Friday Song: “The Greatest”

A remarkable young superstar has new music out, and it's great

I’ve become a fan of Billie Eilish. Her first hit to penetrate the US mainstream — “Bad Guy” — was the focus of much derision, but I secretly loved it. It was so weird and catchy and iconoclastic, and so well done.

Like many great musical artists, Eilish started young, first gaining attention at the age of 13 when she and her brother Finneas O’Connell — her main collaborator — released a single called “Ocean Eyes.” This led to an EP two years later, and her first full album in 2019. This is the album where “Bad Guy” appeared.

Now at age 22, Eilish (full name, Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell) has won two Academy Awards, two American Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, two Brit Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, nine Grammys, and set two Guinness World Records.

She is the first person born in the 21st century to release a chart-topping single and win an Academy Award — and the youngest person ever to win two Academy Awards.

“The Greatest” is off her new album, Hit Me Hard and Soft, which was released in May. Working with her brother in 2022 on new music, the two were stymied until they wrote this song. According to Eilish:

“The Greatest” is the song that swooped in and saved the album, in my opinion. It saved every song on here, for real. I was in a moment of, “I don’t know, bro. I don’t know if we're even going to even have an album made. I don’t know if we’re good at this. I don’t even know if any of the ideas we have are good yet. Nothing’s solidified. What the hell is going on?” I lay there and Finneas sat here, got out his little toy guitar that he uses, and started playing stuff. I remember saying something like, “Do some staccato kind of minor chords,” and he started playing the doo-do-doo-do-doo-do-doo. Literally, all of “The Greatest” flooded through. From then on, we started finishing songs.

Eilish is a master of style, phrasing, and vocal control. The performance below shows it, as does her amazing live performance of her Oscar-winning song for Barbie — “What Was I Made For?” — which is heart-breaking and beautiful.

Eilish is next-level.


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