and O’Connell to write. The director recalls receiving the siblings’ demo, with just Eilish on vocals and O’Connell on piano. Gerwig states, “It absolutely devastated me.” She went on to reveal that she played it for her co-writer Noah Baumbach as well as other members of the production crew almost away. Their verdict? “We all cried.”
They are hardly the only ones with whom the song is associated. A nine-week No. 1 smash on Billboard’s alternative music chart, “What Was I Made For?” has received over half a billion streams on Spotify and YouTube and has received just five Grammy nominations including Record and Song of the Year. It is now in the running for Original Song at the 96th Academy Awards in March.
“It got loud,” says Eilish, who won an original song Oscar in 2022 with “No Time to Die,” the brooding and melancholy theme to her and her brother’s James Bond film of the same title. Accepting the award at the Dolby Theater that night, the singer seemed genuinely thrilled to receive one of the highest honors in show business. O’Connell cracked a joke as he raised his statue, saying, “We promise not to lose this one.” Hmm, maybe not today at Dodger Stadium. Or what might be some other bright spots of pop stardom. Has she gone to a ballgame and her face is splashed on a giant video screen?
“Yes!” L.A. original exclamation. “I loved it. It was so literally my best dream as a kid. It’s really nice to go on stuff like this when you’re famous, I have to be honest. She laughs. “Fame can be so scary, but there are parts of it that rock. is.”
As a SAG-AFTRA member who was barred from discussing “Barbie” on this day, weeks before the actors’ strike was resolved, Eilish contends that when she asked “What was I made for?, She didn’t write with herself in mind. earlier this year. “I was thinking about a character from her point of view,” she says—Barbie, in other words, who realizes over the course of Gerwig’s film that perfection isn’t real and even though it’s not what she wants.
About the song, Gerwig states, “It became a theme for Barbie’s whole awakening.”
However, as I was listening to it with a friend, Billie Eilish laughs and says, “Dude, this is your life.” She was actually sitting there staring at me. is that the external validation she received as a prominent adolescent phenomenon had a real toll on her sense of self-worth after an adolescence marked by depression.
She claims that in 2019, when she dyed her hair green, she felt unstoppable. It was like though I was on the moon. And I remember that time, I was finally happy. I had never been happy before, and I just wanted to be happy. Then a couple of years passed. Covid happened. Another album happened,” she continues, referring to 2021’s “Happier Than Ever.” “I grew up and became a man again and wasn’t always happy — good moments and bad moments. Last year was really bad. And I was like, ‘God, I miss 2019 so much. When will my life feel like that again?.
Through conversations with her brother and his friends, she finally realizes that she “depends all my happiness on all these things in the physical world that you have no control over and will inevitably change.” She shuddered. It’s a lot related to this song. ‘I was floating’ — 2019 felt like that,” she says, “What was I made for?. Before moving on to the next, let me quote the opening line: “Now I’m down.”
Elish thought she had devised a plan for satisfaction by going blonde-bombshell around “Happier Than Ever” — a dramatic change from the edgy goth look that helped make her such a sensation. “It was fun at first,” she says, turning back to inspect her teeth in the mirror on the studio wall. “Wait, there’s a seed stuck in here…” She removes the seed and moves on. The blond era thrilled me much; I thought blond Billy would be awesome. But it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to go.
The singer claimed that having hair started to seem like a costume that made her lose her identity. She admits, “I had no idea who I was at all.” “I came up with this whole aesthetic, and I just swallowed it.” Brown went dark for a spell, including a gig hosting “Saturday Night Live” before Christmas. When I think back on it, I ask myself, “Who is this brunette?” she remarks. “A brunette! It wasn’t me. Going back to Black eventually gave her the creative spark she needed to turn her ideas of hopelessness and futility into music—into a song, as one of the most recognizable blondes in the culture.
Billie Eilish plays voice memos from the January night when she and her brother wrote “What Was I Made For?” It almost sounds like a finished recording. Regarding the song, she adds, “I didn’t want it to be such a big thing. “It’s like a delicate butterfly wing, and I didn’t want to rip it off.” Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt, who composed the “Barbies” score and oversaw the movie’s soundtrack, included a sentimental orchestration reminiscent of Nelson Riddle. But the focus remains on Eilish’s singing, which he admits takes work to get right.
She explains, “There’s this really quiet voice in the back of my mind that’s very airy but also very pronounced.” It’s great that my voice has developed to the point where I can play it like an instrument. You have no clue how much I’m enjoying it.
Billie Eilish, who recently visited L.A. Having had a high-profile breakup with Jesse Rutherford, singer of rock band The Neighborhood, she’s thinking a lot about maturity as she and O’Connell finish work on Eilish’s third LP. It feels really distinct from anything I’ve ever released, in some way,” she explains. “Like, now I’m in my 20s — oh, my God, it’s so weird — and I’ve never been an adult performing music before.” With her re-entry on the horizon, I ask if she’s heard some of the big pop records that defined 2023. SZA’s “SOS”? “Great – I love it,” she says. Olivia Rodrigo’s “Courage”? “Adorable.”
Does she feel a kinship with Rodrigo, who was born 14 months after Eilish and who rocketed to pop stardom as a teenager with her monster 2021 ballad “Driver’s License?, Everybody’s experiences are so unique, in my opinion,” she explains. “Nobody’s done anybody else’s life, you know? But I feel protective over Olivia. I have a song from my last album called ‘Goldwing’ which is about that. I have never said that to anyone. It’s not just about that. I was just thinking about that when I was writing it. She was coming, and she was younger than me, and no one was ever younger than me,” she adds with a laugh.
“Goldwing” opens with a few lines from a hymn Billie Eilish sang as a child in the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus; Later, she sketches a portrait of exploitation that Barbie can identify with:
What you want to hear is what they will tell you.
Then they will disappear
You will claim to choose a souvenir
Just to sell you in a year
“Olivia was growing up, and she was just this little beautiful baby,” Eilish says of the artist who made her debut in the Disney universe. “I felt very nervous. I was worried about it. She came into the acting world, and people are so weird. I don’t know – I felt very protective over it. And I feel like everyone else. She brings up Ariana Greenblatt, who, in Barbie, has a significant role as a middle school student. She’s sixteen, and sometimes I really want to cry over her, she adds.
“I see myself in all these young women. And it’s the girls, man. Boys can handle themselves. They are friends – they don’t have to deal with it like we do. She sighed. Everybody should be held in a tiny glass box by me, and they should never touch anything.