A few weeks back Billie Eilish was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel. She’s an up and comer in the music scene (I guess?) and she was born after 9/11. Jimmy decided to ask her questions about things from 1984 (because that was the year he was her current age). She received a ton of internet flak when Jimmy asked if she could name a single member of Van Halen, and she responded with… “Who?”
Apparently this started quite an uproar on the internet (surprise!) and now, Rolling Stone, of all publications, is coming to her defense. You can read their full article right here. The thing that bothers me about it is that they had this to say:
This supposed lack of knowledge kickstarted a stream of invective on the Internet by know-it-alls who did not realize or did not care that the pop star is 17 and was only 10 when Van Halen put out their last album, 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth.
So, they are saying basically, she doesn’t deserve all the flak she has gotten because she is 17.
Sorry Rolling Stone… you’re wrong. The Beatles put out their last studio album 10 years before I was born. I still knew who they were by the time I was 17. The Titanic sank 68 years before I was born, but I knew all about it WELL before I was 17 (and WELL before the damn Dicaprio film came out). The Civil War ended 115 years before I was born, but at 17 I could still tell you about that one as well. I also knew that it wasn’t over even when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor (Go watch Animal House if that one doesn’t stick).
I’m not a musician (not a professional one anyway). I’m also not a shipwreck expert, nor am I a history professor. Somehow bits and pieces of important information found their way into my brain by the time I was 17, even when some were out of the realm of what my profession would later be.
Look, I’m not advocating picking on a very young, very public figure here. In fact, I hate what the internet has seemingly done to society in instances like this where “streams of invective” rain down on people just trying to live their lives. My point is this… if you want to be a respected musician, you should know the history of your craft.
Jimmy Kimmel wasn’t asking Eilish about some obscure band from the 80s like The Flower Pot Men (they did the song playing when Ferris peels out of the high school in Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari in “Ferris Bueller’s Day off” … killer tune by the way!). He was asking about a band who ranks in the top 20 in the United States for all time sales (according to the RIAA’s own info).
Since this whole thing has occurred, I have listened to a few of Eilish’s tracks. It’s not my style, and I don’t get it. It’s definitely not rock or anything close to it. So is it fair for me to say she should know a band like Van Halen when it is clearly miles away from her genre? Well, from the Kimmel interview she did she also had no clue who Run DMC were… that one is probably what more people should be up in arms about honestly.
Wolfgang Van Halen responded to this in a wonderful way by tweeting the following:
“If you haven’t heard of Billie Eilish, go check her out. She’s cool. If you haven’t heard of Van Halen, go check them out. They’re cool, too. Music is supposed to bring us together, not divide us. Listen to what you want and don’t shame others for not knowing what you like.”
I agree with that, although it’s hard for me NOT to judge other people’s musical tastes because I’m pretty damn opinionated when it comes to music.