In 2002, two months after L.A.-bred pop star Billie Eilish was born, the music video for Britney Spears’s “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” was released. Today both Eilish and the iconic video are 19 years old, the same age that Spears was when that song, off her self-titled album Britney, first came out.
On Thursday, Eilish dropped the video for a new single from her upcoming record, Happier Than Ever (out July 30). In a conspicuous shift, the Grammy winner has traded in her harsh neon-green roots for a soft shag in buttery blond and a beige outfit that blends into the arid landscape behind her. Like the song—which features little more than Billie’s voice set against an acoustic guitar riff—the video for “Your Power” is slow and stirring. Eilish sits alone, almost camouflaged on a ridge as an anaconda steadily coils itself around her legs, torso, and neck.
For some, the video immediately brought to mind the sepia-toned landscape, sweeping panoramas, and air of solitude in the ’02 video for “I’m Not a Girl.” And that’s not to mention the snake, which some saw as a callback to to Spears’s performance of “I’m a Slave 4 U” at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards, when she took the stage with a big, yellow python draped over her shoulders.
Whether or not any of this was intentional, it’s not tough to draw parallels between a 19-year-old Eilish and a 19-year-old Spears. Nearly two decades ago, the elder singer was teetering on the cusp of adulthood and seeking her own independence in the harsh glare of fame’s spotlight. Just this year, the director of the Eilish documentary The World’s a Little Blurry called his film a story of the path “from girlhood to womanhood.” That’s never been an easy course to chart. In 2019, Eilish explained that her “big, baggy clothes” helped her escape unwanted attention as a teenage girl in the limelight: “Nobody can have an opinion [about my body], because they haven’t seen what’s underneath.” That’s since changed. In a new series of photos for British Vogue, Eilish wears figure-hugging old-school lingerie. Anticipating criticism, she said, “My thing is that I can do whatever I want.”
In “I’m Not A Girl,” Spears starts to claim ownership over herself (a bittersweet listen given Spears’s current state of affairs). “There is no need to protect me,” she sings, “It’s time that I / Learn to face up to this on my own.” Eilish does the same in her more embittered song. She begins with the request, “Try not to abuse your power,” before repeating the same questions to the accused: “How dare you? / And how could you?”
Locked under society’s often male gaze, Spears and Eilish are seeking their own space to grow and change. “Don’t tell me what to believe,” belted Spears at the turn of the millennium; “[don’t] abuse your power,” Eilish sings today. Almost 20 years, a #MeToo movement, and a #FreeBritney push later, the next pop icon is still singing a similar anthem. Will she be heard this time?
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