Whether sim-syllabic coincidence or strategic subliminal marketing, “Billie Eilish” validates the ageless harangue of our fathers, “You’re worthless & weak!”
My 12-year-old daughter showed me the videos of a popular teen popstar with eyes rolled back in her head as she cried black tears like blood flowing from open wounds, as well as a different video where she was covered in spiders wherein one particularly large specimen creepy-crawled out of her mouth. My thoughts reverted to scenes from the 1973 film THE EXORCIST where a demon-possessed Linda Blair writhed on her bed spewing green bile and blasphemous epithets at the priests who were there to save her.
When my daughter told me the popstar’s name, Billie Eilish, I heard it as “Belial-ish” letting her know that Belial, as I recollected, is another name for the devil, perhaps thee Devil himself, or at least an aspect thereof. The Google search that followed left my daughter in shock and altogether not amused. Now, I cannot even tease her with the uncanny similarity between the popstar’s name and the derivative interpretation I made up on the spot without her running to her mother, complaining that Dad is “freaking me out!”
When I was growing up it was the same old story: KISS was an acronym for Knights In Satan’s Service and Geddy Lee was a witch and the red star on the cover of Rush’s album 2112 was a Satanic pentagram; Judas Priest was dragged into court in Reno, Nevada on charges that subliminal messages on one of their albums made the band liable for two boys’ unfortunate attempts at self-annihilation.
Once the old taboos of ‘sex and drugs’ got mainstreamed by Elvis’s gyrating hips and the hippy-trips of the Beatles and the Stones there was nowhere else for rock-n-roll to go but down, as in “all the way” down on “THE HIGHWAY TO HELL.” Who knows but that the extreme negative reaction in America to John Lennon’s taken-out-of-context remark about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus didn’t inspire a young Alice Cooper to storm the theretofore impregnable walls of the nation’s last unassailable bulwark, Religion, to reap the whirlwind (and the benjamins) that would ensue.
Despite the intentionally negative hysteria whipped up by the Media-Government Complex (a demonic consortium in its own right), the consequent “Satanic Panic” of the 80s was, for the music industry at least, pure marketing gold. Whether branded by their own efforts like Iron Maiden’s THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST and AC/DC’s HIGHWAY TO HELL albums, or the witch hunt led by then-Tennessee Senator Al Gore’s wife, Tipper, that compelled rock-n-roll bad asses Frank Zappa and Dee Snider to testify before Congress, the so-called devil’s music was a big hit with the disaffected youth of the day, which translated to big money for the record label-execs who would have sacrificed their first born sons (and probably did) for a healthy wedge of that infernal pie.
An aficionado of heavy metal music that was supposed to doom me to eternal hellfire back in the day, I now find myself on the flipside of the equation: the twitchy parent concerned with the disposition of their child’s immortal soul rather than being that child trying to find the best way to mortify his parents (or simply mortifying them unintentionally because I actually simply liked the damn music!). Taking from the, if not wealth then the glut, of knowledge afforded me by the accumulation of age and wisdom, it stands to reason that perhaps my intuition on this matter could be slightly overblown.