Billie Eilish is crying on the cover of her new album. Her eyes are blue and empty, staring vacantly into the distance. “Happier Than Ever,” read the words above her face. After her debut single Ocean Eyes became a viral hit on SoundCloud in 2015, she signed with Darkroom Records and landed a deal with Interscope. But she felt ill-equipped to deal with the sudden onslaught of attention. Which isn’t surprising, because the music industry didn’t see her coming either. Kelly Clarkson’s US$6.3 million Tennessee mansion – complete with cowboy bar “I hated the internet having a bunch of eyes on me. I just wanted to be doing teenager s***,” says Eilish, who was 16 when she toured her four-times platinum debut album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” She grew depressed, and her body didn’t react well to the stress; she was constantly coming down with laryngitis or developing fevers. And she was surrounded by adults. So how did she end up at this industrial compound in the San Fernando Valley, readying for the Friday, July 30, release of her second effort? “Honestly, it took growing up a little bit. Literally, physically growing up – like the actual chemicals in my brain shifting,” she says. Eilish is still figuring out who she wants to be as a grown-up. Between 17 and 19, she played Coachella, won seven Grammy Awards – in 2019, becoming the youngest person ever to sweep the prizes for best new artist and record, song and album of the year. So when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, she finally had an opportunity to pause and “ do the self-reflection I’ve never had the time for”. She began to think about what she’d been through “and how it affected me – how I actually feel about it all instead of just doing it”. Maggie Baird, Eilish’s mother with whom with whom she lived in her northeast LA childhood home until roughly a year ago, suggested to her two kids that they use the unexpected free time during the pandemic as an opportunity to create new music. Are Angelina Jolie and The Weeknd dating? Inside their unlikely connection “My mum was, like, ‘What if you guys had a schedule where Billie came over and you worked three days a week?’” recalls Finneas Baird O’Connell, Eilish’s brother, 23. “At first I was like, ‘I don’t think that’s needed.’ And within the first week, we’d written and recorded My Future .” That song – the first single from “Happier Than Ever”, released nearly a year ago – has Eilish dreamily fantasising about the days ahead, wondering who she’ll become as she transitions away from girlhood. “Things I once enjoyed / Just keep me employed now,” she voices at the outset of the album’s opening track, Getting Older . Eilish explains: “Things that I enjoy can sometimes just turn into things that feel like a burden, and it’s really weird. Like, ‘Oh, this is something I used to love and now it feels like a job.’” And she understands exactly how that sounds – that people look at her and think she shouldn’t be complaining about anything when she’s successful and rich. “It’s really hard. People that don’t have our lives have no idea how hard it is. It’s horrible. But you have to be respectful of people that have so much less than you and be mindful of your privilege and be polite, I guess.” Eilish somehow manages to talk about her disdain for fame without sounding totally obnoxious. Probably because in person, it’s impossible to forget how young she is. She’s not too self-conscious – she lets herself form opinions as she’s speaking – but also wants to be liked. Who’s the richest Hilton? The hotel family’s net worths – ranked Eilish also acknowledges that she has trouble ignoring the public’s opinion of her. Just two weeks before this interview in July, she decided to stop reading the comments on her Instagram account, where she has 87.8 million followers. “I mostly agree with a lot of what the internet says. Some of the things that they make fun of people for are funny because they’re kinda true, right? Which then worries me because I’m like, ‘Oh, God, are the mean things [about me] actually true? And what are they?’ I want to know them! But I don’t want to know them, because what is that going to do for me? Nothing.” Most of the negative comments, Eilish says, centre on her body . From the moment she became famous, she wore clothing that purposefully hid her shape: long tunics, billowing pants, high-end sweatsuits. Fans deemed Eilish a feminist hero because of her formless wardrobe; trolls became hyper-aware anytime she showcased her body. In May, she revealed her newly blond hair on the cover of British Vogue , posing for the photo shoot in retro corsets and form-fitting lingerie. The images weren’t meant to showcase a makeover, but rather give a preview of the feeling she was going for with “Happier Than Ever”. Who has the best summer song of 2021? That vibe emerged over the last year, after what Eilish describes as an identity crisis relating to her appearance. “I wanted something that was more natural, and also, I wasn’t depressed,” she says. “I felt the need to change it all the time when I was more unstable.” But even after she settled on blond hair, she didn’t know what overall look she was going for with her second album. With the music almost finished, she went home one night and lay on the couch. She started playing Julie London and was suddenly overcome by bliss. Best known for her recording of the torch song Cry Me a River , London was a stylish, sultry-voiced singer of jazz and pop ballads in the 1950s and 60s. She often sported pin curls and chansonette bras, a look that served as inspiration for a buxom pin-up character featured throughout Eilish’s new merch. For so long, Eilish says, she hid her body mostly because she wanted to avoid being sexualised. “Every girl wants to feel desirable,” she says. “But then there’s a whole world of men who argue that women say, ‘Oh, I don’t want men to sexualise me’, but then wear shirts that show their boobs and sing songs about having sex.’ I’m like, do you not get the idea that we want to wear what we feel good in, but we don’t want you to jump in? It’s very dumb.” Queens of Covid: Lady Gaga to Blackpink – 15 albums that got us through 2020 Eilish talks about sex on “Happier Than Ever”. Some fans believe that Your Power – a single from the album about an older man exploiting an underage woman – is about her ex-boyfriend, Brandon Quention Adams. Eilish has not revealed who Your Power is about – or who she is singing about on any of her new songs, for that matter. But the album contains specific allusions to those who have pushed past her boundaries. She feels a need to share her thoughts and feelings with her fans – “I want them to know everything about my life somehow” – but doesn’t want to give herself over to the rest of the world. “I have experienced some stuff that I have never spoken about, and I don’t want to at all,” she says. “I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to tell anyone, let alone the entire internet. But at the same time, it’s really important that young women know that it can happen to anyone. Just being taken advantage of.” F9’s Jordana Brewster on eating disorders, mental health and Hollywood Finneas, meanwhile, urged Eilish to lean into her vulnerability. He wanted to give her audience “something to empathise with and see themselves in” – something less theatrical, without a make-believe world. “I wanted this to be Billie’s album about Billie,” he explains. Eilish says she’s eager to get back in front of a crowd and see how fans respond to the new material. On September 3, she’ll showcase all 16 tracks from the album in a Disney+ concert special recorded at the Hollywood Bowl, then she’ll embark on a 53-date headlining tour next year. She hopes her fans will respect how much she’s been willing to share with them this time around – even if it leaves them with more questions than answers. “Hopefully they’re grateful,” Eilish says. “I really want to be appreciated for it. Even though I come off as very open and bold, I don’t tell the internet s*** about my actual life because I don’t think that anybody should, actually. That can make you go crazy when there’s 80-f***ing-8 million people watching you.” Want more stories like this? Sign up here. Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .