Billie Eilish revealing she has no fucking clue who Van Halen are has caused a minor generation conflict online, forcing a current member of the 80s hair metal heroes to defend the 17-year-old singer from criticism.
Late last month, Eilish appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to chat about being, well, one of the most successful pop artist of the past couple of years. After congratulating her for collecting a swag of Grammy nominations, host Jimmy Kimmel decided to test her knowledge of radio stars from his own days as a teen.
“Can you name a Van Halen?” Kimmel asked.
Eilish had one word in response: “Who?”
Kimmel continued to rattle off names like Huey Lewis and Run DMC, who didn’t register with Eilish, either.
“You’re making me look so dumb,” she said.
“It’s not a matter of being dumb,” he responded.
“If you ask me questions about 1943, I probably wouldn’t know the answers either.”
That should have ended the matter, but we do not live in a just universe. Instead, we exist in remorseless toilet purgatory. As a result, a Twitter sharing a clip of the interview somehow sparked an social media beat-up.
I've been listening to Van Halen with my dad since I was a kid I'm shook
— Mack (@_Kenziepuff) November 29, 2019
Within a few days, that clip had fostered a back-and-forward discussion about the band’s legacy and whether someone born after 9/11 has any reason to give a shit. First, let’s hear it for the Van Halen defenders, who insist on the cultural impact of leather pants and whammy bar divebombs:
I know u guys think that this is ok and I get it but…cmon girl it’s VAN HALEN. https://t.co/1ZJadMVW9I
— Bees? (@snacks_____) December 2, 2019
honestly my heart breaks for you guys that have never heard a van halen song https://t.co/Zj8q0hUkXm
— ozzy (@kelseyvanhalen) December 2, 2019
doesn’t matter if their peak was 40 years ago lmao if you don’t know van halen there’s some sort of problem with your music knowledge https://t.co/hfUVjTi1dR
— s☀️ (@avfsara) December 2, 2019
Even current Thin Lizzy guitarist Damon Johnson stepped in with a jokey take on the matter.
Billie Eilish doesn’t know who Van Halen is.
Get off my lawn!
— Damon Johnson (@DamonJOfficial) December 2, 2019
Responded. With humor and accepting of “okay, boomer”.
— Damon Johnson (@DamonJOfficial) December 2, 2019
While there are relatively few people arguing for the merits of teaching Hot For Teacher in primary schools worldwide, scores of people have backed Kimmel’s original point: there’s zero shame in not being a connoisseur of content which came and went decades before your birth.
if billie eilish was a dude no one would care that she didn't know who van halen was, but she's young and a woman and successful and wears baggy clothes and defies conventional beauty standards. its like punk rock never happened you idiots
— Caryn Rose (@carynrose) December 2, 2019
sorry, but we’ve found the thing more powerful than Ok Boomer: telling men you don’t know who Van Halen are
— Listen to @onbeliefpod & @ongriefpodcast Li'l ???? (@karengeier) December 2, 2019
quite literally: every single time i have ever posted an NPR article about a female musician or a pop artist, it's gotten at least one "who??? NEVER heard of them!!!" reply from some old white dude
so the reason van halen is trending right now is just…… *chef's kiss*
— danny nett (@dannynett) December 2, 2019
extremely disinterested in billie eilish not knowing who van halen is. VERY interested to know if any straight man over 40 has seen This Photograph. yes this is the same thing pic.twitter.com/D2dBzUlhWt
— Jill Gutowitz (@jillboard) December 2, 2019
Just to weigh in on this completely pointless Monday-morning thing: Van Halen is peak “you had to be there” music, no real reason to know about it if you weren’t; also, I am auditioning guitarists for my VH Krautrock tribute act, Can Halen https://t.co/sTGMiJxpTy
— The Mountain Goats (@mountain_goats) December 2, 2019
— Smash Mouth (@smashmouth) December 2, 2019
The fracas caused Wolfgang Van Halen, son of guitarist Eddie Van Halen and the band’s current bassist, to back Eilish against the pedants (who, in fairness, do not appear to exist in considerable numbers).
Music is supposed to bring us together, not divide us. Listen to what you want and don’t shame others for not knowing what you like.
— Wolf Van Halen (@WolfVanHalen) December 2, 2019
If you look past all the hand-wringing, the Eilish-Van Halen drama has actually sparked discussions about why a mega-famous pop star would be completely in the dark about former Billboard chart mainstays. That’s where the good stuff is, and examining that link is 100% more worthwhile than browbeating a minor over Sammy Hagar.
this was the other part i considered — what connective tissue does what's popular in 2019 have to van halen? it seems like van halen was more connected to the music that preceded it by 30 years than the band is to those who emerged 30 years later.
— bomani (@bomani_jones) December 2, 2019
Now, if you excuse me, I am going to continue my own music listening habits: feverishly replaying a record which came out six weeks ago while utterly ignoring the entire Beatles discography for some reason.Image: Jimmy Kimmel Live / YouTube