The intermittent reminders that celebrities are actually real human beings are often so jarring that when they do happen, nobody can stop talking about it.
For example: Billie Eilish — the 17-year-old pop star (kind of?) prodigy who made the whole world stop with her debut album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go” — was once deeply obsessed, just like everyone else, with Justin Bieber.
Now, they have a widely popular song together.
Well, not exactly “a song together.” On July 11, a remixed version of Eilish’s banging, chart-favourite song, “Bad Guy,” was released with a Bieber verse on it. The song starts as per usual, then Bieber meanders in to croon for a bit about tattoos and jewellery and being the bad guy, which works well considering the star’s prior/kind of ongoing “bad boy” (note “boy,” not “guy”) profile.
Then the song returns to its regularly scheduled programming with that perfect ending it has.
Re-releasing a single as a remix with the added firepower of another superstar’s verse is, according to Forbes, an increasingly common technique for artists who are vying for the number one spot on the Hot 100. The ElishxBieber remix racked up more than 593 million streams over the weekend and has the potential to dethrone Lil Nas X’s seemingly indelible “Old Town Road,” which has been topping the charts for XX weeks.
The cover artwork for the “Bad Guy” remix is appropriately fan-oriented. It’s this great archive photo of Eilish, childish and off-guard in a sparkly rainbow dress, standing in a bedroom that looks just like any other preteen’s bedroom from the late 2000s: her walls are covered — covered!!! — with posters of Justin Bieber.
Mostly, this whole thing is exciting because a collaboration between Eilish and Bieber is, in every sense of the phrase, a dream come true for Eilish.
Eilish is from L.A.. She’s 17 now, but she thundered onto the music scene at 13, with a song she made with her older brother called “Ocean Eyes.” They only made the song for Billie to use for a dance performance she was doing, and published it on SoundCloud so that her teacher would be able to access it.
Instead, it went viral. The pair hasn’t stopped making songs together since then — all of her songs are written and recorded in her brother’s old bedroom in their childhood — and Eilish has quickly developed a profile as a precocious teen with a talent for storytelling.
In some ways, Bieber is tied to Eilish’s career beginnings. See, in her youth, around the time she did “Ocean Eyes,” Billie Eilish wasn’t just a fan of Justin Bieber, she was a fan of Justin Bieber. An italicized fan. A super fan. She loved him, was in love with him.
That isn’t an inference, it’s just good paraphrasing: in an interview with Marie Claire, the singer/songwriter said, plainly, “It wasn’t like I was just a fan, man. I’ve been in love before, and it was with him.” She used to cry because she thought he would never know who she was.
Eilish did, eventually, meet Justin Bieber. It was at Coachella, in April. They took a picture together. He captioned it “Long and bright future ahead for you.” The meeting was all caught on video, and watching it, you can feel how anxious/excited/completely unprepared the 17-year-old girl is to meet her teen idol in front of millions of fans.
Ariana Grande is singing “Bad Idea” in the background, which is funny, because you vaguely imagine meeting your own idols, something you would probably never do and might always think of as a “bad idea.” (“I don’t even want to meet him,” Eilish said of Bieber in February. “I don’t want to cry in front of him.”)
It’s a “beautiful moment,” as Scooter Braun said. The pair hugs. The fans cheer. They hug some more. They hug for so long it looks like they’re dancing, but they probably aren’t. The fans are quiet.
In the photo they took together, Billie Eilish has her hand on her forehead, as though she’s thinking about how completely nuts the whole situation is, since, as a young and devoted Belieber, she couldn’t possibly have imagined meeting Justin Bieber, much less, say, having an actual song with him.
UPDATE - July 15, 2019: This post has been updated with new information about the streaming numbers for the “Bad Guy” remix.