Examining the Relatability Disconnect on New Billie Eilish and Lorde Albums | Music news | Spokane | Interior of the Pacific Northwest

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Known crown bearers: Billie Eilish (left) and Lorde

What is a failure for a pop star these days? The music industry is built so lopsided that the biggest names are essentially too big to fail. Even if audiences don’t demand an artist’s current batch of tracks, they’ll still be placed in enough commercials, move enough pre-sale products, and have a loyal enough beehive of stans that any issues look like they are. ‘to a minor retarder.

That said, if you told me before the start of the year that Lorde and Billie Eilish would be releasing new albums in 2021, and none would capture the pop zeitgeist as much as a Disney + actor. Musical High School reboot (Oliva Rodrigo) or Doja Cat, I would have been more than stunned. The idea that their albums wouldn’t fully connect with audiences was hard to fathom.

That’s because until now Eilish and Lorde had the same musical superpower that distanced themselves from their contemporaries: relatability.

It’s a quality that has to come naturally and which, when rigged, can seem like the most off-putting quality you can imagine. Coming onto the scene as teenage girls in the era of bedroom music creation meant the two were relatively unfiltered young women, rather than brands built by corporate machines. They must be artistically neglected children, which is exactly what other messy teens authentically connect with.

But their appeal was not limited only to young pop consumers. Lorde’s “Royals” were broadcast on hip-hop radio stations (which was odd as it’s a moderate critique of bling culture). The approval rating of his pure heroine and Eilish When we all fall asleep, where do we go? among the typically closed old rock dudes was off the charts. Why was that?

People like to do the case that the lyrics don’t really matter in modern music, that they usually go in one ear and come out the other. You may only know the wrong words for “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, but it always resonates. But even if people don’t register the actual words, they subconsciously assimilate them. And it looks like commercial success may have been an artistic tipping point that pushed Lorde and Eilish away from their unprecedented relationship.

One of Lorde’s great strengths was how she managed to convey a young woman’s perspective on pure heroine and Melodrama essentially without using any gendered composition. Other than putting on makeup on “Green Light” and asking to be called Queen Bee on “Royals,” there is simply no language that prevents a listener from getting into their lyrical angst. The dreamy tone that permeated Lorde’s work never felt disconnected from a universal experience.

This is just not the case on his new Solar energy. “The Path” album opening literally contains lines about “millionaire teenager having nightmares from camera flash” and not taking calls “whether it’s the label or the radio “. Not exactly relatable. Lorde was a millionaire writing Melodrama, but she never let it get in. Solar energy is an album that radiates (seemingly unintentionally) a candle-light distance, where being “Stoned at the Nail Salon” is treated as something people can relate to rather than a niche thrill for the comfortable class. The album has an overall island escape theme that appears repeatedly on songs like “Leader of a New Regime,” but the tone misses its mark, sounding more of a boast than getting listeners to escape. (the pandemic the timing does not help the contextualization, because we, the normans in lockout, could not fly to the islands).

The void of relatability extends to the music that supports the sung word. While pure heroine felt like a child trying to escape the confines of his room through urgent electronic simplicity, and Melodrama felt as frantic, throbbing and perfectly hazy as a drunken late night on a dance floor, relaxing acoustic guitar Solar energy often looks like afternoon jam to throw by the beach, devoid of earworm melodies.

Eilish wrote in a more distinct way female perspective on her breakthrough When we all fall asleep …, but it tapped into a feeling of extremely universal alienation. At the same time, she was clearly a kid who did silly things and did strange things for fun rather than for commercial viability. Heck, that debut LP starts with a track of her and her brother fooling around taking out her Invisalign to sing and offers a track that could have been a killer single gone wobbly with a bunch of samples of Office (“My strange addiction”).

his new Happier than ever, on the other hand, looks like a simplified big label product, which makes it an odd fit given that much of the album dwells on how the music industry exploits young people. women (“Your Power”, “Goldwing”, etc.). It’s a worthwhile topic for Eilish to explore, but it’s not shocking that the masses don’t find these details almost as relevant (the superstar’s take on “NDA” doesn’t help). A few tracks like “My Future” still capture the young, dreamy vibe, but much of the album feels far removed from the ordinary listener.

Similar to Lorde, there is also a musical drop on the new album. The stylistic dexterity of Eilish and his producer brother, Finneas, displayed on When we all fall asleep … was downright astonishing: the thumping bass sound of “Bad Guy”, the sharp hook of “You Should See Me in a Crown”, the piano ballads (“Listen Before I Go”), the hymns for depressed teenagers (” When the party is over “). Compare that to Happier, which … mostly sounds like uninspired generic versions of the previous album while trying to sound more “grown-up”? It has all the hallmarks of the famous sophomore albums where artists use the best ideas they’ve cobbled together in years for their debut, to have a relatively empty ideas closet for the second round.

Maybe relativity just has a lifespan for pop stars. It’s easier to be musically accessible when “writing down what you know” is a teenage reverie rather than the pressure of the public microscope. Neither superstars will be too shaken up by the fact that they don’t dominate the musical narrative this year.

Still, we can hope for a little more stargazing and a little less fame in the future. ??