Zodiac Sign · Jun 04, 2024

The days of full-blown diss tracks may be back for rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Drake, but in the pop world, subtle digs seem to be the new battlecry. And when it involves two of music's biggest stars – Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish – even minor, possibly unintentional jabs can become internet-fueled explosions.

Fans are left to decipher: is this a real feud, or just overactive imaginations? On one hand, Eilish's recent promotional blitz for her album "Hit Me Hard and Soft" seems to include some not-so-subtle swipes at Swift. On the other hand, Swift's team countered with bonus editions for her own album, "Tortured Poets Department," strategically timed to coincide with Eilish's release.

While Swift's history of "petty" feuds is legendary (remember that whole album?), this drama feels uncharacteristic for the usually chill Eilish. And it was her comments, interpreted as veiled barbs, that seem to have ignited this internet firestorm.

So, are we in a new era where fans crave conflict and turn everything into a rivalry, even if it's fabricated? Or is this – veiled jabs escalating into social media fan wars – simply how pop stars settle their differences these days?

The battle for Billboard chart dominance is the supposed battleground in the Taylor Swift vs. Billie Eilish feud. Swift's album "Poets" has held the top spot since its release, and her devoted fans, the "Swifties," are determined to keep it there. One common tactic in the digital age's cutthroat chart game is releasing multiple album versions, a strategy Swift has mastered. For "Poets," she started with a standard album, then quickly expanded it to a double album. Finally, on the same day as Eilish's new album "Hit Me" dropped, Swift surprised everyone with three more limited-edition variants of "Poets."

Eilish's fans were suspicious of this last-minute move, seeing it as a deliberate attempt to sabotage Eilish's release. Swift's defenders countered that the timing was purely strategic, aimed at extending her chart reign. For Eilish's supporters.If timing wasn't a factor, why directly compete with Eilish's release, especially with limited-edition versions creating a short buying window?

The drama escalated further when Eilish's manager, Danny Rukasin, "liked" and then deleted a tweet accusing Swift of a history of strategically blocking other artists with her releases. While limited release dates are likely more a product of a crowded release schedule than malice, Rukasin's actions – and his past social media shade thrown at Swift – certainly fueled the fire. Both sides then upped the ante with bonus track releases throughout the week, each vying for the top spot. Ultimately, Swift held onto number one, with Eilish coming in at a respectable number two.

So, was this a genuine feud, or just the heated competition and passionate fanbases one would expect in a high-stakes chart battle? The lack of overt animosity between the artists themselves suggests the latter.

While this whole situation could easily be written off as competitive tension and overzealous fans, the lack of clear animosity between the artists themselves leaves some wondering. After all, fandoms thrive on drama! And there's evidence to suggest this "beef" might have deeper roots, potentially stemming from a comment entirely unrelated to either Swift or Eilish.

Intriguingly, the seeds of this supposed feud might have been sown not by the artists themselves, but by a dash of casual sexism. In 2022, Damon Albarn, frontman of Blur and Gorillaz, inexplicably attacked Taylor Swift's songwriting credentials in a Los Angeles Times interview. He not only claimed she didn't write her own songs, but doubled down by stating she didn't even co-write them – a bizarre and frankly misogynistic critique considering songwriting is a major pillar of Swift's career.

But Albarn's bizarre comments didn't stop there. In the same breath, he compared Swift to Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O'Connell (Eilish's frequent collaborator), suggesting a songwriter co-writing is somehow less impressive:

"I'm not hating," he claimed, "but there's a difference between a songwriter and someone who co-writes. Doesn't mean the results can't be great... I'm more attracted to Billie Eilish and her brother. It's darker, less sugary pop. More complex. I think she's exceptional."

For all we know, the incident could have ended there — Albarn apologized to Swift after facing massive backlash, attributing his remarks to the Times' "clickbait" editing of his actual statements.

While the current drama might be fueled by fan theories and chart battles, a closer look reveals a potentially unexpected source of tension. In 2022, Damon Albarn's bizarre attack on Taylor Swift's songwriting – implying co-writing diminishes her talent – could have inadvertently planted the seeds of discord.

Fast forward a few months to Billie Eilish's history-making Coachella performance, where she surprised audiences by bringing out Albarn. While seemingly a gesture of admiration, a hot mic captured an unidentified male voice joking about a potential lawsuit from Taylor Swift. Swifties suspected the voice belonged to Eilish's brother, Finneas O'Connell, who previously praised Swift's work. Was it playful banter, or a veiled jab at Swift in light of Albarn's comments?

Still, it's easy for things to get twisted in the cutthroat world of entertainment, and we know how Swift can hold a grudge when she feels her art has been disrespected. Judging by multiple comments Eilish has made during the promotional cycle for Hit Me Hard and Soft — comments that certainly seem directed at Swift — the vendetta might go both ways.

On March 23, just weeks before the release of Swift’s Poets, Billboard published an interview with Eilish in which she criticized the "wasteful" practice of artists releasing multiple vinyl album versions primarily to boost sales and achieve higher rankings on the Billboard charts. Although the interview centered on Eilish’s broader efforts to promote environmental sustainability, she was particularly critical of this (admittedly, yes, wasteful) practice:

"I find it really frustrating as someone who goes out of my way to be sustainable and does my best to involve everyone on my team in being sustainable — and then some of the biggest artists in the world are making 40 different vinyl packages with unique features just to get you to keep buying more. It’s so wasteful, and it’s irritating to me that we’re still at a point where you care that much about your numbers and making money — and it’s all your favorite artists doing that."

Given that Swift is known for this tactic, fans interpreted the entire sidebar as a jab at her specifically. Eilish quickly responded on Instagram, denying any intent to target a specific artist. “It would be so awesome if people would stop putting words into my mouth,” she reportedly wrote. “I wasn’t singling anyone out.”

