30 days of music II — day 8: Billie Eilish – “dont smile at me”

TinyGrab Screen Shot 8-6-18, 9.42.42 AMGAH! Dammit, Billie, use a f*cking apostrophe in the word “don’t” — it’s really not that complicated and requires little-to-no effort. Trust me on this one.

A few of my hot buttons with song or album names — especially when they’re coming from insufferable millenials:

  • songtitleswithnospacesinthem
  • S0ng5 7ha7 R3plac3 L377345 with NumI3er5
  • Failure to punctuate your words

OK, where was I — oh yeah, listening to the debut extended play from indie pop artist Billie Eilish.  Technically it’s not that new, released in 2017 from Interscope Records, but for the sake of my 30 days of music exercise, it’ll have to do. “dont smile at me” — sigh – the red underlines (indicating a misspelling or lack of punctuation) is killing me — this EP is a small assortment of different tracks that seem to have been randomly thrown together into a single package. It feels like someone from Interscope asked Billie, “OK, so what do you have for me?” and she responded, “well, ive got a couple of songs here that i wrote this year, heres one from a few years ago, and heres another thing that i wrote one day when i was feelin a little emo and another that i want this one dude to rap on it cuz it will be dope…”

TinyGrab Screen Shot 8-6-18, 10.04.49 AM

The music’s mildly interesting, and some of the songs are kinda cool, but it feels mismatched.  Some of the songs are clearly more electronica/pop in nature, but interrupted by some ukulele tune, followed by more electronica-influenced music, and closing it out with a electronic/rap collab with rapper Vince Staples.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but it just doesn’t feel like a cohesive package.  Rather it just has this vibe that Interscope found her at an indecisive period in her songwriting career and just threw everything together hoping for the best.

Kinda like some of her outfits on Instagram.

Her fashion sense doesn’t match the vibe in her music — she projects an image of “sup, mah n*ggas”, but her music says otherwise. And she clearly has this thing for sticking out her tongue irreverently, as if to say, “look at me, imma millenial whodontgiveafuck about u.” Yeah, that was 19 separate links to her Instagram photos of her sticking her tongue out.  There’s even more of her looking like an angsty millenial who dontgiveafuck and is soooo done with all the attention.  So done with it, that she continues to post even more of her angsty photos.

Oh it’s so hard being an artist, always having to post even more photos of myself for the masses on Instagram.

I shouldn’t give her that much of a hard time and be so troll-like about it — but there is a certain level of “bring it” from her in her photos and her songs, I vibe that I can’t help but want to mock her staged “dontgiveafuck” appearance. Don’t think I don’t get it — I used to do the same thing early on when I was in my bands or doing some of my solo music photographs — doing the whole serious photo pose thing with a touch of angst and “dude I’m so serious I can’t even right now” in the facial expression and the body language.  In fact, some day I’ll have to go through and post a few of my least favorite and least flattering photos that I’ve had taken over the years that I never used for my press kits or for my music websites (back when we didn’t have things like Instagram or Twitter for sharing our photos). Hell, half of those photos back in the day were shot on 35mm film.

But back onto the EP “dont smile at me” — it’s really not that bad.  I am mildly enjoying the songs at face value — there are moments that almost have this Lana Del Ray or Lorde vibe to them.  I can see how in some circles her music would be totally appealing with ravenous fans driving an hour to come see her show in the neighboring metropolis. But as a whole package, I’m just not buying it.  There’s something to be said for branding yourself consistently as an artist — the same vibe or message in your music, in your photos, in our promo materials, your website, in the way you present yourself on the various social platforms.  Your brand should be consistent, and she’s anything but. She’s unpolished potential, if you ask me, and in need of an executive producer to help guide the direction of her career over the next several years.  Right now it just feels directionless.

Illustrating that point, her Instagram says “look at me imma badass thug that dont smile [or punctuate]”, but her music says otherwise, saying “I’ve got a lot of things that I want to express myself about and have some emotional depths that I want to share.”  But who knows, maybe she’s in the middle of an identity crisis and doesn’t know what she wants to be musically when she gets older.  But for now, I don’t mind the music — it’s half way decent.  But her thuggy Instagram photos don’t help her at all…. unless of course her sole desire is that you “dont smile at me.”

OK, I won’t.



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