Billie Eilish and her fans are celebrating after she won Grammys for Best Music Video and Best Music Film. Recently, those who worked with her have revealed how the singer's award-winning Happier Than Ever masterpiece came to life.
In the 2021 Apple TV+ documentary, The World's A Little Blurry, Billie Eilish claimed she was in charge of her work. When she was 16, she explained her vision for the When The Party's Over music video.
Eilish went into detail about how now-famous black ink tears should appear. The singer was very particular about what the director, Carlos Lopez Estrada, was supposed to deliver.
She sent Estrada a video message with clear instructions:
"Don't zoom. Don't do anything these bozo f***ing filmmakers do when they try to have it not be boring."
When the video shoot finally happened, Eilish, spotting her iconic blue hair, moved from the set to the monitor to ensure her vision was being brought to life. Her concept for the music video started with a "beautiful piece of art from a fan," and she did everything to ensure those creating the video realized it.
Once they were done with the video, she said: "For the rest of the videos, I'm directing them all myself."
Since Eilish started releasing music at 14, she has always dreamed of being the leading creative force behind her videos. However, she only had the chance to have the final say in the process a few times before she finally attained her goal during the making of Xanny music video in 2019.
She revealed that she always wished to direct her music videos in an interview. When she said this, people told her she did not have the experience or the time to do so.
It was clear to her that they were not comfortable with a 14-year-old directing a music video. Nevertheless, she knew what she wanted, and with time, she got their trust and was able to get to a point where she could direct her videos.
She does not want to stop with music videos, however:
"I eventually want to make a movie. I've wanted to direct my whole life. I love cinematography, the camera angles, the visuals."
As we speak, Eilish is enjoying the raging success of her second album, Happier Than Ever. The album got her seven nominations during this year's Grammy Awards.
This might not be the first time she has been at the Grammys, having been the youngest artist to win the four General Field categories in 2020. She was also the second artist to manage the accomplishment.
In 2022, she got a nomination for Best Music Video for the title track of her album. This nomination meant a lot to Eilish since she had directed it herself.
The Happier Than Ever video shows the singer as she goes through an emotional release after a flood. She directed the six videos that make up the album.
The title track also got nominations for Record and Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance. Nevertheless, the song's video just hints at the visual world she set up.
In addition to the visual masterpiece, she also set up several visually satisfying performances. There was also the release of the Disney+ special, Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter To Los Angeles, which got a nomination for Best Music Film.
Eilish has already achieved complete creative control over her work.
The director of The World's A Little Blurry, R.J. Cutler, saw and believed in Eilish's vision while they were working together. He realized that he had to demonstrate that she had the final say in all aspects of her craft, her career, and image.
Therefore, Cutler does not find it surprising that she is a brilliant visionary director with a particular taste and impressive camera command.
Female artists are often held to a higher standard than their male colleagues with regard to their visual productions.
Eilish seems to understand this reality, so she has ushered in a new era with Happier Than Ever. She has rebranded Hollywood's take on this visual art, including ditching her famous neon green hair for a blonde cut.
She realized that she could not go anywhere with her former hairstyle because it usually announced her presence. She wanted anonymity.
The altered view of her sense of security is apparent in Happier Than Ever. This could not have come at a better time now that she is more advanced as a public figure in both age and experience.
Granted, Eilish has never completely lost command over her story, but creating a world around the song allowed her to gain even greater control over her art.
How She Visualized Happier Than Ever
The visual world Eilish is created in Happier Than Ever started to fall into place during the making of the Your Power music video. The video offers an incriminating view of abuse and its consequences.
The singer almost blends in with the Simi Valley mountainside in the video as a green anaconda wraps itself around her. Your Power was a follow-up to Therefore I Am, in which she finally left her green-rooted hair.
One apparent thing in Eilish's visual direction is her preference for solitude. Instead of using people to act out dramatic scenes, she creates her story using unique locations and conspicuous features.
That is why a tarantula can be seen crawling out of her mouth in You Should Seem Me In A Crown. In NDA, she walks in the middle of the street as cars race in every direction around her.
In Happier Than Ever, we see a heavy flood.
In the video Male Fantasy, which she directed and edited, she is confined to isolation, moving from a quiet space in a living room to her bed. This contrasts sharply with the music video for Lost Cause, which features an exciting slumber party.
Despite the neutral color theme in Lost Cause, the air of freedom and unpredictability is still apparent.
The Making Of Intimate Live Performances
Starting from July 2021, Eilish seemed to prefer a more intimate setting for her performances. Before then, she went over and beyond to bring forth the sort of ideas she featured in her music videos.
Your Power, the first release in her toned-down video series performances, does not feature the giant slithering snake. Instead, she and Finneas are positioned in a long hotel corridor.
The song's video was reimagined at Los Angeles' Biltmore Hotel, and the focus is clearly on the acoustic elements of the song. The 1930s hotel becomes a vital element in the world Eilish has created in the live video series.
