Earlier this week, Billie Eilish swept four major categories at the 2020 Grammys. She won Album of the Year, Record of the Year (apparently they’re distinct awards), Song of the Year (“Bad Guy,” the one with the villainously groovy bassline), and Best New Artist. The youngest person and first female to win all those categories in the same year. Girl just came of age and she’s out here dusting the competition with the force of a street sweeper.
I’m not here to make converts. Each musician has their own rogue’s gallery of haters, which makes Billie Eilish practically Batman. And the argument could be made that other artists were more deserving of her wins. Lana Del Ray, high priestess of “Hollywood sadcore,” should’ve taken a little gold home for Norman F****** Rockwell, and it would have been justice for Lizzo to bag a win in an awards show that has historically awarded mostly white musicians (and also because “Juice” absolutely bangs.)
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But I just keep thinking about the asinine meatheads who are gonna say some thinly veiled misogynist clownery about Eilish. And the criticism Eilish has received over the course of her career has always been pretty sexist. Like, ooh, check out this waif and her whisper vocals, and what’s this little girl trying to prove with her comically baggy couture? Like, why do you care, dude? She just turned eighteen, why’re you hungry to see parts?
All that, despite the fact that Eilish exhibits exquisite vocal control and a vibrato so delicate it could slip through the eye of a needle. Just check out her live performance with her brother and producer Finneas. She did not come to play.
Also consider the fact that her image was partly crafted by Chanel. She looks like a bedazzled version of a gangster Looney Tune, which honestly rocks. And as for her success being a matter of luck? Well, yeah. Every artist’s success is a matter of luck, and a whole slew of factors no agent or manager can control. But she’s been hustling since her teens, strategically using a song she uploaded on Soundcloud as a stepping stone towards establishing herself as a musician. Most bands don’t know how to plant their feet after a whole-ass EP. And while When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Isn’t a perfect album, it’s an excellent example of subdued, melancholic beatwork that thoughtfully takes artistic cues from Lorde, and will probably inspire a whole generation of musicians to beat their percussion gently into that good, lo-fi night.
And while I think awards shows are generally scams anyway (y’all remember when Macklemore robbed Kendrick Lamar? Ridiculous), I’d still like to count her wins as formal, institutional validations of an artistry that’s always been eclipsed by its packaging. To the foul mouth still running their mouths about her fits and her beats, you’re still free to do that. But that’s your word against four Grammys.