Had this been a one-off statement, it might have been easier for fans to believe Eilish. However, this marked the beginning of several instances where Eilish’s general complaints could also be seen as specific criticisms of Taylor Swift. It’s worth noting that each of these subsequent interviews occurred after Swift’s May 17 “block” of Eilish’s album, suggesting that what started as a coincidence for Eilish might have quickly turned personal.

Eilish's recent comments have further fueled theories of a feud with Taylor Swift. In a May 21st interview with Apple Music, she expressed a preference for less overtly autobiographical songwriting – a style heavily associated with Swift. While Eilish claimed the comments weren't directed at anyone specific, fans were quick to make connections.

"I don't want the listener to feel like they already know everything about the song," Eilish said. She elaborated on the pressure of public scrutiny in the pop world, where songs are often dissected to reveal hidden meanings and potential diss tracks. "It takes away from the listener's own interpretation," she argued. Her brother Finneas chimed in, adding, "It can be gross. Music should be about personal connection, not figuring out who a song is 'about.'"

Taken on their own, these comments could be seen as harmless musings about the creative process. However, placed in the context of the recent chart battle and other perceived slights, it becomes easy to see them as veiled criticism of Swift.

Additionally, it seems that Eilish has now included Swift-style performances on her list of dislikes.

Last year, Eilish referred to both Swift and Beyoncé as "untouchable superstars" in the LA Times, highlighting their epic stadium shows, which can each run for three hours or more. “The fact that they can put on a show that long, and it’s filled with so many incredible moments, is really amazing,” she said. At the time, her tone was admiring, not confrontational.

After the clash over the album release, her demeanor underwent a significant shift. During a broadcast on social radio platform Stationhead on May 23, Eilish remarked, "Performing for three hours? That's truly excessive. No one desires that, including myself... I wouldn't even want that as a fan. Even if it's my favorite artist, I wouldn't want to listen for three hours." Once more, Swift fans hurried to suggest that Eilish was indirectly criticizing Swift.

Eilish has never openly opposed Swift before, and in fact, in 2019, she expressed gratitude towards Swift for the impact her music had on her as a child. However, this wouldn't be the first instance of a younger female artist finding herself at odds with Swift. Just consider Olivia Rodrigo, who openly drew inspiration from Swift in her music. Initially, Swift embraced Rodrigo, until rumors surfaced of a rift between them regarding song credits. This disagreement might have contributed to Rodrigo indirectly criticizing Swift in her biting 2022 song "Vampire," where she portrays the titular character as someone significantly older who exploits the singer's youth and innocence.

Yes, it's worth noting that Rodrigo and Eilish share a close friendship. Eilish has even expressed feeling "very protective" of Rodrigo. In a May 22 interview with Stephen Colbert to promote her latest album, Eilish elaborated poetically on the importance of young artists having the freedom to draw inspiration from others while they're still honing their own style. "Inspiration begets more inspiration, which begets even more inspiration," she reflected. Although Eilish appeared to be discussing her own artistic journey, some observers, caught up in the unfolding drama, interpreted her words as commentary on the Swift-Rodrigo situation.

Indeed, there's speculation surrounding Swift's choice of Sabrina Carpenter to open for her "Eras" tour, suggesting it might be influenced by Carpenter's involvement in a well-known love triangle with Rodrigo. Rodrigo has also hinted at an upcoming remix of "Vampire" featuring Lana Del Rey, who is rumored to be on the outs with Swift. Other celebrities appear to be taking sides in this ongoing dispute. Sza, previously rumored to have clashed with Swift over album releases, had previously denied any animosity between them. However, she was recently seen "liking" an Instagram post criticizing Eilish for her high concert prices and shorter performance durations, potentially indicating subtle support for Swift's camp.

Swift herself has not publicly addressed the ongoing conflict between her fan base and Eilish's followers. However, on May 25, a tweet from Swift's PR team's Twitter account referenced the line "try and come for my job" from Swift's song "I Can Do It With a Broken Heart." Many fans interpreted this tweet as a subtle jab at Eilish, suggesting she was unable to dethrone Swift from the No. 1 spot on the charts.

It's difficult to discern the authenticity of the feud versus whether it's a manufactured spectacle. However, the tension has undeniably generated increased attention and buzz for both artists. Amidst the feud, Swift's album "Midnights" purportedly achieved a remarkable milestone, becoming the fastest album by a woman in history to reach an astonishing 9 billion streams on Spotify. Meanwhile, Eilish's album standout track, the provocative hit "Lunch," reportedly became her fastest single ever to reach 100 million Spotify streams.

The impact of a celebrity rivalry on sales is no secret. However, there's a sense of frustration regarding the transient nature of this particular feud. On one hand, there's ample room for plausible deniability regarding Eilish's statements that have stirred up fans. Yet, the frequency of these statements during an active press tour suggests Eilish is not simply playing along. Furthermore, her lack of effort to clarify that her comments are not directed at Swift adds to the ambiguity surrounding the situation.

When hip-hop artists engage in diss tracks, the prevailing notion is that the grievances fuel compelling music, and ultimately, the quality of the music is paramount. It's almost certain that we'll hear Swift's perspective on this latest conflict in her upcoming album. However, the lack of concrete information about the situation has led to speculation and division among fans, a common occurrence within stan culture. This drama, while captivating, detracts from the achievements of both artists. Unlike instances such as Kendrick's feud with Drake, which offered insights into authenticity in hip-hop culture, the ongoing dispute between Eilish and Swift lacks substantial substance. If Eilish truly holds criticisms regarding Swift's music, concert lengths, release strategies, and conflicts, there are likely more constructive ways to address them than through indirect jabs. Perhaps she should consider expressing her grievances through songwriting.

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