Last weekend, 17-year-old goth-pop star Billie Eilish played a historic set at Coachella. At least that was the headline I read on Yahoo News, which is where I assume everyone gets their information. I became aware of Billie Eilish last February when I saw her video for “when the party’s over” on MTV Live. Yes, you can still watch music videos on TV if you stay up past 1 AM and browse through 900 channels. The video is a melancholy ballad backed by faint piano where Billie wearing all white in a white room drinks a glass of black goo which then streams out of her eyes. Kids love black goo, it’s like the new Tide Pod. The video is creepy yet beautiful which is the best way to describe Billie Eilish’s music.
As someone on the wrong side of their twenties, I’ve long since lost touch with “cool music”. That’s assuming I ever was in touch but I at least knew the trends. It wasn’t until last February when I started watching videos on MTV Live that I realized the current state of pop music is much different than when I was young. When I was a kid pop music was in your face. It was upbeat. I’m talking about your Spears’s, your Aguilera’s, your Jessica Simpson’s and to a lesser extent your Ashley Simpson’s. I’m not saying there isn’t music like that anymore but the overall vibe is more laid back, intimate even. Singers like Ariana Grande, Sam Smith, and Khalid (who recently collaborated with Eilish) are chillin’ over the airwaves. Pop music may not be as fun as it once was but it’s less superficial. More honest. Oh, and song names are either written in all caps or all lowercase letters now. All of which continue to describe Billie Eilish on her debut album “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?”
The song “bad guy” kicks off the album after Billie states “I have taken out my Invisalign and this is the album.” The track is one of the more danceable on the album built around a buzzy bassline and a circus-like synth melody. Singing, Billie paints herself as the “Make your mama sad type… Might seduce your dad type” with an angsty too-cool-for-school bravado. It reminds me of a song Die Antwoord might do but a less nightmarish and with no rap break. I watched an interview with Billie on that hard-hitting talk show where they eat chicken wings and this song seems to best reflect how she carries herself in conversation, as a jokey “I don’t give a shit” L.A. Teen.
The album shifts into somber territory with the minimal “xanny” and darker tracks like “you should see me in a crown” the latter of which of has one of the most disturbing videos I’ve seen in a long time. If you don’t like spiders DON’T CLICK ON THE LINK! “all the good girls go to hell” is the track that made me realize there is a similarity between Billie Eilish and Lorde. Both are artists who started young, use sparse instrumentation, and sing sad songs. I don’t have anything else to build on that.
Other highlights include the ballad “wish you were gay”, “bury a friend” (which also has a nightmarish video with black goo) and “my strange addiction” which samples what else but… The Office. Yeah, dialogue from the episode “Threat Level Midnight”. Kids these days and their Office. What are ya gonna do?
There have been rumors that Billie Eilish is an “industry plant” that she’s not a real musician and was plucked from obscurity and made a pop star. As far as I can tell that’s bullshit. Look at the tracklisting. All the songs on the album were either written by Billie and her older brother Finneas or just Finneas. Finneas is also listed as the lone producer on the album. As far as I can tell, Billie rose to prominence with her 2016 recording of the Finneas-penned song “Ocean Eyes” which became a hit online and gave the siblings the momentum to work their way towards this debut album. It’s a nice change of pace to see a pop album not overflowing with guests and not orchestrated by Swedish hitmakers. This is a labor of love between two innovative siblings trying to break into the world of entertainment. I realize how creepy it sounds using “labor of love” and “siblings” in the same sentence.
I don’t know what else to say that hasn’t already been said. Billie Eilish has gone from nowhere to everywhere overnight and is already being analyzed to death. I just think it’s interesting music and I like that it’s creepy. She’s definitely an artist on the rise and I’m definitely going to keep an eye out. Unless there are more spiders involved. Get outta here ya dang spiders!