by Lauren Smith
Photos by Vivian Le and Ryan Clemens
Brought to the University of Iowa campus by SCOPE Productions, 16-year-old Billie Eilish ran onto the IMU stage in an oversized black sweatsuit and beanie to match and a pile of gold chains hanging from her neck. Hyped up by opener Reo Cragun, a self-made hip-hop artist from Washington, and 20 minutes of trap music, the small but ecstatic crowd of students greeted her with shrill cries of adoration and excitement.
Billie’s success is shocking for her age and her sudden fame can only be attributed to her raw talent and zeal for performing. The teen has explored her artistic talents since childhood while she was homeschooled in Los Angeles with her brother and musical partner, Finneas O’Connell. Born into a family of actors and musicians, the siblings grew up teaching themselves instruments and writing songs in their bedrooms.
Initially written by Finneas, Billie recorded a cover of “Ocean Eyes”, her debut single, on SoundCloud in 2016. The song went viral with Eilish’s accompanying music video, establishing her as new-age Electropop. With the exposure granted major record labels Darkroom and Interscope Records, Eilish became an icon for the international Gen-Z teen. Her brooding songs combine the pain of a bad breakup with a truly unique pop sound.
Eilish jumped and danced the entire way through her set with Finneas accompanying on piano and electric guitar. Her icy blue hair shone in the lights as she sat down to sing a not-yet-released track. Its haunting lyrics, “Tie my shirt to stop the bleeding / yet nothing’s there to stop you leaving”, makes you wonder what kind of heartbreak she’s been through at her young age. After a short cover of “Hotline Bling” on the ukulele and a powerful performance of “COPYCAT”, Eilish sent her fans away in awe of her raw, confident charisma.