Billie Eilish, "bad guy" (Darkroom/Interscope)
Twenty-first-century pop and I rarely hear ear-to-ear. You can read evidence of my struggles with chart fodder in previous round-ups of Billboard's most popular songs of the year here, here, here, and here. So, when I like an artist who's garnering billions of Tidalfy streams or millions of Facegram views or whatever other metric you want to use, it's a shock to the system.
The latest example of this phenomenon is "bad guy" by the 17-year-old phenom Billie Eilish. She's starting to become ubiquitous: an appearance at Coachella, a sold-out world tour, spots on major television programs (The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, etc.), videos shot by Dave Meyers of Kendrick Lamar fame... It's all coming together very nicely for Ms. Billie... or even more nicely, as I somehow missed the 2016 virality of "Ocean Eyes"; sorry 'bout that.
Eilish—whom I'd broadly classify as a Xanax-y Lorde—recently released her debut album, When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Recorded with her older brother, Finneas O’Connell, it's full of brooding ballads buttressed with bulky bass frequencies and nudged along (occasionally) by hard, sluggish beats. And, surprisingly for an artist not old enough to vote, the album's enshrouded by a Kate Bush-ian gravitas. Eilish sings as if her lips weigh a ton and she's recording in the studio at 4 am after a night of mellow downer consumption. The vocals are in the vein of a Generation Z Hope Sandoval, if she were into neo-R&B rather than psych-rock.
"bad guy" is the most club-friendly track on When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? The swift, finger-snap-enhanced beats contrast enticingly with Eilish's groggy sotto voce, while the bulbous yet buoyant bass line and Theremin-like synth motif generate an eerie Dr. Who theme loopiness. The molasses-slow dubstep breakdown near the song's end operates as a brilliant tangent. On top of it all, Eilish proves that that braggadocio can hit with even more effectiveness if it's whispered.
The video for "bad guy" has 26.4 million views only five days after its upload, and as I keep adding to that total, I feel like a creep, being nearly 40 years older than Eilish. (The "might seduce your dad type" line doesn't help ameliorate this feeling. So maybe I'm the bad guy.) But fug it: A quality song is a quality song.