Billie Eilish ‘The 30th’ Music Review: The Queen of Alternative Pop Presses Reset

To be as successful as Billie Eilish is a quality our frantic, phone-addled society seems to desire like no other. On ‘everything i wanted’, in between Billie’s first two full-length LPs, Billie Eilish reflects on the way that fame changes everything and nothing at the same time. ‘I had a dream / I got everything I wanted / And it might have been a nightmare / But when I wake up I see / You with me’. The 30th continues that theme of the electronic bridging song with a fresh acoustic and raw depth. It also reflects the difference between the WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? era and the Happier Than Ever era. The first full-length LP is abstract, dream-like, and dark. The second full-length LP is more straightforwardly therapeutic; the term ‘abuse’ is used on the first song ‘Getting Older’, and the album proceeds in a narrative-like manner, akin to musical theatre, but with Billie Eilish’s distinctively elusive touch, hiding, as it were, in the spotlight of the paparazzi cameras.

Finneas and Billie, the O’Connell siblings who are remaking modern music, one wondrous song and incisive lyric at a time.

‘The 30th’ tackles an accident occurring to a loved one, with the beautiful and suspenseful bridge culminating in the rejoicing ‘You’re alive, you’re alive, you’re alive!’ I can’t help but think of other songs about accidents. Taylor Swift’s ‘Out Of The Woods’ concerns a similar narrative of a loved one who experienced a near-death accident, while Kanye West’s ‘Through The Wire’ concerns Mr. West’s own experience in his jaw being wired shut after an early-morning car crash after a night at the studio. The song was made, as it were, through the wire, with West rapping even as his jaw was not yet healed. Mr. West’s accident was right at the start of his career. Swift details something that occurred presumably recently in the early 2010s (the song was released in 2014, with a music video in 2015), while Billie Eilish considers an accident that, as I understand, has not been mentioned in previous songs. It is perhaps the most delicate of the three songs, and perhaps the most impactful from an artistic standpoint. Taylor’s performance is musically, sonically, and theatrically compelling (if a little robotic), while Kanye succeeded in kickstarting his career with the music video to ‘Through The Wire’, which has a similarly grounded approach to ‘The 30th’, contrasting with the blockbuster cinematography behind ‘Out Of The Woods’.

Billie Eilish is changing pop forever. There will be no stone left unturned in the coming musical revolution. The only question is: what role will Billie herself play in the coming deluge? Perhaps ‘The 30th’ is a reset, both for Billie and for the world. I recall listening to WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? side-by-side with To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar in the late 2010s. Kendrick’s latest album Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers concludes with the words: ‘I choose me, I’m sorry’, and is preceded by a song in which Kendrick declares, ‘The cat is out the bag — I am not your saviour’. Kendrick has changed hip hop in a manner that is akin to Billie Eilish’s transformation of pop music. Both risk being outshined by larger-than-life figures such as Kanye West and Taylor Swift. But they also have a certain subtlety that will stand the test of historical time. Rihanna and Eminem once embarked on a tour regarded by critics as a collaboration of musical rebels. Perhaps, behind the on-first-glance reformist aspects of the music of Eilish and Lamar, there are the keys to a wholesale revolution in what music is and can be. Perhaps we’ll just have to wait and see. It is, after all, not yet the 30th of this month …

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