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THOUGHTS ON
BILLIE-CHELLA

As someone who appreciated the musical adventurousness of Darkroom/Interscope breakout Billie Eilish’s work without fully feeling that I “got it”—was I too old? Probably—watching her rule the Coachella stage from my Couch-ella made some of the pieces fall into place. With her intense performance and the crowd’s wailing response, the songs resonated for me in a way they hadn’t before.

She left the crowd in a froth, with the certain knowledge that the Billie era had only just begun.

Let’s put aside, for a moment, the accustomed complaints about Coachella’s overflowing, overmedicated crowds, its dystopian corporate activations and selfie-grubbing social-media influencers. Let’s pause to marvel at the phenomenon that is Billie.

On the biggest stage of her life so far—to the in-person festival throng add countless viewers like me who saw her set as a live stream—the 17-year-old breakout was utterly in control; her every command and gesture to the crowd turned its responses on a dime. Not that she took any of this for granted, as her most frequent comment was “This is crazy.” But even in the midst of her wonderment, she manifested, with seeming ease, a new kind of pop vision.

Dressed in a T-shirt and shorts—if she weren’t already famous you might mistake her for any festival attendee—she dispensed utterly with pop-star vanity and put-on glamour. Jumping and bouncing on the stage, she channeled both teen angst and childlike effervescence. With her horror-movie visuals she offered a uniquely unsettling kind of spectacle that blackened the edges of her gossamer melodies. Though her disruptive appeal has been likened to that of Nirvana, her cathartic live presentation, with its moody dynamics and stylistic arabesques, more closely resembles a predecessor on Interscope, Nine Inch Nails.

We look forward to the next stage.

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