Billie Eilish has been keeping a relatively low profile this year after making history as the youngest singer to record the James Bond theme song and the first woman in 61 years of Grammy ceremonies to sweep the big four categories: Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year. Most memorably, Eilish appeared during Global Citizen’s One World: Together at Home virtual benefit concert, performing a spectral cover of Nashville soul singer Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny,” a deceptively dark but ultimately positive tune, alongside her brother, Finneas. Otherwise, she’s been signal-boosting Black Lives Matter content and avoiding trouble, occasionally dropping a quarantine serve on Instagram, but mostly taking the break from the public she seemed to be very much in need of earlier this year.
This week’s release of her latest single, “My Future,” suggests that the O’Connell siblings have made good use of the quiet time. The new song, which Finneas notes on Instagram is the first piece of music the pair worked on during quarantine, gently nudges Billie Eilish in a different direction from the claustrophobic electronic sound of When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, revealing new possibilities for her voice (the way the hint of a full-throated shout at the climax of “No Time to Die” did earlier this year) as she blends nostalgic Disney-soundtrack melodicism with soulful blue notes. Like “Sunny,” a tune about silver linings written in 1963 in the immediate aftermath of the JFK assassination, “My Future” is a reminder that even though the present looks scary, there are better times on the other side. “I have to keep reminding myself that the future is ours,” Eilish told fans in an email explaining the inspiration for “My Future,” “and I know we want to do everything we can to make it better for everyone in the world, and for the world itself.”
The video, directed by Australian animator Andrew Onorato (who worked on Childish Gambino’s “Feels Like Summer” clip as well as cartoon segments in the Bethesda Softworks video games Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and Fallout 4), reinforces the theme of growth, as Billie Eilish walks through a dreary Miyazakian forest at night, watching plants sprout as the light of dawn cuts through the trees overhead, touching the brush underfoot. The sun rises as the beat changes in the middle of the song, transforming a somber lyric about seeking peace and reflection in solitude into a hint of excitement about what can come after the dark night. The jazzy, chipper changeup in the back half of “My Future” evokes Miami bass tunes like the Ghost Town DJ’s “My Boo” and U.K. broken beat jams like 4Hero’s “Hold It Down,” giving the song a pep that Eilish’s breakout debut album preferred to complicate with prescient lyrics about impending doom. Are there more tricks like this in store for the second Billie Eilish album? A change would do her good.