Billie Eilish’s new album, ‘Happier Than Ever,’ is now available: How she has altered pop.
Madonna was present. Beyoncé was present. Additionally, there was Taylor.
Now, Billie Eilish can be added to the list of women — or, more precisely, artists — who have altered the course of pop. Following the worldwide success of her 2019 debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” the alt-pop princess was named a seven-time Grammy winner and a global phenomenon. All before the age of twenty.
“Billie altered the narrative surrounding the question, ‘What does pop mean?’ It is not necessary for it to be a bubbly dance song about a breakup. It could also be something a little more introspective that still moves you and makes you want to sing along,” Brooke Reese, host of Apple Music’s “The Chart Show” and “Pop Hits Radio,” told The Post. “I believe her vulnerability has fundamentally altered the game. You cannot truly fake the funk in the world we live in.”
As the 19-year-old sensation prepares to release her sophomore album, “Happier Than Ever,” on Friday, anticipation was so high that she set a new global record for pre-adds on Apple Music, with over 1 million subscribers already locked in to listen.
Although “Happier Than Ever” was not made available for preview in its entirety — the new album’s songs “My Future,” “Therefore I Am,” “Your Power,” “Lost Cause,” and “NDA” were previously released — it’s difficult to imagine it doing anything but extending Eilish’s influence in the music world.
“Her influence is enormous,” Variety senior music editor Jem Aswad said of Eilish’s influence. “It has had a significant impact on the entire industry… I see an increase in the number of empowered young female singers stepping forward, without hesitation, and being allowed to express themselves more fully than they previously were. It’s a liberating trend for artists.”
Although there are some “Billie Eilish want tobes,” as Aswad puts it, the singer’s newfound creative freedom and energy has empowered emerging artists such as Girl in Red, Clairo, and Isaac Dunbar, while also encouraging labels to trust their artistic vision.
Eilish has elevated authenticity to a premium in the music industry, particularly for teen artists who felt compelled to conform to often sugary — or sexy — conventions regarding their sound, behavior, appearance, and dress.
Ann Powers, a critic and correspondent for NPR Music who will review “Happier Than Ever” on the upcoming “All Songs Considered New Music Friday” podcast, notes Eilish’s “image as a young woman, a teenager who refused to conform to pop ideals of beauty by wearing the [baggy] fashions she wore and not exposing her body.”
As Eilish embraces a more mature appearance, Powers explained, “she’s writing a lot about her relationship with her body and her right to own her image and body.” That, I believe, is a continuation from the 1990s and women in rock, and we’re seeing a return to those self-determination values.”
According to Aswad, part of Eilish’s “vision” is to keep her music in the family, as evidenced by her insistence on collaborating with her older brother Finneas as co-writer and producer. “She stated, ‘We do not wish to collaborate with these chart-topping songwriters. The songs we write on our own are superior.’ ”
Indeed, in the ultimate do-it-yourself boss move, they elevated “When We All Fall Asleep” to the 2019 Grammy Award for Album of the Year by recording it in Finneas’ bedroom in their Los Angeles home. “It’s completely changed music in terms of demonstrating what can be accomplished at home, rather than necessarily in a large studio,” Reese explained.
And it’s been a wise move — not only creatively, but also commercially, as “everything is centered around her and Finneas,” Aswad explained. “They are responsible for the majority of the creative work and receive the majority of the money.”
However, even prior to the release of her debut album, Eilish was already charting her own course by delivering her music directly to her fans — and connecting with them — online. She was one of the first to do this in pop, taking cues from the hip-hop world. “Her emergence was a critical step toward what has become a very common path to success,” Powers explained, “which is building an online following, creating your own music, and releasing it before signing to a label.”
Eilish’s influence is so strong that she has altered the process by which a teen from the Disney machine can transition from television to pop stardom. After years of Disney producing everyone from Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera to Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and the Jonas Brothers by following a tried-and-true formula of initially protecting and sanitizing their images, Olivia Rodrigo has benefited from Eilish’s success by gaining creative control with her debut album, “Sour.”
The 18-year-old singer of “Drivers License” co-wrote every song on the album and was able to be more edgy and quirky, sounding more like a real, relatable teenager than she might have been able to sound pre-Eilish.
“There is definitely a Billie Eilish influence in Olivia Rodrigo’s music,” Aswad stated. “A couple of her songs do have a Billie-like quality to them.”
Finally, Eilish’s success bodes well for future generations of young artists.
“When someone like Billie comes in and changes the game,” Reese explained, “it’s exciting to see who else flourishes as a result.”