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If music fans know 17-year-old megastar Billie Eilish for anything, it’s that she’s reliably unpredictable and bizarre. Perhaps most surprising about Eilish is that her affinity for disgusting imagery such as blood and spiders hasn’t prevented her from topping the Billboard Hot 100. Eilish played the song with which she achieved her #1, “bad guy,” on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. Even though everyone knew her first appearance as SNL’s musical guest would be weird, few thought it would be this insane.
For starters, Eilish appeared in one of her usual crazy outfits, a baggy two-piece black t-shirt and shorts adorned with graffiti-like neon symbols including dollar signs, the green shade of which matched her dyed hair. She performed “bad guy” in a room not much taller than she is (Eilish is only 5’3”) designed to look like a miniature Grand Central Terminal. But wild outfits and visual setups are nothing new for Eilish – instead, it’s her climbing ceilings and walls that got people talking.
Just over 30 seconds into her performance of “bad guy” – which has already been viewed on YouTube nearly three million times – Eilish raises her left leg and leans against the wall. About 10 seconds later, Eilish’s feet are fully planted on the wall, her body fully vertically extended in a gravity-defying feat of endurance. After another 20 seconds, Eilish begins crawling on the ceiling, and by this point, viewers had fully begun freaking out. She ultimately makes a lap around the room – both walls and the ceiling – before the brooding outro of “bad guy” even begins.
As the outro starts, SNL’s cameras zoom out to show Eilish in a small room centered on SNL’s massive stage. Outside the room, Eilish’s bandmates are playing bass and drums, appearing normal-sized in SNL’s usual setting as compared to Eilish’s giant stature in her claustrophobic, gravity-less room. But the size difference doesn’t quite explain how Eilish climbed walls and ceilings.
The answer is shockingly simple. It’s not Eilish who rotated – it’s the room. A video lifted from actor Justin Theroux’s Instagram story and posted to Twitter shows Eilish moving from the “floor” to the “wall” as the room rotates, in essence making the “wall” the ground-level surface, ensuring that Eilish winds up there. Additionally, the camera filming just the room rotated with the room, adding to the optical illusion. Had Eilish mistimed her movements with the room’s rotation, she might have botched the whole performance, but to her credit, she didn’t miss a beat – even while wearing a boot for her sprained ankle.
Compared to “bad guy,” Eilish’s other SNL performance was completely tame. With her brother and co-producer FINNEAS, she performed “i love you,” the penultimate track from her debut album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?. The two remained seated for much of the performance, which involved just FINNEAS’ guitar and the siblings’ singing (and wearing matching outfits). Eilish is fully capable of the strange, but she’s just as talented at the ordinary.