Today’s/Tomorrow’s Top 40: Artist profile…Billie Eilish

This is what a recorded audio track looks like using Soundcloud. When I recorded my students reading, all of the pauses, tongue clicks, etc. would all be visible. It was a very helpful analytical tool for me in the classroom.

About a decade or so ago when I was still a classroom teacher, I used to record my students reading aloud once a term. Early in my career, I recorded their voices using an old-fashioned tape recorder. Once recorded, I could analyze each child’s reading tendencies in greater detail. I could share these insights with parents and develop strategies for improvement that could be worked on at school and at home. As my career rolled along technology changed. Toward the end of my time in the classroom everything became digitized. To record my students as they read I started using an app called Soundcloud. For my purposes, Soundcloud was a glorified computerized tape recorder. I clicked on the record button, my students read aloud and then I pressed the stop button. I also used Soundcloud to read simple stories online for my students so that they could access them at home or at school, holding the storybook in their own hands and following along to my words as they listened. At the time, I thought I was engaging in some cutting edge technological wizardry. Truth be told, my use of the Soundcloud app was as basic and rudimentary as it comes. Soundcloud was invented to allow anyone who wanted the ability to record sounds to do so and then release them for the world to hear. This meant that poets could share their poems and sound effect artists could record and share those noises for others to hear and/or use. But the biggest market for Soundcloud users turned out to be aspiring singers. Not everyone has access to a full-blown recording studio. But almost anyone can access a computer (desktop, laptop, phone) with a built-in microphone and use soundcloud’s mixing features to record multi-track songs and instrumental music. With the introduction of social media, every regular joe can now share their thoughts, feelings and ideas with the world. We live in an age of empowerment. Our homes manifest themselves into town squares with the power of our devices. Anyone can be a viral social media star these days because of technology. One who has become famous this way is today’s featured guest, Billie Eilish.

Billie Eilish

When Billie Eilish was only eleven years old, she started singing her own songs using the Soundcloud app. At the time, she and her older brother, Finneas, were being homeschooled by their parents who thought that Soundcloud was a useful tool to capture the creative expressions of their children. Finneas had his own band then and had already started creating his own music by the time his little sister Billie showed interest in doing the same. In order to help her out, Finneas began setting aside songs that he felt were better suited for her voice than for his. Consequently, when Billie Eilish was a mere thirteen years old, she released her very first professional song via Soundcloud called “Ocean Eyes”. The song soon became popular on the app and an instant audience for Billie Eilish’s music was created numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Such success caught the eye of Apple Music. Billie Eilish was signed to a development contract. In no time at all, she was the centre of a multi-tiered online marketing campaign. The teenage singer recorded a few other songs with her brother Finneas. One of these new songs was inspired by the literary character Sherlock Holmes and was called “You Should See Me In A Crown”. These songs were then taken by Apple Music and were remixed and re-recorded by other artists from their roster. These remixes were released in a coordinated campaign aimed at creating the sense that her music had gone viral and was being sung everywhere by everyone. In addition to her actual songs, Billie Eilish collaborated with graphic designers and animators to create Animé-style illustrations to accompany her music. So, not only were there multiple mixes of each song, there were multiple music videos online as well. By the time Billie Eilish turned seventeen, she released her first major album called When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? From that album came her first hit single called “Bad Guy”. This song went all the way to #1 on the charts, making her the first singer born in the 2000s to reach the top of the charts. Her album also went to #1, selling millions of copies in the process. At the Grammy Awards that took place later that year, Billie Eilish won six Grammys, including Song of the Year, Best New Artist, Album of the Year and Record of the Year. As if that much success wasn’t enough, Billie Eilish followed that up by being signed to sing the latest James Bond movie theme song called “No Time To Die”. For that song, she won additional Grammys the following year, as well as the Academy Award for Best Song from a Movie. As she and her brother Finneas sang on that Oscar stage, Billie Eilish had yet to turn twenty.

Seeing as how it has only been the past few years that Billie Eilish has been on the music scene, there is still much that we are all getting to know about her. For starters, her last name is not Eilish. I always thought so. But, in reality, her legal name is Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell. One of the things that first caught the attention of the public (besides her singing skills) was her appearance. Billie Eilish burst onto the scene with multi-coloured hair and bright baggy outfits. Initially, she stated that she wanted people to think she was weird because that made her slightly intimidating and gave her a sense of power in her personal relationships, especially with the media. But, as it turns out, the real reason she wore what she did was because she didn’t want to submit herself to the media scrutiny about her body and her appearance. Far too many young women find themselves packaged in a sexual way before they ever get a chance to be judged on their artistic merit. Once she won her Grammys and her Oscar and was noted for her music first, then she allowed herself to be seen in public in dresses and on red carpets the world over. Billie Eilish has managed that rare feat of seemingly being in control of her public image and has done so at a very young age. Finally, to complement her music and the physical image she presents to the world, Billie Eilish has championed several causes such as climate change, animal welfare and women’s rights. She has started using her public platform in ways that help to shine a light on these issues. This marriage of musical talent with intelligent, worldly thoughts makes Billie Eilish seem like a very well-rounded human being indeed.

Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas with some of the Grammys that adorn the bookshelves of their family home.

As I write these words, Billie Eilish is appearing more often in public as part of a duo with her brother. The pair go by Billie Eilish and Finneas. While Finneas may be her older brother, they are both still only in their early twenties. Both have accomplished much in these young lives of theirs. They appear to have their feet firmly planted on the ground and have so far managed to avoid many of the usual temptations that have tripped up so many other folks for whom fame and fortune arrived too soon. In the links below, I will take you through some of her discography. You can see how she (and Finneas) have evolved over time these past few years. Don’t worry if you are not overly familiar with her name because she is so new on the music scene. But make no mistake, Billie Eilish and Finneas are rapidly rising stars who, hopefully, have many productive and successful years ahead of them yet. Without further delay, here are Billie Eilish and her talented brother, Finneas. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish can be found here. ***The lyrics version can be found here.

The link to the video for the song “You Should See Me In A Crown” by Billie Eilish can be found here. ***The lyrics version (which is also the anime-style version) can be found here.

The link to the video for the song “No Time To Die” from the James Bond movie of the same name can be found here. ***The lyrics version can be found here.

The link to the official website for Billie Eilish can be found here.

The link to the official website for Soundcloud can be found here.

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