Billie Eilish, Death, Darkness, and the Beauty in it All

Billie Eilish. A woman. A legend. This 17-year-old musician watched 11 of her songs rise to the United States Top 50 Billboard, following the drop of her new album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go She captured the ears of many with her debut of “Ocean Eyes” in 2016, a dreamy ballad encapsulated by airy soprano vocals, displaying her awe-inspiring, raw talent at the young age of 14 years old. Her dark, angsty style creeped out in her album Don’t Smile at Me but took reign in When We All Fall Asleep… Her fame skyrocketed in a matter of just of few years, quickly making her an icon for the rise of dark fashion trends, complete with chains, chipped black nail polish, and oversized jewelry pieces. There is no doubt that Billie has made a deep impact on the pop music industry, modern style, and stereotypes placed on teens in media. But in all her success lies a very real darkness and subtle evil disguised as aesthetic.

Billie Eilish transforms artistic expression into something captivatingly disturbing, with an underlying and unconventional beauty. It’s so easy to get sucked into this artistic darkness when it takes an attractive form in creative media. Art that focuses on darkness and even death can express evil, which takes different shapes to infiltrate it’s way into our lives — even in the name of art. Yet God has created us to encounter what is good, true, and beautiful.

But shocker… death has a beauty of its own.

The line becomes blurred when we mix darkness, evil, and death. Billie has two songs on her new album, “all the good girls go to hell” and “bury a friend,” both which instill fear — but also intoxicating appeal — over the dark reality of death.

Death is the result of original sin, and when we continue to live out in sin, it pushes us deeper into detachment from what brings us to the fullness of life: Jesus Christ. When we lose ourselves in the thought of death without the hope that Jesus brings, the lives we live become hollow, or unpurposeful. This is the intrinsic evil that the Devil wishes for us to believe: that we have no purpose and death is that inevitable darkness that will one day consume us.

However, we know there is hope. Jesus Christ, Son of God, dying for the sins of the world and raised on the third day, has conquered all death, turning the hopelessness of death into the moment of true hope in the resurrection. Jesus made it so that death is no longer something to be feared. Because of the resurrection, it is in death that we are brought to eternity with God. It is in death to self, that we find ourselves anticipating resurrection with Christ. Our faith, which laughs in the face of death, would not be possible without the death of Christ on the cross and His resurrection on the third day.

When we live in the truth that Jesus Christ has died for sins, resurrected, and calls us into that same mystery, we are free to enter into the gift of living in His freedom and joy. Sometimes we live with the expectation that this hope for new life rules out expressions that are dark, grungy, or a little edgy. Well honey, do I have news for you.

And cue why I absolutely love Billie Eilish.

Authentic joy is not always a floral design with a calligraphy Bible verse as a phone background. Authentic joy might not always be constant laughter and a light, bubbly Instagram feed. Overall, there is definitely a common image for what someone living in joy looks like. However, sometimes authentic joy can be aggressive, edgy, and bold. The holiness that God called Mother Teresa to vastly differs than the holiness of Joan of Arc, yet there is sainthood in both. Likewise, how we project our joy in the Lord may not always look the same. Our joy might look like weird art, heavy music, bizarre humor, etc. that ultimately points to Christ. In fact, you could even go to say that the Church needs more expressions of edge and angst like those of Billie Eilish, as it promotes diversity of experiences of living in the hope of the resurrection. The Church does not need mediocre saints, but ones that confidently wear their witness — whatever it may look like — on their sleeve.

Even historically, the Church has never opposed what appears to be creepy, disturbing, fascinating, or even dark, so long as it is a reflection on the new life to come through Jesus. For example, a chapel in the Czech Republic, the Sedlec Ossuary, is a monastery covered and decorated with the bones of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, reminding humanity of the reality of death and the lengths Jesus goes to to free us from it. Likewise, there are legends and stories of dozen of saints who were cephalophores: saints who picked up and carried their heads after being decapitated. These expressions of death and gore, which might seem creepy and dark, are not signs of evil, but signal one life-changing reality: Jesus Christ has overcome death and invites us to follow Him to the cross so that in His resurrection, we would live with Him for eternity. That’s what those “creepy, dark, gory” decorations and images celebrate — that death does not win. And if for you, expressing that reality that means wearing beanies and chains, you have my total support. I’m right there with you.

Though Billie Eilish exemplifies an incredible amount of talent and creativity, when listening to her music through the lens of Christ, it’s clear she doesn’t express this same hope in the resurrection that we live in. That being said, while I personally do not endorse or support everything she does, I believe Billie can inspire us to tap into a reflection on death and darkness, and arrive at the hope of victory over it all: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There truly is goodness and grace in reflecting on our death and the hope of new life in Christ. Maybe we should be thinking… how do we make the resurrection of Christ known before we fall asleep and laugh at the face of death?

Feature image by Hans Watson, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, logo added.