Last night, there was only one name in pop music.
Or at least that’s how it felt, given Billie Eilish’s sweep of the four major categories — Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best New Artist — in addition to recognition for Best Pop Vocal Album and awards for the album’s production.
Eilish, who at only 18 years old has carved out a spot for herself as a half-wunderkind half-whirlwind, became the first woman ever to take home all major four awards. On the other hand, pop staple Ariana Grande and moody, meditative queen Lana Del Rey were shut out completely.
Which isn’t a bad thing. That’s right, folks: the_billie_eilish_defender has logged on.
Don’t get me wrong, I adored Del Rey’s album Norman Fucking Rockwell! It’s a beautiful, sweeping album displaying a complete refinement of Del Rey’s sensibility, awash in nostalgia and longing with an undeniable bite. It was actually my pick for Album of the Year, and tracks such as “Mariners Apartment Complex” and “Norman Fucking Rockwell” itself have a sorrowful swagger that will stick in my mind for months to come.
The singles on Grande's album, “thank u, next,” felt more like manufactured events than realized steps in a musician’s path. “thank u, next” itself and “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” were strong offerings but significantly weaker than her immediately previous album, “Sweetener.”
Both were good, with Del Rey’s bordering on exquisite, but Eilish’s was something else: transformative. It’s so odd to hear something that original in mainstream pop, and the offbeat production choices and Eilish’s delicately threatening vocal quality were a breath of fresh air.
My love for Eilish is well-documented, and seeing her sweep the Grammys yesterday was a validation of her now-cemented status as a pop music game changer. Her sudden ascendance to literally making music history reminds me of Lorde’s sudden burst into the music landscape, but with a splashier entrance and more lyrics about seducing dads.
The thoughts and feelings of young women is all too often undervalued and treated as trivial, but the awards' affirmation of Eilish’s particular brand of youthful edginess is comforting. Young women can make art speaking to their experiences, and that art can make history. Even — or maybe especially? — when it samples “The Office.”
In my review of Eilish’s debut last year, I wrote: “The album, I’m delighted to report, slaps.” It’s an album that soars on the first listen through, pulling new tricks that threaten to impress less over time as the shiny appeal of something new wears off.
I’m delighted to report the album still slaps, and even more delighted that the Recording Academy agrees.
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The IU Auditorium, the Jacobs School of Music and MidWay Music Speaks were all awarded funds.
Performances will take place on Zoom.
The concert airs at 9:30 p.m. on July 25.