Fainting, hysteria and meditation at the Billie Eilish concert

MWednesday June 22. It is 9:23 p.m. when Billy Eilish appears in a jump and in a flash of light on the stage of the Accor Arena, in front of a tide of mobile phones reflecting the light effects of the stage in the crowd: almost all of the spectators are filming. This vision is both beautiful and disturbing. Around us, shrill howls escape from 20,000 mouths. The heat is suffocating and the excitement at its height: it is one of the eighteen European dates of the Californian star, the only French one, the first of such magnitude, and it is fully booked. Dressed in her eternal loose T-shirt and tight shorts, black quilts on the top of her head like a figure from a manga, Billie sings “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” », from his first eponymous album, which broke all records: number one in 70 countries when it was released and for three weeks in the United States, it totaled 1.4 billion streams in France and 61 billion worldwide. At the penultimate Grammy Awards, she swept awards in all major categories (revelation, best recording, song, album and pop vocal album – five statuettes in all). Unheard of for such a young artist. Each title unveiled instantly accumulates millions of listens, a triumph for this extraordinary young girl, performer of the song of the last james bond.

104 million followers

Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell grew up in the recently gentrified and hyper-hip neighborhood of Highland Park in northeast Los Angeles, in a modest house stuffed with paintings and musical instruments. His parents, Maggie Baird and Patrick O’Connell, are actors. They never really broke through. They are so involved in the education of their two children that they school them at home and give them the only two bedrooms in the house. They themselves sleep in the living room. The eldest, Finneas, starred in bad teacher (2011) with Cameron Diaz and has a moderately successful band. His sister Billie dreams of becoming a dancer. Gifted, she obtained the equivalent of the baccalaureate at 15 years old. They are free from everything except drinking soda, and can always delay bedtime if it’s to play an instrument.

READ ALSORevelations on the Billie Eilish phenomenon

Sitting cross-legged on the bed of her tiny bedroom, curtains drawn, leaning towards the microphone leaning against her mattress, she sings while her brother, seated at a desk a few centimeters from her, records his mischievous, soft voice on a computer. and sexy, oscillating between cry and whisper. “Ocean Eyes” is an airy pop ballad with precise and chimerical writing about the dizzying feeling of falling in love. She’s 13 and he’s 18 when they post it on the internet and it goes viral. They then signed with Interscope Records, a subsidiary of Universal, alongside Madonna, Lana Del Rey, U2, Eminem…

The siblings then record (in the bedroom, still) the entirety of Billie’s debut album, a subtle, melancholy marvel, with hip-hop basses and vocal overlays that make you want to wiggle sensually under sheets then throw yourself on the dance floor. She does not hesitate to sing dark, even morbid lyrics, the only pop star to venture into this terrain which obsesses teenagers who feel bad about themselves. Like all young people of her age, she shares all her thoughts on Twitter and Instagram and takes very badly the slightest negative comment about her. Vegan, she campaigns for the environment, abortion, prison conditions and Joe Biden. In a few months, she went from 1 to 16 million followers on Instagram. Today it has 104 million.

With full lungs

Last night, his French audience, mostly young and female, knew absolutely all the words to all his songs by heart. Alternating ballads (“idontwannabeyouanymore”) and dark, undulating tubes (“NES”), even downright dancing (“Bad Guy”), the singer gradually lost her nervousness. “Oh my god, I love you guys! » she says with a surprisingly childish timbre. If the scenography, lights and videos are aesthetic, the stage frankly lacks musicians (she is there alone with her brother and her drummer), throwing a chill on this unoccupied space. On the other hand, she does not spare us any of the old recipes for setting the mood: make one side then the other of the room shout, make her bend down then jump, luminous olas… Tactile, she caresses her fans, distributes smiles, grabs a bra thrown at her. She pushes her broken body to the limit, leaps until she can’t move. In an improvised gymnastics session (preceding a giant meditation session – yes yes), she asks us to shake ourselves, to “grasp our worries”, throwing them to the ground, stomping on them, then screaming at the top of their lungs. His fans did not need any injunction to shout. Some spectators lost an eardrum.

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As she performs, guitar on her knees, a new title, “TV”, inspired by his recent breakup and the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp lawsuit, someone passes out. She stops everything and sends security, asks the bartenders to bring water, to no avail. They are at the back of the room, but they don’t move. Do they understand English? She then causes general hysteria by rising in a crane above the crowd and in front of the bleachers. We hardly hear the words under the cries, we barely recognize his first hit, “Ocean Eyes”. Then she escapes and joins the scene on a scooter. “Things I once enjoyed / Just keep me employed now”, she whispers in front of a parade of photos from her childhood.

“Getting Older”

Throughout the concert, she seems amused but a little detached. She seems to be in Paris as in Berlin or London, with joy and indifference. “Things I’m longing for / Someday, I’ll be bored of”, she admits in “Getting Older”. Because under her sullen teenager air with eternally raised eyes likely to be interpreted as a sign of exasperation, Billie Eilish is the singer who has the most success of the decade. At 20, she is the first artist born in the 21st century.e century to top the charts for best-selling records. A rain of confetti slowly falls on our heated heads for the grand finale: “Happier than ever”, a smooth song with a rock break, perfectly produced for stadiums. The star then leaves the stage, without an encore. Happier than ever, really?

Billie Eilish, ” Happy Than Ever » (Interscope/Universal, 2021) and Happier Than Ever, The World Tour : February 3-July 2, 2022.

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Fainting, hysteria and meditation at the Billie Eilish concert

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