Happy Billie Eilish week! The singer's long-awaited debut album, When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, arrives this Friday (March 29), after one of the quickest ascensions to stardom the pop world has seen. Last year, she sold out tours around the globe — from L.A. to Tokyo, Singapore to Milan — performed at Lollapalooza, drew in millions of Instagram followers, and racked up billions of Spotify streams. And, miraculously, she did it all before her 18th birthday.
Who is this pop prodigy, where did she come from, and why should you care? Read on to find out.
Art is in her blood
Born Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell — and yes, one of her three middle names is Pirate — the 17-year-old grew up in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Her parents, both actors, encouraged full creative expression for Billie and her older brother, Finneas, which meant the siblings had free reign over their style, gravitated toward music and the arts early on, and, eventually, started working together in a full-fledged partnership. Finneas is a credited producer of every song on Billie's debut EP, as well as her upcoming album. Makes your brother look pretty inferior, huh?
"Ocean Eyes" is her breakout song
Billie and Finneas struck viral gold when they uploaded a slow-burning love song called "Ocean Eyes" to SoundCloud in 2016. Finneas had originally written the song for his band at the time, and his sister covered it for a dance performance of hers (that's right — she dances, too). The rest is viral victory — the song spread like internet wildfire, Billie landed a record deal with Interscope, and things haven't decelerated since.
She warmed up with Don't Smile At Me
"Ocean Eyes" ended up on Billie's debut, nine-track EP, Don’t Smile at Me, which she and Finneas recorded in his tiny bedroom studio. The remaining eight tracks included the twinkling, tropical "Party Favor," the deliciously twisted "Bellyache," and the menacing opening track, "Copycat," which gave the world the iconic couplet, "Call me calloused, call me cold / You're italic, I'm in bold."
Genres don't mean a thing to her
If you've heard even a slice of Billie's music, you've probably picked up on this: She never makes the same song twice. With Billie, you can count on raw songwriting and emotional range that seesaws between wounded whispers and scathing kiss-offs. In three 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.
She genuinely loves her fans
Has there ever been a pop star more perfect for Gen Z? Billie was recently dubbed "pop's new conscience" by Rolling Stone, and that's a label she's managed to live up to. Chalk it up to her music, her unfiltered personality, and her effortlessly cool style, but also give credit to her genuine connection with her fervid fanbase (14.9 million Instagram followers and counting). Billie grew up idolizing artists like Tyler, the Creator and Childish Gambino, and now that she's a star in her own right, she's paid it forward to her own fans, many of whom are around her age. Your parents may not get it yet — she's polarizing to the olds, as evidenced by her performance on Ellen last year — but they'll catch on eventually. Or not. Billie's going to keep getting bigger either way.
And her fanbase is continuing to grow tenfold
Also on board the Eilish train are a handful of famous faces, like Lana Del Rey, Alicia Keys, Jared Leto, and Dave Grohl, who recently compared the buzz around Billie to what he saw with his band Nirvana. He wrote on Instagram, "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." He added, "When I look at someone like Billie Eilish, I'm like... shit man... rock and roll is not even close to being dead."
She's an eclectic collaborator
As of yet, there are no confirmed collaborations on Billie's debut album, but she has recorded with a small, eclectic lineup of artists in the past. Vince Staples lent a verse to "&burn" from her debut EP, and her duet with Khalid, "Lovely," was one of her biggest streaming hits to date. Perhaps most excitingly, she recently teased a new song with rising Spanish powerhouse Rosalía.
Her music videos are next-level
Few artists today are making music videos as risky, unique, and downright engrossing as Billie. We've seen a tarantula crawl inside her mouth, black liquid tears pour out of her eyes, needles get plunged into her back, and, most recently, we watched her morph into an animated, city-crushing monster. What she does next is anyone's guess.
Her album is (finally) almost here
Now that you know all about the buzz around Billie, it should come as no surprise that her debut album is one of the most hotly-anticipated projects of the year. The singer has said that the LP will continue in the vein of her previous releases, which really could mean anything (see the above point on her not giving a shit about genre). So far, fans have heard the glitchy "You Should See Me in a Crown," the bare-boned "When the Party's Over," the quirky "Wish You Were Gay," and the hypnotic "Bury A Friend." A lyric from the latter song inspired the album's mouthful of a title — When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? — and Billie has also teased that varying states of unconsciousness informed the project. "The album is basically what happens when you fall asleep," she told Beats 1 host Zane Lowe. "For me, every song in the album there's sleep paralysis. There's night terrors, nightmares, lucid dreams."
Her live show is a must-see spectacle
All of that new music will come to life in Billie's live show, which will probably be rolling through your city sometime this year. Following a pair of dates at Coachella in April, she'll tour Australia and New Zealand in the spring, then return stateside to begin her massive summer tour. She'll trek all throughout the U.S. and Canada before heading overseas to Europe, where she's booked venues through early September. All the while, expect her to keep turning pop on its head; it's what she does best.