It wasn’t a long time ago that suddenly everyone around me knew the name of Billie Eilish, the 17-year-old younger-than-me pop star whose songs took over all of my friends’ Spotify playlists. Even my 12-year- old sister sings along to her songs.
Overnight, Eilish somehow became the definition of the cool girl. From baggy, eccentric clothes to spiders that crawl over her face in a music video, every aspect of her breaks the stereotype of what a teenage pop star should look like. But no matter how unique Eilish is, what really decides whether her success is long-term will be the quality of her music.
On March 29, Eilish released her much-anticipated album, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?”
To many, this collection of 14 tracks will determine if Eilish is here to stay. The album includes four pre-released singles, “wish you were gay,” “bury a friend,” “when the party’s over” and “you should see me in a crown,” all of which made the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
Much of Eilish’s popularity can be attributed to the eccentric persona that she has cultivated on her social media, interviews and songs. It comes to no surprise that “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” is full of this personality, or rather, personalities. This album is Eilish’s playground, where she takes on a collage of different personas that offer a glimpse of what it’s like to be 17 and famous.
The album opens with a goofy intro, where Eilish says, “I have taken out my Invisalign and this is the album,” a line that reminds listeners that the singer is still a teenager. Then, Eilish dives into the first song, “bad guy,” and uses the whole track to define the persona that she’s creating. Though the song itself is catchy and the instrumentals are easily enjoyable, the message of “bad guy” goes little beyond Eilish’s attempt to reiterate her bad girl persona. For that reason, it’s hard to take the track seriously. But again, pointlessness is part of the attitude that Eilish is selling, so there’s no doubt that those who love the singer’s personality will enjoy “bad guy.”
As if a whole song dedicated to her rebellious personality is not enough, Eilish makes her statement louder in “all the good girls go to hell.” This track is full of sensational lines such as “my lucifer is lonely” and “even God herself has enemies.” At a closer glance, however, the lyrics are incoherent and confusing. I have no idea why “Hills burn in California” is followed by “My turn to ignore ya” other than the fact that they rhyme.
This is what I find the most fault with on the album. Many of Eilish’s songs are sensational but fail to speak beyond surface-level fun. I admire Eilish’s ability to say whatever she wants to say in her songs, but
after a few listens, it’s hard to find meaning in her lyrics. In some cases, the lyrics are unnecessarily gruesome, such as the line “cannibal class, killing the son” in “bury a friend” that is very disturbing but has little to no relation to the rest of the song.
In the quieter moments on her album, however, Eilish is able to speak on serious issues. While “xanny” addresses the dangers of recreational drug use, “listen before i go”
is a raw ballad about thoughts of suicide. In these highlight moments, Eilish is able to step out of her tough persona and present a more vulnerable and insightful version of herself.
Eilish also shows her vulnerable side in the many love songs that are featured on this album. In a good number of the tracks, Eilish struggles with complicated romantic relationships. Of these songs, “wish you were gay” is popular amongst the singer’s fans. Although Eilish has stated that the song is not meant to be offensive to the LGBTQ+ community, I personally find fault with wishing somebody’s gay just because they don’t return your love, when being gay in America is so much more complicated than a 17-year-old’s “wish.” But these love songs become repetitive as they ultimately touch on similar emotional themes, and by the end of the album, it was hard for me to distinguish one of Eilish’s relationship problems from another.
And yes, the 14 tracks on the album became very repetitive as I listened. Although Eilish is known by her signature sound of feathery-light vocals (which are lovely, by the way) backed with heavy bass, I expected to hear more variations on her voice in the album. To my disappointment, not only did she practically sing all of her songs in the same way, but even some of her melody became repetitive and boring.
Overall, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” is unmistakably Billie Eilish—youthful, un- apologetic and often cynical. If you’ve always been a fan, chances are you’ll love it; but if you’re not, it appears that the 17-year-old pop star failed to bring anything new to the table this time.
Story by Michelle Chen