Billie Eilish has lost the green hair and taken the challenge thrown down by The Chicks, Fiona Apple, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and decades of women’s music before her. Similar to Dolly Parton, Carly Simon and Aretha Franklin in the 60s and 70s, as well as Ani DiFranco in the 1990s, Eilish is taking on male power in her music.
Feminism has gone through music history in a variety of themes and structures. Dolly Parton and Kitty Wells took male dominated ballads and turned the lens back on the women left behind. Aretha Franklin, Beyoncé and Missy Elliott pushed the evolution of feminism into intersectional themes of gender and race. While Ani DiFranco took intersectional feminism one step further when she explored feminism’s relationship with LGBTIQ+ issues. In the late 1990s and 2000s feminist themes were largely invisible in pop and were more prevalent in Riot Grrrl and indie music. However, 2016 marked a return to feminist themes to the mainstream with Beyoncé’s instant classic Lemonade, which was followed in 2020 with The Chick’s Gaslighter and Taylor Swift’s ground breaking record folkore.
Billie Eilish continues to push feminist themes in modern pop with her latest single Your Power. Eilish has always championed marginalised people and feminist themes indirectly with her powerful creativity and strong voice. However, Your Power marks a direct shot at the patriarchy that has not been evident in her previous work. In the track she sings about a relationship where her male partner uses his power to control and imprison her. Lyrics such as: “Try not to abuse your power…Does it keep you in control? / For you to keep her in a cage?” bring feminist themes of power to the forefront. In this relationship he uses his power to control and dominate her. Even though Billie couches feminist themes within this personal story of a relationship, it draws upon universal themes of men using power and privilege to control / abuse women.
Eilish’s ability to take larger issues of violence towards women and the patriarchy and house them within this personal story gives the track an effective emotional hook. Much like Gaslighter and folklore, Your Power depicts the emotional toll male power / entitlement has on women. This not only makes such large social issues easier for listeners to connect with, but it also gives the track a strong emotional current.
What really makes the track to me is the restrained instrumentation. The track is largely acoustic guitar and strings set against an edgy bass line combined with vocal effects in post. The lack of overpowering electronic beats draws you to the lyrics, which gives them an added power which would have been lost in an overproduced track. However, the edgy bass is still there to remind you that this is definitely a Billie Eilish track. The combination of acoustic tropes with Billie’s telltale bass is an effective fusion of her new sound with her established musical voice.
You can draw a straight line between Gaslighter, folklore and My Power. I love Billie expanding her sound and lyrical landscape, while still keeping the electronic and vocal sound we connected with on the When we Fall Asleep, Where do we Go? record. With Your Power as the lead single off the record, I am very excited to see what comes next.
Listen to Your Power