You know you’re old when you watch a documentary about someone who has 77 million Instagram followers and you’ve never even heard of them before. Not knowing who she was, I came into this completely fresh – and man, I was absolutely blown away. Billie Eilish is a unique talent, that much is apparent from the moment the documentary starts.
It’s amazing how quickly your mind makes assumptions, too. “She’s a genius,” – or “she’s got this tragic Amy Winehouse thing going on.” All these ideas and judgements come to mind as you’re watching. But you realise, this girl is 19. At the start of the film, she’s 13. She’s just a teenager!
We tell ourselves these fairytales about success even when they’re almost certainly not the truth.
But she’s been working on her craft since she was 3. Her parents were musicians, and they’ve supported Billie and her brother Finneas the whole time.
It’s appealing to think of Billie as just being born with mad talent – but maybe she’s just worked harder than the rest of us.
And she seems completely authentic, which I love. I mean, when you’re 17 it’s hard to not be authentic. You’re a mess, and if you’re making up songs they’re going to be expressing who you really are. But I had this feeling that the way she dresses and the way she carries herself are just expressions of who she really is. When you look at someone like Taylor Swift or Liam Gallagher or pretty much any big name; you get the sense they’re playing a role. I don’t get that watching Billie, I just sense a real person.
A person who made it big by recording songs in her bedroom with her brother.
Which of course makes us think we can all make it big, but how many of us have the talent and dedication to work as hard as she has?
Now she’s rich, and famous – but at what cost?
The documentary does a great job of showing us the realities of being a rock star. You may not see her music as being rock — but a rock star she definitely is.
We all have a dream inside of us, of being a huge success, or of being a ‘name’ – but we never think about the sacrifices. Billie Eilish is a multi-millionaire now but it doesn’t buy you happiness. We see the injuries she gets when touring, we see the impact of being in demand; what it does to her brain, her confidence, her comfort.
Early in the documentary, I had this moment of thinking, “should the parents really put their 16 year old through all of this?” But then I soon realised – they don’t have a choice, it’s her destiny. A talent like this is too good to stay in the shadows, but the price she pays is a loss of privacy, a loss of normal life, and a loss of the innocence and simple creativity that she started with. Plus, of course, all the hate and negativity of the internet. It’s hard enough when you only have a handful of followers, but imagine having 77 million. “Just don’t look at it,” you might think. Find the nearest 19 year old and tell them to not check social media and see how far you get.
While the term genius is a dangerous one, and discounts all the grit and hard work — it’s clear she has insight and abilities beyond the norm. Her songs have captured the feelings of an entire demographic in a way which is incredibly rare. It’s not just that her music sounds cool, it really means something to people. For a teenager to create this music in her bedroom is pretty amazing. Nobody is this good, this young.
Now there’s pressure. To deliver again and again. Watching ‘The World’s a Little Blurry’ you can’t help but worry about someone so young and so talented. She has to go through the mistakes everyone has to go through — bad boyfriends, choices about drink and drugs, and decisions about how to utilise her talent. And we see in the documentary how much she hates so much of the process.
This is a great documentary for showing the massive highs and scary lows of living a creative life. And she’s navigating it all at an age when most of us were studying or working a random job, figuring things out. She has to figure things out with the added weight of being supremely talented, yet carrying a burden so big it has ruined the lives of so many of the greats we admire. Maybe that’s why Amy Winehouse crossed my mind. Billie’s fixation on the darker parts of life is what drives her work. It makes for the best songs but rarely the best life. We’ve lost too many too young who share these traits.
I didn’t know Billie Eilish but I do now. When a talent like this comes along you can’t help but pay attention. I can’t wait to see what she does next – and I hope she’s happy doing it.