Here’s something weird! Billie Eilish is a 17-year-old pop singer with weirdo aspirations and with a massive online fanbase. Roma, on the other hand, is a slow, lyrical, beautiful Mexican art film about the life of a domestic worker who lives with a relatively wealthy family in Mexico City in 1970 and 1971. It’s a movie with no clearly delineated plot, based around tiny moments that lay out the sharp boundaries between economic classes. Roma is not a movie aimed at Eilish’s demographic, but here’s Eilish with a Roma song anyway.
“When I Was Older,” Eilish’s new song, does not come from the Roma soundtrack. That would be ridiculous. It’s not that kind of movie. But Eilish has pointed out that the song was inspired by Roma. Indeed, the official title of the song is “When I Was Older (Music Inspired By The Film Roma).” And it’s probably not a coincidence that the song is coming out now, as Netflix, which released Roma, is trying to get more people to watch the movie, especially during its big Oscar campaign.
It’s hard to see how “When I Was Older” has anything whatsoever to do with Roma, though its themes of alienation might have some resonance. (Also, Eilish sings about being a sailor on the open sea, and there is one memorable Roma scene that takes place on a beach. So there’s that.) But it’s a weirdly pretty song, an Auto-Tuned hymn that leaves plenty of negative space. It’s a sign that older folk like us may want to start paying attention to Eilish. (To start you off, here’s our own Chris DeVille’s Week In Pop column on her from last year.) Listen to the song below.
“When I Was Older” is out now at the streaming services.