On March 29, 17-year-old Billie Eilish released her debut album, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” For the past few years, the only music fans have gotten from Eilish are a nine-song EP, SoundCloud covers of her favorite songs, and a few singles featured in other productions, including two songs for the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” and an advertisement for Apple Music.
Earlier songs can be seen as light compared with her increasingly heavier aesthetic, growing darker since her 2017 EP. Having been involved in the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus at the age of 8, she’s since worked with her brother, Finneas O’Connell, to create a lyrical sound that stylizes her celestial vocals more in tune with her artistic mind.
The Los Angeles-born singer is fond of incorporating background voices and noises, and even the occasional laugh track into her songs.
The opening track of the album is the 14-second long intro, “!!!!!!!,” which features Eilish laughing and goofing off with O’Connell, her older brother and music partner. This is followed by “bad guy,” of which she released the music video for in March. This song leads with an upbeat tempo paired with taunting and playful lyrics. Aside from the overall badass vibe, the breakdown and outro amplify the depiction of Billie as a proud villain.
Similarly, I feel like the fifth track, “all the good girls go to hell,” allowed her to play into the “scary” role that people see her as, while the lyrics also read as a possible warning of damnation. The synthesizer throughout the song gives off a spooky haunted house vibe, but also shows a slight ’90s LA influence. The highlight of the devilish song is the biting lyric, “man is such a fool, why are we saving him?”
One of my favorite tracks, “xanny,” follows with a sweet melody and infectious chorus that’s guaranteed to stick in your head. The song serves as a fervent and articulate anti-drug plea that I imagine reflects the teenager’s encounters with other musicians and people she considers friends.
I’ve read countless assumptions of what the singer must be like, based on her wardrobe, friends and photos of her. But Eilish makes it clear that she intends to stick to her values and not be influenced by certain lifestyles sometimes seen in the music industry.
Lyrics aside, the production of this song makes it a certified standout. The heavy bass and low volume, the twinkling cleanness in the verses, the reverb and distortion that gain clarity when the word “xanny” is said. This is a gem in her discography that truly highlights and encapsulates her energy, voice and personality. The outro sounds similar to the entirety of “goodbye.”
The eighth track, titled “8,” goes back to her DIY roots as she breaks out the ukulele for a softer tune. This could be part of a tradition she’s creating where one song isn’t heavily production-focused and instead promotes the vocal range and instrumental talent the singer possesses. She previously did this on “party favor” from her EP.
“my strange addiction” samples a scene from The Office’s Season 7 episode, “Threat Level Midnight,” something else the musical sibling duo is fond of doing. “WHEN I WAS OLDER,” one of her recent singles, was developed after watching the Netflix film “ROMA.” “you should see me in a crown” was inspired by the exact line from the television show “Sherlock.” Along with the latter, “wish you were gay” and “when the party’s over” are other singles included in the project.
Adopting personas are part of her writing process.
The outro of recently released “bury a friend” bleeds directly into “ilomilo,” and the pair even share some of the same lyrics. Prior to the release, Billie urged fans to listen to the album in order.
After this pair are the songs “listen before i go” and “i love you.” The former reads as a bittersweet final goodbye, with rain effects playing gently in the background, and screams and sirens playing in the outro. The haunting lyrics “sorry can’t save me now” and “I love you and I don’t want to” leave listeners with a thought-provoking achiness that Eilish’s most popular songs are known to do.
“goodbye,” the outro, brings a calm yet eerie reprise of the first lyrics of each song on the album, with the exception of “all the good girls go to hell” and “bad guy” having their titles reiterated. This recap works its way in reverse order, ending back with “bad guy.”
With the release of the album, Eilish also dropped a playlist on Spotify titled “Billie Eilish Experience” that features a handful of music videos to accompany the album. The word “experience” is too fitting of “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” Upon each listen, I find myself having to lie down and close my eyes, with my headphones on their highest volume.
The album itself truly is an experience, something to hear and feel. Having first found out about Billie from the Blackbear remix of her fame-bringing “Ocean Eyes,” it doesn’t feel like Billie has changed all too much on her rise to the top. This versatile 14-track project feels like an in-depth expansion of her writing skills and use of emotion-evoking imagery. It feels even truer to the artist we know as Billie Eilish.