Updated: Feb 17, 2020
Let's put this timeline into its full context. Van Halen is a rock band that formed in 1972 and had a string of hits in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Billie Eilish is a dark pop artist who was born after the millenium, in 2001. She's not even an adult for another two weeks.
Surely, then, it's quite bizarre that there is such shock behind her answer to Jimmy Kimmel's question. Why is she expected to have knowledge of bands whom she wouldn't have grown up with? If the question had concerned bands like Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, Paramore or Muse, perhaps a surprised reaction would have been more applicable, as these are bands that she is more likely to have grown up with. But a band like Van Halen wouldn't exactly have been dominating the airwaves in 2013, so it shouldn't be a surprise that they're not on her Spotify playlists.
Indeed, it may be that she would recognise a song or two by the band, without realising that it was Van Halen who performed them. She'd likely recognise 'Jump' if you played those iconic opening chords, but that doesn't mean she knows who did it.
We've talked about this kind of thing before in the Buck Rogers article; Buck Rogers is a very popular song in the UK that the vast majority of people know, but many don't know the band who performed it. It could be the same here, with Eilish knowing the song but not the band behind it.
In her lifetime, Van Halen have done a few tours and released precisely one studio album, which didn't sell well enough to attain a sales certfication in the US. It's not like they've been hugely active in her lifetime then, which is just another reason why she has no reason to know about the band.
Most of the reactions are, of course, jovial in nature. But a section of people were genuine in their shaming of Eilish for having a gap in her knowledge that, truthfully, is barely a gap at all. We are all products of our time and of our surroundings. A young woman in 2019 not knowing Van Halen is as irrelevant as a tub of sprouts in a buffet. No-one should care about it and those that do are probably best avoided for a bit.
As Wolfgang Van Halen says, music is supposed to be a tool of unity, not division. If anyone reading this article is truly that incensed by her answer, just send Eilish a tweet with a couple of YouTube links to Van Halen songs. Or, better yet, stop caring at all. Her knowledge and taste in music is really none of anyone's business but her own, and it's inconsequential to the rest of our lives anyway.