She was recently named the first artist born in the 2000s to land a No. 1 album.
And Billie Eilish received a special welcome in New Zealand on Tuesday, after touching down at Auckland Airport ahead of her concert at Spark Arena.
Having stepped off a long-haul flight from Los Angeles, the 17-year-old songstress was treated to a traditional welcome by the Hātea Kapa Haka group, who performed a Māori language version of her song When the Party’s Over.
SMH: Next week, she’ll play sold-out gigs at the Hordern Pavilion and Margaret Court Arena, her much hyped debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? having spawned critical praise, hit singles and chart-topping stints across the US, UK, Australia and much of the globe.
At 17, she’s the first person born after 2000 to have a #1 album. Still a minor, she’s already a pop icon, both musically and aesthetically, representing the cultural reins-handing from millennials to Generation Z.
That Eilish has caught such fire, and sent the music industry spinning, is at once obvious and boggling. Her music has a classic pop streak filtered through commiserant imagery and a generation’s scorn at genre divides. If early Britney Spears went goth, or had grown up in the era of trap, the result might’ve been Billie Eilish.
But besides her affinity for black-bleeding eyeballs, she’s also funny, self-assured, refreshingly playful. Her album opens with Eilish spitting out her Invisalign; other tracks sample quips from US sitcom The Office; hit single Bad Guy hinges on a glorious “duh”. Among her 20 million Instagram followers, those giddy personality quirks are as much part of Eilish’s appeal as her music. But lately, she’s feeling the scrutiny.
“The internet is so, so touchy, that honestly, the internet does not deserve my funny f—ing ass. They don’t,” she laughs. “They don’t deserve me being hilarious, because they just don’t understand it.
“I don’t really share anything on the internet anymore. I don’t really post about anything I think or feel or whatever… It’s proven to me every time I give in and say one thing; it’s like, see okay, this is why I don’t say anything. I just don’t do it anymore.”
It’s sad, I suggest, having to distance herself from such an important sphere of expression, one that’s second-nature to her generation and that all but created her career.
“Yeah, I guess. Internet is crazy as f—, though,” she says. “I’d rather just not get f—ing shitted on by the internet than keep my jokes to myself.”
Her demanding new schedule, with its extensive touring, is grind enough, it seems.
“Touring has only recently started to be fun, and by recently I mean, like, this week,” she chuckles. “The shows are incredible, which is why it’s worth everything that’s lame about it… It’s almost become a task more than the therapeutic thing it used to be. But, I mean, it’s okay to let that happen; it’s my job now.”
For her current trip, at least, she’s joined by her entire family. Her brother Finneas, her co-writer and producer, plays in the band; her dad Patrick, now that they have a touring budget, helps the roadies build the set; her mum Maggie acts as guardian and “my assistant, almost”.
“My whole family’s on the road, minus my dog and my cat,” she says. The Partridge Family endures. And what about schooling?
“Nah, f— that. No way,” she says. “I grew up home-schooled so I never was doing schooling anyway.”
There’s a tradition of teen pop stars awkwardly navigating early fame and cosmic success. Justin Bieber went notoriously wild, Harry Styles released his adult album. What will Eilish’s eventual rebellion look like?
“I just hope I don’t break down in front of the whole world,” she says. “It’s really hard not to. I have, I just haven’t done it publicly yet. I’m just trying to deal with everything. I’m actually in a place right now where I’m really happy, feeling pretty healthy about everything. I’m doing just fine.”
Billie Eilish performs in Sydney on Tuesday April 30 and Wednesday May 1, and Melbourne on Friday May 3.