What the results of the 2020 Grammy’s potentially exposes of the Millennial & Gen Z generations.
Billie Eilish swept all four major categories at this year’s Grammy’s (Best New Artist, Best Album, Best Song & Best Record).
Don’t worry — this isn’t another article about not liking Billie Eilish — an opinion that has seemingly become a part of my #brand.
Last Sunday’s awards show actually made me like her more. From delivering a very beautiful and sparse performance of the only song from WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? I like: “when the party’s over,” to actually saying “please don’t be me…please” after the night’s energy began hinting at a sweep for the youngest artist nominated in these categories.
I have my opinions on whether she deserved these awards, but they’re not worth stating here. What I do want to drop out there in the ether is this:
The results of the 2020 Grammy’s might’ve pulled back the curtain on something happening in the Millennial but mostly the Gen Z generation.
Are we beginning to value sonic consistency and branding overkill over songwriting and musicianship?
To be clear, I’m not saying that Billie and her brother (collaborator and producer) do not possess musicality. They absolutely do. But is that why they’ve propelled to the top of charts and feeds and playlists? I would argue it’s not. I’d argue it’s the shock value of the content (ya know, themes of murder and all that), the hushed, layered vocals and unsettling production, the long green fingernails and baggy clothes (which I actually think is a really cool statement), all the way down to the fact she was sucking on a lollipop at the Grammy’s.
When Eilish accepted her awards, I liked the person I saw standing up there: what she said and how she said it.
But that girl standing there with her brother so excited and shocked and innocently confused isn’t Billie Eilish. Billie Eilish is the dark character with black ooze streaming out of her eyes and spiders crawling on her face. The dark character whose songs are all titled in lowercase but whose album title is uppercase. The dark character who even has a distinctive gait. Every. Single. Detail. is branded. Down to that damn lollipop.
Branding is important in music, no question. But when did we start awarding it?
Is this dark character something Eilish wanted to inhabit to make her standout, or is it a strategic move from her team?
Either way, the aggressiveness of her branding is both a huge reason she has four Grammy’s on her shelf and the reason I as a listener disconnect.
I literally couldn’t tell you the brand of one of my favorite artists of all time, Sara Bareilles. Her brand is… she something wears fedoras?
I fell in love with her songs her voice and her authenticity, not with a fabricated character.
All that is to say, it worked. I’m not even a fan and here I am writing about her (again). She’s the one with four Grammy’s at 18, so it really doesn’t matter what I think. I just hope we as a generation aren’t over-emphasizing the ideal of branding in music.
Brand the hell out of products. Don’t brand the hell out of humans.
My final thought about this year’s Grammy’s that I’ve been turning over in my brain (and think maybe we all should) is this:
When Adele’s 25 won over Beyonce’s Lemonade in 2016, I was disappointed but I understood it. I love both of these artists and albums (they were each my top album of their respective year) but thought while 25 was an amazing album, Lemonade was a once in a generation kind of record. However, I chalked it up to the power of familiarity and mainstream themes: Adele’s album was more accessible.
So now, in 2020, Billie Eilish’s very unaccessible album wins over Lizzo’s much more classically mainstream Cuz I Love You.