I wanna end me.
In most horror movies — not all, but plenty — the terror of a young girl getting got by monsters is a major crux of the plot. In others, it’s the young girl who is the terror, channeling forces beyond our comprehension to suit paranormal evil’s whims, perhaps rescued at the last moment from hosting the monster, perhaps dying under the weight of the underworld beings. In either of these scenarios, the proverbial violence is coming from outside the girl’s psyche, an external mechanism. Within the world of Billie Eilish, it’s already there, lurking inside.
Eilish is neither a victim nor a vessel for outside forces — she is the force, not possessed, but in full possession of herself. And that self, fabricated or not, is playing upon the imagery of universal horror film tropes; she is a pop star taking the game to deliciously twisted heights, behaving in ways that girls aren’t supposed to behave, voicing ideas that girls aren’t supposed to have: I wanna end me. And when she works in that milieu, there are few forces in the modern pop landscape that can challenge her.
At one of three sold-out shows in Los Angeles this week, Billie Eilish slowed down the crowd at the Shrine Auditorium toward the end of her hour-plus set to share a special fact with them: the first time she attended a concert, it was at this venue. “Thanks for caring about me enough to get me on this side of the stage,” she intoned in the strangely gruff, hip-hop-leaning affectation she’s adopted for her speaking voice.
The sea of girls still on the audience side of the Shrine cheered their happiness over her victory, even if the revelation eventually left them somber, looking at their own place in the room with decidedly less enthusiasm. Earlier in the night she expressed a different, decidedly less cheery sentiment: “This song is for anyone who loathes themselves.” For that, the crowd cheered their throats hoarse.
Eilish is respectfully aware of the impact that her powerhouse audience, mostly composed of young and very young girls, has and will have on her career. It’s a respect that stars like Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber will never quite get a handle on — Eilish knows how fervently her fans adore her because she’s been in their shoes, perhaps, even more recently than most of us think, as Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next blared almost exclusively from the PA for her pre-show playlist.
Now potentially approaching the same reach as Grande, audience-wise — two Shrine shows at 6,300, plus a Greek Theatre show at 5,870, make more than a Forum performance at 17,500, though Grande played multiple nights in LA — it’s hard not to see the throughline from Billie’s minor hip-hop connections to Grande’s similar positioning in that realm. Although, a more clear influence on this young star’s fusion of the sacred and obscene is Lana Del Rey, a woman who sings with the same late ‘50s/early ‘60s old Hollywood glamour, also infusing it with darkness whenever she sees fit.