“I had a dream. I got everything I wanted. Not what you’d think. And if I’m bein’ honest, it might’ve been a nightmare.”
There was a Vanity Fair video that came out last year, called “Same Interview, One Year Apart” with Billie Eilish. The concept was exactly that: an interview with Billie, featuring the same questions, filmed exactly one year apart.
The end result is, well, eerie: the draining effects of the following 12 months on the 15-turned-16-year old singer are there written all over her face, in her mannerisms and in her words. It’s as fascinating as it is disturbing. The video now has over 57 million views.
At best, fame is difficult to handle for young stars. At worst, it’s all-consuming and, potentially, lethal. That’s no new tale: from Michael Jackson to Amy Winehouse to Britney Spears to Demi Lovato, we’ve all seen what the media, the music industry and fans have done to many of these people amid their own personal struggles. And although the conversation around mental health has evolved over the years, so have other things, like social media, supplying direct access to celebrities…and so, so many unsolicited opinions.
I remember seeing Billie for the first time at the beginning of 2017, performing an acoustic set in front of journalists and assorted industry types in a room at Soho House in New York City. And while it’s easy to say I always knew she’d be a star from that point forward, I…did, although, admittedly, not to the degree that she took off within months.
There was something so mesmerizing about the hushed and vulnerable way she sang and kept the room pin-drop quiet, clinging to each quivering note. I remember thinking about how, in spite of how jaded I’d become in general with showcases and new artists and all of that, I was genuinely entranced during the performance – by a 15-year-old, no less. Afterward, she flitted around the room in some kind of green fur, if I remember right. I might have said hello, but I was intimidated. By someone half my age.
Since then, it’s not a stretch to say Billie is on track to become the voice of her generation, if she isn’t already.
The charts and streams speak for themselves – she’s got the best-selling North American debut album of the decade – as do the sold-out tours, the TikTok memes, the Takashi Murakami and Justin Bieber collaborations, and everything in between. She’s massive, and having seen her in concert a handful of times since that showcase years ago, it’s clear how much she means to her young, impassioned audience.
That is all to say: she got everything she wanted. Or did she?
“everything i wanted,” Billie’s first new song since releasing When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? released on Wednesday (November 13), seemingly addresses all that’s come with her astoundingly rapid ascent to superstardom.
The gorgeously grim track was recorded both at her home studio in Highland Park and on the road on tour this summer with her older brother and sole collaborator and producer, Finneas.
“We started writing it because I literally had a dream that I killed myself, and nobody cared, and all of my best friends and people that I worked with basically came out in public and said, like, ‘Oh, we never liked her.’ In the dream, the fans didn’t care. The Internet shit on me for killing myself, all this stuff, and it really did mess me up,” she explained to Annie Mac of the meaning behind the song.
“My brother is my best friend, and I have these dreams and these things happen, and no matter what happens, he’s gonna always be there for me, and it’s the same the other way around.”
That same worldweary, depressed girl featured in the Vanity Fair video might as well be the one narrating this song: “It feels like yesterday was a year ago, but I don’t wanna let anybody know / ‘Cause everybody wants something from me now, and I don’t wanna let ’em down,” she confesses. It’s a cry for help, frankly.
The cover art for the single features a stylized version of the Golden Gate Bridge designed by English artist Jason Anderson, which has a reputation for being the second-most used suicide site in the world. She directly references that suicidal dream in the lyrics: “Thought I could fly, so I stepped off the Golden / Nobody cried, nobody even noticed.”
The one thing that keeps her tethered to reality, and to the core of this very song, is Finneas.
“And you say, ‘As long as I’m here, no one can hurt you / Don’t wanna lie here, but you can learn to / If I could change the way that you see yourself, you wouldn’t wonder why you’re here / They don’t deserve you’” she sweetly croons her big brother’s supportive words on the lump-in-throat inducing chorus.
In the song’s final moments, she ponders whether this was all worth it: “If I knew it all then, would I do it again? / Would I do it again?”
For any musician, “everything i wanted” would be considered a moving meditation on fame. For a 17-year-old girl, it’s downright heartbreaking.
Mercifully, she’s not by herself: she’s got her big brother right there along with her for the ride. But perhaps this song, beyond being one of the most arresting tracks she’s ever released, will serve as a reminder of her humanity.
Here’s hoping for healthy professional boundaries, time off when needed, and a supportive team in place to keep Billie grounded during a time in her life that is anything but normal.
“everything i wanted” was released on November 13.
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