Sunday, October 1, 2023

Billie Eilish breaks boundaries with her debut album, ‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?’


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Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Story by Stacey White / Contributing Writer 

Nearly two years after her EP “Don’t Smile At Me,” 17-year-old Billie Eilish has released her debut full-length album.

“WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” perfectly reflects the dark and mysterious personality Eilish has presented since her first step into the limelight with her 2017 hit, “Ocean Eyes.” With leading tracks like, “bury a friend” and “you should see me in a crown,” fans figured they would get an album full of self-aware lyrics paired with heavy basslines, and they were right.

The opening track “!!!!!!!” is only 13 seconds, but in those 13 seconds, listeners hear Eilish remove her Invisalign followed by her brother and producer, Finneas O’Connell, joining her in saying, “I have taken out my Invisalign, and this is the album,” and then falling into a fit of laughter.

“Bad Guy” is the album’s second track, and it sets a high standard for the remainder of the album. Eilish uses the first two minutes to tauntingly sing lyrics of her partner being a tough guy, who seems to take pride in his masculinity. The singer then compares herself to her partner by saying that she knows she is the type of young woman to make her partner’s mother sad and make his girlfriend mad. Eilish doesn’t finish this portion of the song without a cute, yet simple “duh,” once again showing that she is aware that she may be all these things, but her partner should have also been aware by this point in their complicated relationship.

The bass-heavy track briefly pauses, when Eilish begins to sing again. She explains that she likes when her partner’s angry and that she’s happy he’s alone. As the track comes to an end the singer can be heard whispering in her familiar light tone.

Fans of Eilish have grown close to the raspy and light tone of her voice. She displays it perfectly in the album’s third track, “xanny.” In this track, Eilish alludes to the recreational use of Xanax. She sings slow and slightly behind the beat, which emphasizes the side effects of the drug.

It’s songs like “xanny” that makes listeners forget Billie Eilish is only 17. The young singer has such impressive vocals and beautiful lyrics that it’s easy to forget her age as she sings, “I can’t afford to love someone who isn’t dying by mistake in Silver Lake.”

Next up is “you should see me in a crown,” the album’s lead single and another bass-heavy track that gives Eilish a chance to let listeners know she may not always show it, but she’s confident. The track is an ego boost for Eilis, but also provides listeners a chance to acknowledge her growth as an artist and a young woman.

Keeping things upbeat, “all the good girls go to hell” is an upbeat track that puts a spin on religion. Eilish uses allusions to the bible to further the idea of morally good people going to hell, while their counterparts would go to heaven. Eilish finishes off the song with a clip of her saying, “I cannot do this, snowflake,” which listeners may assume is directed toward those who will find the song disturbing or simply take offense to it.  

Eilish reminds listeners of her age with “wish you were gay,” as she delicately sings about not being able to accept rejection from her love interest. The song tells the story of Eilish needing the young man to be gay, because it’s the only reason she will accept for him not being romantically interested. The song’s use of audience reactions frequently used in sitcoms creates an effect of storytelling.

The album’s second single “when the party’s over,” brings things down again with Eilish singing lyrics of loneliness and confusion. The track is tender and alludes to a song on the singer’s previously released song, “party favor. However, unlike “party favor,” the singer is more vulnerable.

The song’s lyrics alone are award-worthy. Eilish sings, “Tore my shirt to stop you bleeding, but nothing ever stops you leaving,” in such a quiet voice that it creates a visual image along with a feeling of hopelessness. The artistry Eilish displays with her music is enough to know she has undeniable talent and that she is the future of modern music.

Track number eight is “8.” The track begins with a noticeable shift in pitch, causing Billie Eilish to sound nearly half her age. The track is short and tells the story of an unhealthy relationship. Eilish sings of being committed to the relationship only to not feel it in return. Eilish returns to her usual pitch at the chorus where she sings of hesitantly walking away from the relationship, because she can’t please her partner despite her efforts.

With the pitch shift in mind it is easy to assume that Eilish is telling a story from two separate perspectives. The higher, adjusted pitch is that of her partner, while the lower is her perspective.

Multiple characters from NBC’s hit show, “The Office,” make an appearance on the song “my strange addiction.” The track begins with a clip of Michael Scott saying, “No, Billie, I haven’t done that dance since my wife died. There’s a whole crowd of people out there who need to learn how to do ‘The Scarn.'” This clip obviously fits into the song because it appears Scott is speaking directly to Eilish, with the use of her first name.  

As the track continues Eilish displays her love for “The Office,” with more clips from other characters. Eilish sings of various strange addictions that have been featured on the TLC show, “My Strange Addiction.” Overall Eilish demonstrates her creativity perfectly on this track with many references to other works, while also making them personal to her.

The album’s title is drawn from “bury a friend,” an unsettling yet exciting track. Throughout the entirety of the song, Eilish seems to be having a nightmare while coming face to face with a monster. Eilish uses the track to investigate where we go when we fall asleep and why anyone cares for her to begin with, because she knows most people are taken aback by her bright eyes and blank expression.

Billie Eilish knows fans love her delicate vocals and moving beats, which is why “ilomilo” fits perfectly on the album. Eilish sings of separation anxiety throughout the track and how she doesn’t care to be alone knowing her love interest is lost somewhere outside.

Once again Eilish puts her lyrical ability on display again with “listen before i go.” The track discusses suicide and how before the singer leaves, she would like to clear her chest and hug her loved ones. The track is very minimal when it comes to instruments; it is almost completely bare, which helps display her delicacy. The track, like so many others, shows that Eilish isn’t afraid to push boundaries with her music, proving once again that she is the future of modern music.

Keeping things slow, Eilish sings “i love you” in a low and raspy voice. Eilish uses this ballad to explain that no matter how much she doesn’t want to love her partner, she simply cannot help it.

Once again listeners get to hear Finneas O’Connell, only this time he can be heard harmonizing with his sister’s breathy vocals, as she declares her love for her partner.

The album comes to an end with “goodbye.” The final track contains one line from each song on the album, excluding the introduction. Eilish’s choice to use this as the album’s closing track is telling. While she could have chosen to end the album with “i love you,” she didn’t. She instead choose to travel back to the beginning and present the themes conveyed throughout the album once more before her final goodbye, leaving the listeners exactly where they started.

Eilish may be a young new artist, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by listening to her sing. Eilish’s ability to use her light vocals over songs with heavy bass and acoustic ballads all while never going wrong only proves furthermore that she has barely scraped the surface of her success.

Eilish is coming to Nashville on June 21. More information can be found here.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Mamie Lomax, email

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