Regardless of how you feel about her music — personally, I happen to love it — the rise of Billie Eilish has been a defining factor in 2019. When “Old Town Road” was the No. 1 song on the charts, Lil Nas X was selfie-ing with Billie, declaring her the cooler of the pair; when her own inescapable internet hit “Bad Guy” went to No. 1, Billie was still freaking out about a recent remix with her former idol, Justin Bieber; right before Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes overtook “Bad Guy” this summer with their steamy duet, “Senorita,” the former Fifth Harmony member was dubbing Billie a “sweet human” and posting a pic of the two on her Instagram grid. When they encounter her, even other pop stars can’t help but stan, and vice versa.
Meanwhile, Billie’s main producer and collaborator, her brother, Finneas O’Connell, has been hanging quietly behind the scenes, letting Billie occupy the spotlight. Still, he’s often the only one on stage with her during shows, performing the songs they created together, and even joining her in intimate moments — like a flying bed motif on her most recent tour — that echoed their early beginnings, writing songs together in a bedroom. And as her star power increased, she wasn’t shy about openly and directly citing his influence and role in helping create the music that was making her famous.
The interest in the producers behind today’s most magnetic pop stars has increased tenfold due to the constant flow of information on social media, and the internet in general, which has led to more informed, engaged listeners. Fans can pick out the Antonoffian riffs in Taylor Swift, St. Vincent, and Lorde songs, while Drake’s sound is often considered synonymous with his longtime producer Noah “40” Shebib and Mark Ronson turned the role of producer into an artform on his 2019 album, Late Night Feelings. Among Billie’s core audience, the impact of Finneas as her producer was already well-known, but his role gained mainstream attention during this year’s Grammy nominations.
Last week when the nominations were officially announced, Billie predictably picked up a whole slew of them — and so did Finneas. Billie is nominated for Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year — all of which she shares with Finneas — and on her own for Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Pop Solo Performance for “Bad Guy,” and Best New Artist. Her six nominations make history due to the fact that they come in all four major categories; she is the youngest artist to ever do so.
Along with the three awards he shares with Billie, Finneas is also up for two awards on his own, Best Engineered Album for his work on Billie’s debut, and the prestigious Producer Of The Year award. While most producers up for that category have multiple works to their name, Finneas is nominated solely for his work with Billie — another testament to the influence her record had on 2019’s musical landscape. Still considered the most prestigious awards in music, it looks like Finneas might be the next producer-turned-star due to this Grammy attention.
Even before the award show bump, he recently produced Selena Gomez’s first No. 1 single, “Lose You To Love Me,” and has a credit on Camila Cabello’s forthcoming record, proving his work with Billie isn’t a matter of filial chemistry or a one-time fluke. He also released his debut EP, Blood Harmony, this past October, a song cycle that shares few elements with Billie’s goth-pop blockbuster hits, but is akin to her slower, more tender tracks. Though Blood Harmony is his first formal project, Finneas has released one-off singles since early 2016, and has been in the public eye since long before then.
Beginning his career as an actor, an unsurprising choice due to his parents’ Hollywood connections, Finneas landed a minor role in the 2011 film, Bad Teacher, and starred in the independent film Life Inside Out in 2013. He’s also been fronting a local LA band called The Slightlys since 2012, and had recurring roles on both Modern Family and Glee in the past few years. One of his earliest solo singles was dedicated to his girlfriend, YouTube star Claudia Sulewski, and at just 22, he’s well on his way to success in multiple fields.
Whether or not he picks up that Producer Of The Year award in January, or any of the trophies for that matter, the nominations reflect how much the music industry thinks Finneas is capable of achieving. From his work with Billie, to Selena Gomez and Camila Cabello, to his solo music, Finneas definitely knows his way around a pop hit. The only question now is, where will he take his talent next?