A cozy sweater, park bench, brunette hair and a handful of cigarettes: this doesn’t sound like the usual music video setup for Billie Eilish, who has become pop music’s provocateur. Even with these few props, the 17-year-old singer still manages to send a strong message in her new video for “Xanny,” which she directed herself — her first time ever doing so! In the video that dropped on Dec. 5, multiple cigarettes are put out right on Billie’s face, but it’s not just for aesthetic purposes. Billie is actually showing what it feels like to be submerged in people’s “secondhand smoke,” and surrounded by their addictions overall.
“I’m in their secondhand smoke / Still just drinking canned Coke / I don’t need a Xanny to feel better / On designated drives home / Only one who’s not stoned / Don’t give me a Xanny, now or ever,” Billie sings in the chorus, making it clear that although she’s not interested in vices like cigarettes and prescription drugs, she’s still in close proximity to them (as any musician is). In her first verse, Billie also points out how these people only seem to share their bad habits in common: “They’re nothing but unstable / Bring ashtrays to the table / And that’s about the only thing they share.”
Billie’s message wasn’t lost on fans! “Holy s**t the xanny music video is pure art,” one viewer tweeted, while another wrote, “Billie eilish making her music video directorial debut at 17 with a song she co-wrote with an important message that’s going to reach her primarily really young fans. i’ve said this before but HOW can you not stan????” A third fan tweeted what we were all thinking, writing, “i think it’s safe to say that billie eilish has done it again.”
Im so glad that Xanny by Billie Eilish exists. It makes me feel less like an outcast for not drinking or smoking or doing drugs because lately that seems to be the only thing that makes you “cool”. Im fine with being not cool then…
— Joy ♡ ◟̽◞̽ (@goldenhometown) December 5, 2019
Although Billie is a metaphorical genius, the inspiration behind the “secondhand smoke” line was quite literal. In the YouTube interview “A Snippet into Billie’s Mind,” Billie recalled the night before she wrote “Xanny” and being with a group of friends who all got drunk. “There was this girl there, she had two cigarettes in her hands and she put both of them in her mouth and she put both of them in her mouth and she went like this [Billie put a pretend cigarette in her mouth], ‘Hey, Billie!’ She looked and me and she went: [Billie blew out pretend smoke].”
After that experience,Billie wanted the song “to sort of sound like what it feels like to be in second-hand smoke,” she explained in the YouTube video. “I was thinking, ‘What does smoke look like? How can we make it sound the way that smoke looks and the way that smoke feels in your lungs and what your lungs look like when there’s smoke in your lungs?'”