Before Billie Eilish swept the Grammys last month, she had largely flown under the radar of anyone over the age of 21. But at (barely) 18 years old, Eilish made history as the youngest solo artist to win album of the year. That might not raise eyebrows if she hadn’t also swept four other Grammy categories: best new artist, song of the year, record of the year, and best pop vocal album.
Onstage at the awards, Eilish repeatedly suggested that other nominees deserved these honors more. In one of several surprise acceptance speeches made with Eilish, her brother, songwriter and producer Finneas flatly offered, “We didn’t think it would win anything ever. We wrote an album about depression, and suicidal thoughts, and climate change, and being the bad guy—whatever that means—and we stand up here confused and grateful.”
If you’ve actually listened to a song or two, you might be confused, too. Eilish’s music is unusual. Adults are kind of weirded out by it. We don’t get it. And that’s precisely the point.
It’s also why teenagers love her.
In 2019 she raked in accolades as Rolling Stone’s Teen of the Year, MTV Video Music Award’s Best New Artist, and two Teen Music Awards. While adults arguably run all of the awards machines, it’s Eilish’s young fan base who fuel her success. They’re captivated by the way she breaks most female pop-star norms.
My 17-year-old daughter was unsurprised that Eilish swept the awards, calling her music “different from everything you hear on the radio.” Which is also part of the deal—Eilish’s music largely became popular before broad radio play, in the teen-driven platforms adults often miss. ...1
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