Although dubbed as a pop act, to confine Billie Eilish to any specific brand of music would be doing her craft a disservice, as she defies any kind of label or categorisation with her transient use of genres. Eilish is certainly unexpected in all that she does and somewhat of a walking contradiction as she keeps the world on its toes. She is a different kind of teen superstar, with a mix of devil may care ‘fuck you’ attitude and mature sense of security and direction – you could easily forget that she is only 17 years old.
At the moment she possesses 15.1 million followers on Instagram and already has an impressive string of live performances and radio appearances under her belt, as well as gracing the covers of many top tier publications. The hype around this girl is colossal, arousing some suspicion from many as to whether she will be able to produce something worthy of the hysteria.
Billie hasn’t given into this pressure whatsoever. Instead, accompanied by her nefarious grin, she ignores the chatter as she gives the world the middle finger, and delivers a record that is as beautiful as it is strange and fantastical.
‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ immerses listeners in her distinct blend of sounds and intense harmonies, inflected with extreme sonorities. This record is a complex presence, bewitching and obscure, with several stunning twists and turns, taking you on a journey through her dark and angst- ridden mind.
Billie introduces the album with the 13 second ‘ASMR’ snippet ‘!!!!!!!’, where she slurps saliva from her Invisalign retainers as she removes them with a diabolical laugh – a moment which many teens and young adults play out on a daily basis. ‘bad guy’ abruptly cuts off the short clip, throwing you full throttle into her world of warped wonders with a quick, bass-heavy beat as she tepidly ‘doo dahs’ and hums along in the intro.
‘xanny’ illustrates the dangerous culture surrounding the medication used by many teens. ‘you should see me in a crown’ hits you with a warbling bass and provocative, ‘come at me if you dare’ lyrics. Followed by the ‘all good girls go to hell’, a misleading and genius title for a song suggesting that we need good people in hell to get “the devil on our side” as the world goes to shit. The feeling of unrequited love is perfectly encapsulated in ‘wish you were gay’, describing how she would rather the object of her desire were gay so they didn’t go with other girls over her.
The gloomy afterglow of ‘when the party’s over’ softly blurs into the sickly-sweet ukele of ‘8’ which is undoubtedly the oddball track on this peculiar record. ‘my strange addiction’ and ‘bury a friend’ pick up the beat before dissolving into the anxious lullaby of ‘ilomilo’. Billie then closes the album with a heartbreakingly melancholic mix of tracks, bringing you close to tears with ‘listen before I go’, ‘I love you’ and ‘goodbye’.
‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ is a brave and fortuitous debut album from the LA teen, capturing the hopes, fears and vulnerabilities of an entire generation. The genius in this record is its unaffected relatability. It is like a reassuring hug letting you know that you are not alone. Billie Eilish’s intelligent response to the world crumbling around her is to make it into art, and to see the beauty in her generation and their protests.
She champions the strange, the misfits, the misunderstood and offers an alternative to the oversaturation of vapid, plastic pop stars and reality TV ghouls. You might not get her but she embraces it and will thrive, but quite frankly she probably couldn’t give a damn.
Words: Yasmin Cowan
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