Winner: Billie Eilish
An unequivocally original artist, Billie Eilish has taken 2019 by storm. Her debut record, released in March 2019, gained Grammy Award nominations, broke streaming records and made her one of the most important musicians in recent memory and at just eighteen years old, Eilish is both the sound of the current as well as of the future. Patrick Donnelly explains why Billie Eilish is The Mic's Solo Artist of the Year.
If you haven’t heard of Billie Eilish by this point, you’re either living under a rock or lying. The 18-year-old has rapidly risen to fame over the latter-half of this decade, becoming one of the biggest and most popular names in contemporary music. Having first entered the public eye in 2015 with the release of the well-acclaimed Ocean Eyes, Billie (and her brother Finneas, who is not only a popular singer-songwriter in his own right, but also co-writes and produces her music) quickly transformed into an icon in the alternative pop-sphere. Billie’s music has entered and taken over that spot in pop music that artists like Lorde and Lana Del Rey opened up to the mainstream and she has made it hers. Now the eighth-most popular artist on Spotify with the most streamed album of the year on Apple Music, both Billie Eilish’s and her music’s popularity seem to be booming.
2019 has without a doubt been the most successful year for Billie, primarily because of the success of her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, which was teased with social media posts and singles in 2018, before finally releasing it in March 2019. And what an impact the album had; it led to numerous nominations at the Grammy Awards, massively favourable reviews from critics and her first US number-one, bad guy which you have almost-certainly heard by now – it’s nearly impossible to avoid it. And yet, despite the amount of raving reviews and glowing praises of the album, there is no sense of it being overrated.
From the ridiculously catchy hooks of bad guy and aggressive synths of you should see me in a crown to the soft, heartfelt ballad of when the party’s over and reflective, whispering final track, goodbye, ‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP…’ is consistently strong and uniquely Billie-y. 8 is extremely reminiscent of the track party favor off of Billie’s first EP, dont smile at me, both using softer vocals paired with a ukulele-based instrumental. my strange addiction reflects Billie’s own addiction, along with that of many fellow members of Gen Z, to the TV show, ‘The Office US’, using samples from an episode as fills within the track. The mix of highs and lows, bass-heavy instrumentals and wispy vocals, quirks individual to tracks amongst consistent themes in sound and lyricism is unequivocally Billie Eilish. Everyone’s heard it, and everyone and their mums love it. And other artists are noticing.
But beyond her album, Billie began the year with releasing WHEN I WAS OLDER, a single from the ‘Music Inspired by the Film Roma’. Although later shadowed by the success of her album, the single performed well in the UK and US. To close the year, she released another single, everything i wanted. The track also performed well, receiving praise for the macabre vulnerability of the song’s lyrics. With a loyal fanbase, it seems Billie’s music can do no wrong as she puts out hit after hit, without becoming formulaic or generic – the idiosyncrasies of her tracks are ever-present.
Yet Billie’s success has surpassed purely record sales and awards. At age 17, she has played at both Glastonbury and Coachella, with widespread acclaim for her sets at each. Her 2019 tour, the ‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP Tour’, was largely sold-out, leading her to perform in front of hundreds of thousands of fans. She appeared in Calvin Klein’s #MyCalvins campaign, explaining the powerful reasoning behind her fashion choices. She joined ‘James Corden on Carpool Karaoke’. She has one of the most followed Instagram accounts. She has started her own clothing brand. She has over one BILLION listens to her single bad guy on Spotify and another seven hundred thousand on Youtube. She was voted Billboard’s ‘Woman of the Year’. And she’s only just turned 18. The future is bright for Billie Eilish, and perhaps, by the end of 2029, we might see Billie Eilish as solo artist of the decade: only time will tell.