Billie Eilish is a 16 year old phenomena. She was born and raised in always sunny Los Angeles, which is hard to believe with her plethora of oversized jackets and hoodies. Her style has become one of its own; with layers and monochromatic vibes. At the ripe young age of 14 she started recording her 9 song EP with her brother, Phineas O’Connell, actor and frontman for his own band, “The Slightlys”. Her voice, both raspy and delicate, takes your ears on a journey through the melodies of heartbreak and sadness. A girl who is so young tells the tale of a woman who is wise beyond her years. Her EP dont smile at me sums up the aesthetic Billie portrays and maintains. There is a type of angst uncharacterized by no other than her. There is something deep and fiery in the passion she uses to sing every note. Even if you aren’t heartbroken you feel her pain, even if you aren’t sad you feel her melancholy and even if you don’t have an ex you will want to smash that one guy’s car window in.
dont smile at me, a compilation of stories. The EP intros with “COPYCAT” where Billie reminds all her friends and enemies that although they may think she’s cool that copying her only makes you a lame clone. “idontwanttobeyouanymore” is the following track where she discusses all of her insecurities and the media’s representation and misconceptions of women. This song is a juxtaposition of the confident almost arrogant Billie in the first song. Following is “my boy” which about her dude who is lying and can’t be trusted. Lyrically the song is quite comical comparing “her boy’s” friends to split ends. The song watch sings of unrequited love that burns so much she becomes vengeful and wants to see his car catch fire as well. “party favor” is a sweet melodic song accompanied by a ukelele, although it may sound endearing, it is quite the opposite. She decides to call “this boy” and break up with him through voicemail on his birthday. It may seem harsh, but from the looks of it maybe it is rightfully so. Followed up by “bellyache”, once again a song where a sweet melody might fool you. The song reminiscent of the song “garbage” by Tyler the Creator. This song vastly different from the previous songs of love this ones different darker… if possible. A ruthless song that you can’t get out of your head and you won’t be able to stop singing. The end of the EP ends sweeter and makes you remember that Billie is a 16 year old girl yearning for love just like the rest of us. “ocean eyes” and “hostage” speak of nothing but the desperation of innocent love. This album will make you feel everything.
“Life is like sex. Sometimes you have to change your position.”
This evocative quote comes from femme fatale Kali Uchis in light of her debut album Isolation. The long-anticipated album named Best New Music by Pitchfork was well worth the wait.
While Kali’s debut EP Por Vida gifted us listeners a cotton-candy sweet first impression of the Colombian-American force of nature, Isolation introduces us to a whole new, incendiary side to her.
Isolation’s inviting introduction entitled “Body Language” and produced by the iconic Thundercat coaxes us to come along for the ride. I would follow Kali and this bossa nova track wherever they may go.
The following track “Miami” featuring BIA lets Kali tell it like it is:
“I ain’t here to be cute, I ain’t here to impress
You know why I’m calling, I’m here to collect
He said he’d want me in his video like Bound 1
By why would I be Kim? I could be Kanye
In the land of opportunity and palm trees”
“Miami” depicts the female struggle in lieu of chasing the American dream, but remains a message of female empowerment in being one’s own boss mentally and physically. Hell hath no fire like a socially aware and revolutionary woman.
The following track “Just A Stranger” continues to break the mold of the confines society places women in as Kali paints the portrait of a strong and careless woman. This upbeat song marks her second collaboration with The Internet’s Steve Lacy (following past single “Only Girl”), and yet again, these two create an amazing sound and energy together.
Kali has revealed that Isolation is “dedicated to the people who feel trapped in their position, in hopes that the music will enable [them] to change it.” Complete with complex themes of self-reliance throughout the album, she remains a strong proponent of internal emancipation in the face of external adversity. She sees her music as the score for her life, capable of controlling her environment and changing the entire mood of an experience.
Isolation seems to be the reparations of a grudge match of sorts not only between Kali and her antagonists, but also between Kali’s past self and present self. She wrestles with her independence, but each song elicits a breath of resolution. For example, “After the Storm”
featuring the legendary Bootsy Collins and longtime collaborator and friend Tyler, the Creator reveals the potential of pure autonomy:
“So if you need a hero (if you need a hero)
Just look in the mirror (just look in the mirror)
No one’s gonna save you now
So you better save yourself”
The impressive amount of collaborations on this album alone have me starry eyed, including Jorja Smith, BADBADNOTGOOD, Damon Albarn of Gorillaz and more.
We as listeners get to know exactly who Kali Uchis is. Her every essence influences each track seamlessly. I greatly appreciate an artist who pays homage to his or her roots despite being thrust into an entirely new culture for their work. The album features a song fully sung in Spanish (“Nuestra Planeta” featuring Reykon) in addition to several songs containing Spanish ad-libs.
In many ways, Isolation is the kind of album an artist makes just for himself or herself; however, it perpetuates extremely personal, yet universally relatable emotions and perspectives. The versatility of Isolation solidifies Kali’s reputation as a well-rounded, multi-talented artist. Her personal and contemporary take on a retro, vintage sound awards her a genre of her own. She has proven herself ready, willing, and deserving of the spotlight.