Billie Eilish has given the music industry everything it could possibly want. An authentic new voice that appeals to teenagers and their parents. A debut album that has sold more than 2m copies in the US alone. A decisive stylistic evolution from the preceding decade’s dominant pop mode. A clean sweep of the four key categories at the Grammys. A copper-bottomed streaming success model. A James Bond theme that rejuvenates a tired franchise and extends her commercial and creative clout.
Until she offers up her prime commodity as a young female pop star, it will never be enough.
While 18-year-old Eilish is a beguilingly physical performer, she has never shown her body in service of her art. She prefers loose clothing because she feels comfortable in it, and has denounced the use of her image to shame female pop stars who dress differently. Not that it’s stopped anyone. Denying spectators the traditional metric by which female stars are judged – sexiness, slimness; the body as weathervane that reveals how tormented or contented they must be when they lurch between the extremes of those states – has created an obsession with her body and what it must stand for.
It sure ain’t capitalists to blame, nor the men. They’re off counting the money and giggling quietly to themselves as they do so.
It must, therefore, be the women being mean – but then that’s always true, isn’t it? The viciousness with which young women regard each other is famed throughout history. It’s vastly worse than anything men do to the distaff side.