Empathy V. Experience: Billie Eilish

At just fourteen years old, Billie Eilish released her song ocean eyes. With an impromptu home studio, poetic lyrics, and the musical talents of Billie and her brother Finn, the duo would set out to accomplish musical acclaim far beyond their years. From merely listening to her first album, don’t smile at me, many were stunned by the singer’s age. Primarily, the album is crafted in a truly original style, departing from the customary teen pop sound. The album fuses electronic beats with softly sung ballads. Alongside the mature sound, Billie relays lyrics that concern topics such as hurt, heartbreak, love and growth. Topics and emotions that appear greater than the experience or understanding of a teen girl. Billie is the first one to say that her music is beyond the scope of a normal teen girl’s experience. However, she indicates that one does not need to go through something to write about it. Billie contains the ability to detach herself from what is within her own life and write in the perspective of others or even her future self. This capability is stemmed from her profound empathy as an artist.

Empathy is the ability to detach oneself from their current circumstances and comprehend others’ feelings–something all humans have the capacity to undergo. Empathy sets the human race apart from other species as they can comprehend feelings through their intellectual and emotional capacities. In the world’s modern political climate, all humans regardless of the geographical location, race, and gender, contain burdens that cause them to align themselves with certain social and political beliefs. In America specifically, politics is incredibly polarized, where party affiliation overrides core values. Thus, empathy lacks within such society as citizens fail to recognize others’ pain. The prioritization of one’s well being undermines the possibility of tolerance and understanding of others. Therefore, humans deny their empathy in order to fulfill their own needs. It is crucial to recognize that as a human race, we are able to feel circumstances beyond our own, and therefore empathize with others. The musical success of Billie may be credited to her empathy as she showcases her ability to understand others, resonating with a broadened fanbase. The understanding of others, witnessed within music, is perhaps what is missing in this divided world. Political analyst, Van Jones alongside Oprah Winfrey addresses our current political polarization, indicating “There is an empathy gap. I can understand my pain, but I can’t understand their pain. They can understand their pain, but they can’t understand my pain.” It is thus evident that our capacity to empathize is far superior to experience, expanding our concern from our direct selves to the global community.

Claudia Morgan