For the first time in history, the Oscars were held at the beginning of February. It's the earliest in the year the ceremony has fallen in its entire 92-year history. Even though it bounced around in the first decade, by the mid-1940s, it had settled in March. But this new move-up has had an interesting effect on the schedule, landing it barely two weeks after the Grammys, and inspiring the producers to hire the latest Grammy winner. It might feel like Billie Eilish's 2020 Oscars performance was booked last minute, but it was a smart move.
The hostless Oscars have turned towards a bit of a variety show style with no single leader up on stage. The comedian presenters do comedy bits, the singers perform nominated tunes, and so on. But Eilish is neither of those things. Instead, she's the first female singer in history to sweep the Grammy Awards, raising her profile by an order of magnitude.
And the Oscars just so happened to have lucked into a natural entry point to board this train. Eilish has recently been revealed to be the artist chosen to pen the theme song of the latest James Bond film, No Time To Die. Though Eilish's "special performance" was not the Bond theme, just having her on stage was a reminder of the upcoming film.
Instead, the Oscars had her on to sing the Beatles classic "Yesterday," as the yearly "In Memoriam" montage reel played.
Some expected the singer and her brother, Finneas, to perform the new James Bond. But as the clock struck 11 p.m. and she hadn't taken the stage yet, it became obvious that whatever the special performance was, it wasn't James Bond. So when Steven Spielberg announced the two of them would be singing while the "In Memoriam" reel played, it confirmed those rumors were wrong.
Even so, it was still a shock when she started to sing "Yesterday." This year, a film named after that song came out — a British romantic comedy film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis. It was one of many films starring actors of color that was overlooked this year. Though Eilish didn't make any reference to the film, it was a reminder that this year's movie offerings ran the gamut. And it was also a lovely performance.