Micah Bickham, the executive producer of content production at Vevo, revealed that they talked about a new visual now that Eilish had started a new phase of her career and was becoming an adult ready to deal with more serious themes.
Her evolution is apparent in the video, and the hotel represents her desire to explore more iconic and mature themes.
In the Male Fantasy, Eilish sits on the edge of a bed with a gold-colored blanket. She is wearing a torn cream sweater, and she contemplates the notions of the male gaze, which she later addresses in A Love Letter To Los Angeles.
According to Bickham, this was not just a coincidence. They wanted Eilish and Finneas in a simple hotel room, chatting with fans in a way that powerful concert lights and large bands could not.
The idea is to create a paradox between the tamer environments and Eilish's more intense vocals and performances. The lyrics in some of the songs are in sharp contrast to the settings she performs in as a way to express distinction.
The Successful End Of Another Visual Journey
The Vevo live performance videos bring emotional release that matches the intensity of the lyrics in the songs. Nevertheless, in Happier Than Ever, the power of performance is still evident even though matching theatrics are absent.
Lost Cause and Billie Bossa Nova are performed in the Crystal Ballroom at the Biltmore Hotel. The location was deliberately chosen to bring to life the charming tone in each of these songs.
In Billie Bossa Nova, the singer is positioned at the center of the ballroom, right in front of three lavish windows.
The idea was to make sure that each of these performances was positioned in unique spaces so the videos could seem different on their own despite being recorded at the same place. However, when watched together, Bickham notes, it should be clear the performances evolve from one song to another.
The live video series shows that Eilish can keep the concept of Happier Than Ever alive and keep it moving forward using a brilliant choice of unique tones and color schemes.
Eilish has synesthesia, and she helped develop the visual and tonal range based on wardrobe choices and set designs. Therefore, the color choices within the sets match how Eilish perceives each of the songs through her synesthesia.
Few artists get an opportunity to create a world around the album they made.
In Eilish's case, she is not just performing singles. She has also created a character who is operating within this world.
That is why the visuals in the sets mean so much because they occupy a unique position in that world.
According to Bickham, having endless opportunities is not always a good thing. He believes Eilish's super-specific desires help her team develop a world that matches her vision.
A Reimagining Of The Concert Film
Even as the Vevo performances were being released, the hour-long special, Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter To Los Angeles, debuted in September. The special had more incredible live performances, and it also helped serve as a tribute to the singer's hometown.
The special was filmed for more than a week at the Hollywood Bowl, and it represents a re-imagination of a typical concert film, mainly due to Eilish's 2D animated avatar.
As expected, when she went to animator Patrick Osborne and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez to work on the Disney+ feature, she was precise about what she wanted.
According to Osborne, she sent many reference images of blonde animated characters from '80s cartoons during their first meeting. From the beginning, the singer's goal was to have an animated idealized alter-ego version of herself that was different from her.
The people working on the special had a tight deadline to work with, and they created a blonde avatar that explored the singer's hometown. Notably, the avatar has a level of freedom the singer does not possess.
Nevertheless, in the feature, billboards promoting Happier Than Ever are all over the place, showing that fame is not that easy to escape from, if at all.
In Not My Responsibility, she addresses a conversation about her body as her avatar's silhouette strolls through shallow waters. She can be seen driving through the empty streets in a convertible, and she stops to view the city from the rooftop of the Roosevelt Hotel.
She also dines alone at a quaint restaurant before attending a movie premiere.
Her avatar, however, takes a detour through Echo Park and Highland Park, her longtime home, before she was forced to move due to security issues. The avatar finally got to the Hollywood Bowl.
Osborne thought that the singer was referencing the '80s animated characters as they were idealized from a male point of view. He believed that the singer was promoting body autonomy in Happier Than Ever.
The animator noted that Eilish has a visual eye that adds her unmistakable twist to certain things. Osborne said that she had a take on the vision they helped create, their job was to make her desires come to life.
Catching A Special Moment In Time
The singer's 2D avatar has uninhibited adventures, and she takes us to life before the notoriety brought about by her song When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
R.J. Cutler remembered a talk he had with Eilish's mom, Maggie Baird, about the transformation. According to her mother, the avatar aspect was not what she expected to make her daughter proud of the feature film.
The feature recreates a moment in their lives that is now gone in one way or another.
In one of the most important moments in A Love Letter to Los Angeles, Eilish's 2D avatar gets to a venue as the only audience member to watch the real Eilish perform. The singer was performing a record of their shared experiences.
She was backed by Finneas, the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, drummer Andrew Marshall, and guitarist Romero Lubambo.
The most apparent theme is solitude and the freedom it brings with it. This view reaches its peak when it becomes evident that she has always been herself, all along, despite where the singer has been.
The feature explores the complexity of change while exploring Eilish's artistic journey and growth over time.
The famous singer will continue to evolve. Nevertheless, her Happier Than Ever era will always stand out as a vital tribute to where she has been and where she is headed as an artist.