Fame, fortune, talent and Billie Eilish.

in #music3 months ago

I'm not trying to be "that guy" regarding Billie Eilish.

That said: homegirl was born to a mega-rich family. Her mom is a famous actress. She was homeschooled and joined the Los Angeles kid's choir when she was eight. Her big brother is a Grammy-nominated music producer; her first hit was a song he wrote for his band and then handed to her, and he's since collaborated on almost every one of her songs (including the one where his fifteen year old little sister talks about seducing adult men and being "on both [her] knees" with a dude that likes to "take control," which is fucking weird).

Is Billie talented? Yes, absolutely, without a doubt. The dude hustling EPs over at the petrol station is talented, too. Sure, the sound quality isn't that great, since he's probably doing the mixing himself, and the "recording booth" he used was in a friend's basement with ancient equipment and poorly sound-proofed walls, and he was a little tired that day because he also has to work multiple minimum wage jobs to keep the lights on in between chasing this rap dream, and he's never had a vocal coach, or any kind of teacher that ever really took an interest in him, and he knows full well he's a dime a dozen, there are a bunch of other people out doing the exact same thing he's doing, but he does it anyway, because he has something to say about the world he lives in, the world where he inherited asthma and poverty and racism and fear, the same way Billie inherited health and riches and acceptance and every single possible opportunity a young artist could ever want.

Is Billie talented? Yes. But that isn't why she's famous. She's famous because her family has a lot of money, and excellent connections, and provided her with excellent tutoring, and gave her every opportunity to get that talent out there. Take my guy selling CDs in the middle of winter back in time and stick him with the right LA family as a kid, and you'd be hearing him on the radio every morning. It isn't talent, or ability, or work ethic, that created their respective status in the entertainment industry; it's luck. Pure, dumb, stupid luck, that one inherited massive privilege while the other did not. Without those things, she'd still be immensely talented, and those who were lucky enough to hear her sing would be the better for it, and her local scene would be immensely improved, but the odds against her ever having this level of success just grow to the point of absurdity.

I know that's not always the case. The same is true for wealth in general. There are always great rags-to-riches stories about people who genuinely clawed their way up out of nothing to international stardom or millionaire status. Folks like that should be commended, and, to be clear, I'm not saying "don't listen to pop music if it's created by rich people (because then you'd miss out on all kinds of fantastic music from multiple genres as well)."

I am saying that maybe we need to consider what we think about things like fame and talent and riches and work ethic and "the daily grind." Maybe we should acknowledge that it has way more to do with things like connections and birth zip code and your parents being able to afford buying you daily singing lessons since you were old enough to talk than it does "how bad you want it," or whatever lies we like to say about poverty.

That doesn't mean to stop grinding, that doesn't mean to quit something you love because you were privileged enough to be raised in a world where it was cherished and reinforced. That doesn't mean you can't jam to Billie Eilish.

Maybe, it just means you should do the dude at the petrol station a favour, and buy his EP, too.

Again: the point isn't "Billie Eilish doesn't deserve this/is untalented" or whatever. The point is that what we think of as a meritocracy is often the furthest thing from it. We say we know that, but ask yourself how many times you've met someone who says something like "how can Trump be "stupid" if he's a billionaire?" We tend to focus so much on talent and hard work that we ignore the host of other, potentially far more important factors that decide things like wealth and fame.


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