You mean you haven’t heard of Billie Eilish?! What are you, retired?
So, I’m in the gym working out with a couple of my buds—my earbuds, that is. Per usual, I revert to the songs of my youth, courtesy of Spotify.
You mean you haven’t heard of Spotify? Well, let me tell you, if you enjoy having a limitless number of tunes on tap, yet having the music service insistently offer the same carousel of revolving songs it has learned you like, Spotify is your ticket to an earful of exasperation.
Even when you try to desperately escape Spotify’s solicitous “Made for You” playlists, as if crawling through the Sahara in search of an oasis, it still has you in its predictive clutches, telling you what it thinks you want to hear. So, once again, like the day before, Spotify is queueing up Dylan, Beach Boys, Otis Redding, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, on and on (that’s Stephen Bishop).
I had had it. I went full Howard Beale, railing against the authoritarianism of Spotify: “I’m mad as heck (hey, this is a family newspaper), and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Somehow, I found an oasis: Billie Eilish Radio. I had heard of Billie, whose full name, of course, is Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, which has a lilt all its own, thanks to her lyrical Irish-Scottish heritage.
If you haven’t heard her music, it’s understandable. If you haven’t heard of her at all, well, you can thank me later for introducing you. Suffice it to say she’s the livin’ end (as my generation used to say when we were her age, which is 17). Billie has a tidy Instagram following of 20 million-plus, and her songs have been streamed a Billieon times. Did I mention she’s 17?
One of Billie’s biggest hits is titled “Bury a Friend,” and it goes something like this:
What do you want from me? Why don’t you run from me?
What are you wondering? What do you know?
Why aren’t you scared of me? Why do you care for me?
When we all fall asleep, where do we go?
Whether you think that last line is somewhat profound or some kind of poppycock, one thing’s for certain: it’s the title of her huge-selling debut album that shot straight to the top spot on the Billboard charts, at No. 1, and is setting all kinds of music industry milestones for runaway success.
“Her lyrics really relate to our generation more than, like, any artist I’ve heard before,” says a fan in one of Eilish’s videos.
In case you were wondering, Billie doesn’t do drugs. And her whole family are vegans. That might explain the name of her Instagram account: wherearetheavocados.
I was listening to Billie Eilish Radio, so that meant I was treated not only to her pangs of teen angst, loneliness, boredom, lovesick yearnings, and all that other good stuff, but I got to sample all the above themes through the eyes and words of other young artists, whose moist celebrity has graduated them from aspiring to officially aspired. How do they do it? YouTube!
Take Conan Gray, a 20-year-old whose song “Generation Why” looks inward thusly…
Cause we are the helpless, selfish, one of a kind
Millennium kids, that all wanna die
Walking in the street with no light inside our eyes
We are the worthless, cursed with too much time
There are others in the same mold. Twentysomethings like Jeremy Zucker (“comethru”), Alec Benjamin (“Let Me Down Slowly”), and Sasha Sloan, whose song “Older” reflects…
The older I get the more that I see
My parents aren’t heroes, they’re just like me
And loving is hard, it don’t always work
You just try your best not to get hurt
While the rest of us old-timers are learning to live in a digital world we found ourselves in, the future old-timers are living to learn in a digital world of their own making.
If I sound like some crotchety Baby Boomer dishing on the growing pains of Millennials, it’s just the opposite. Millennials are my oxygen, in a day and age rendered increasingly airless by arrogant adults who could afford to talk less and listen more—maybe even once in a while to music like this.
I found myself genuinely enjoying the songs on Spotify’s Billie Eilish Radio playlist. I was on a treadmill at the time, with no particular place to go (that’s Chuck Berry), and I was thrilled to have gotten off the numbing treadmill of too-familiar songs that Spotify, in its finite wisdom, had presumed I continually wanted to hear, over and over and over again (that’s Dave Clark Five).
What I tripped across was a rising generation of talent, ingenuity, and worldly, if often dark, perspectives, elegantly expressed, speaking across generations to those with the humility and curiosity to stop and pay attention to something other than our own hidebound opinions.
Instead of being mercilessly mummified by the moldy oldies of my youth, for a few brief, shining moments (that’s Lerner & Loewe) I was enlivened discovering the poignant pop poetry of today’s youth.
Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner Agency. Apar is a weekly columnist for Halston Media newspapers and a writer for Westchester Magazine. Follow him as Bruce The Blog and Hudson Valley WXYZ on social media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-275-6887.