Billie Eilish is only 17 years old. At such a young age, she has been hailed as the voice of Generation Z, while her managers have said that they do not see a ceiling to the level of success she could achieve. With over 15 million instagram followers and endless publicity, this could seem like a lot of pressure for a teenager. Eilish started her singing career in 2016 with her hit song “ocean eyes,” a soft ballad finding comfort in the minimalism and melodies of other alternative artists like Lana Del Rey and Lorde and anchored by Eilish’s hauntingly pure and beautiful voice. The song blew up and led to the release of her 2017 EP, “dont smile at me,” obviously spelled in all lowercase because she’s different. While that album did show moments of true promise, Billie and her brother/producer Finneas O’Connell were still struggling to find a sound that set her apart as a singular voice; a new type of teen pop star. Ever since that EP, Eilish’s image has skewed farther and farther toward the dark and other. She wears baggy, logo heavy jumpsuits coupled with copious bling that her steely eyes and hair barely poke through. Her image and songs have been adopted by teenagers around the world, creating the superstar Eilish, who finally released her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? After all the buildup, is it possible that Eilish could live up to the hype that has been created? The answer to that is that not only is the album impressive, but it is also one of the most dark, creative albums that has been released by a pop artist in recent memory.
When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is a glitch-pop record, varying from genres like trap, to Beatles-esque guitar ballads, all with an emo twist that really hits on morbid themes. Eilish starts the album with the track “!!!!!!!,” which clocks in at 14 seconds and just features Eilish and her brother laughing about her Invisalign. These aspects of her work really speak to the creative liberty the siblings had with this album and creates a feeling of intimacy, like they are making songs because they want to, not because they have to. She really gets things going with “bad guy,” a song that sounds like Britney Spears filtered through a haunted house. A flirtatious beat dominates the song while Billie spouts off about power in a relationship. She sings, “I’m the bad guy,” through an electro pop haze before adding a rather abrupt “duh” signifying how off-kilter Eilish is willing to get. It feels like she knows that she’s underestimated for being so young in an industry dominated by older artists, and defies that by just trying to be as scary as possible. The song finally finishes with an insane trap-pop drop where she sings, “You said she’s scared of me?” Billie likes to cast herself in characters which gives her songs a dark whimsical edge that helps her tell frankly more interesting stories than an average 17-year-old can tell, solely drawing on life experiences. Another standout of the album is “bury a friend.” Written from the perspective of the monster under Eilish’s bed, Eilish speak-sings with an ASMR-type inflection about general nightmarish imagery, saying, “I wanna end me.” This song is probably the most unique on the record and most clearly defines Eilish as a pop artist who is unafraid to delve into different genres in order to create her own ghastly world. While the production is incredibly inventive, the best thing about Eilish’s music is her voice and lyrics. Billie puts on a powerful vocal performance on the song “wish u were gay,” a pop-ballad about protecting your ego. She fills the track with tongue-in-cheek jokes and a really inventive lyrical strategy involving a countdown. Her voice begins lovely and dreamlike in the verses while slowly crescendoing towards the choruses, reminiscent of the standout song on her previous EP, “idontwannabeyouanymore.” Finally, Eilish rounds out some of her shuffle beat songs with ballads like “i love you,” a slow and lovely track featuring some of the most beautiful melodies found on the album. Hummed over soft guitars, the song is an exercise in restraint and showcases her sweeter side.
While the album is a little scattershot, Eilish cements a unique sound that sets her apart from the rest of the pop crowd. Overall, this album is a damn good opener to the career that Eilish will certainly have.