Reluctant Grammy winner Billie Eilish embodies Gen Z: 'So many other songs deserve this — I'm sorry'
Moments before Billie Eilish swept the four major categories at the Grammys, a camera focused on the singer revealed how badly she didn’t want to be named a winner. Her casual refusal of a crowning moment rings true if you listen to the anxiety-filled album (When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?) that got her to the Grammys in the first place. Don’t take our word for it: Billie and brother/producer Finneas told us this directly during one of their acceptance speeches.
“We didn’t make this album to win a Grammy,” Finneas told the crowd at the Staples Center. “We didn’t think it would win anything ever. We wrote an album about depression and suicidal thoughts and climate change and being the bad guy, whatever that means.”
“So many other songs deserve this, I’m sorry,” said Billie when accepting the award for Song of the Year. “This is my first Grammys. I never ever thought this would happen in my whole life.”
Billie’s sweep made her the headline of the night, when all she wanted was for a contemporary like Ariana Grande to win — a sentiment that resonates with Gen-Zers, who would rather never have to accept an award when they think someone else is more worthy. Finneas, who won for Best Producer Non-Classical on Sunday night, offered his perspective backstage of what it’s like to win when he and his sister Billie made the album in their bedroom.
“I mean, you know, it’s one of those things where it’s so insular for you, right?” he said. “Because you just pick apart your own music the whole time you’re making it and then when it comes out, you just listen to it and think what could I have done better and you know, the close, close people to you in your life are the people whose opinions matter the most to you.”
Last year, resident Gen Z queen and climate activist Greta Thunberg declined to accept the 2019 Nordic Council Environment Prize for her work to combat climate change. She made her thoughts behind the decision known on Instagram saying that “the climate movement does not need any more awards. What we need is for our politicians and the people in power start to listen to the current, best available science.” Billie’s album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? speaks about issues that Gen-Zers hold dear like mental health. The standing ovation for Demi Lovato’s return to the Grammy stage post-rehab, for example, was not only for the astounding performance but the resounding triumph for Demi as a person. Billie’s passive response to her Grammy wins was ultimately less “I hate you for doing this” and more “let’s focus on something more important.”
Billie has long drawn praise in the music industry for refusing to be the center of attention. In a Calvin Klein ad last year, Billie explained why she wore baggy clothing. “Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath,” she said.
Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff praised her decision to stick to her guns despite her rise of fame. “As a parent of teenagers, I’m deeply grateful for #BillieEilish and her gorgeous refusal to be sexualized by this industry,” she tweeted. She inspires a whole generation. One person can move mountains, just by being her brilliant hilarious awkward wonderful self.”
Sunday night also happened to coincide with the tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, a moment when many of us were deeply saddened by a sudden loss. Billie’s Grammys sweep put her up in the headlines along with Kobe, which probably makes Billie uncomfortable. As was amplified the entire night, with a performance by Camila Cabello dedicated to her father and the tribute to late rapper Nipsey Hussle, the Grammys were above all a moment of healing during an anxiety-ridden time.