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billie eilish

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Everybody loves a horse race.  That’s why it’s fun when someone like Lil Naz X comes along and scores big against the best in the world, in his case, with a record breaking hit song, “Old Town Road.”  The Taylor Swift’s and the Ed Sheeran’s couldn’t beat him.  He held the number one position on the Billboard chart for 19 weeks, longer than any artist in history…longer than Mariah, Madonna or Beyonce…longer than all the one-names.

Then 17 year old Billie Eilish challenged the 20 year old by hanging in the weeds with her “Bad Guy” hit. When the leader started to weaken, as he inevitably would, she struck and took away that first position.

But which horse in this race has the longer tail?  “Bay Guy” is not likely to have the lasting power of “Old Town Road.”  Songs like “Old Town Road” come along infrequently.  But which artist will have the longer career?  That is the real question and the answer may not be the one that’s obvious at this time.

Billie Eilish is only seventeen, but she has a four year career with a series of minor hits, all building to this moment. She’s proven she can write appealing songs consistently.  By contrast, Lil Naz X has had one explosive hit, which will be very hard for him to follow.  His second song “Panini” has gotten good exposure by drafting the monster hit, but it does not have the magic X was able to package in his breakthrough hit?  Just a guess, but in the long term horse race between these two, it feels like Ms. Eilish has a shot to cross the finish line more often.  It all depends on the next couple releases from Lil Naz X…will he fade or is he able to make another charge? Check back in ten years when this is resolved.

“Bad Guy” is more proof of the multi-faceted artistry of Billie Eilish.  She operates on so many levels it’s hard to track them.  Her tunes are pop confections of consistent quality, her visuals are inventive performance art pieces and her vocals move from feathery to sinister.  That’s just on this song.

All of this was apparent in her easiest work, though by comparison it seems as though she was playing it safe back then.  The song “Ocean Eyes” from three years ago is one of her most straight forward attempts.  The video starts with a simple singer/songwriter delivery and then, without bringing attention to it, her hands come into frame and they appear to be stained with blue ink. No reason, just a visual mention of Ms. Eilish’s bend approach, an approach that has flowered and released all its strangeness as her career has moved forward.

Notably, it is the haunting melodies of hers that provides the solid foundation allowing the strangeness to work so well.  If they were too abstract, it would all be disconnected from reality.  Billie Eilish is a master work and she has come along at the perfect time, a time when multi-layered media opportunities abound for a multi-faceted artist.  The audio-video medium is her instrument.

“Bad Guy” is the number three streamed song and the number six purchased song in the last week of June.