A review of Billie Eilish’s debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
I really don’t know. Where do we go?
Her album starts with the proclamation that she is taking out her Invisalign, preceded by some intimate slurps of some liquid followed by some greasy cackles into the distance. Although with ironic intentions, her introduction reminds her listeners that she is still at the age that involves wearing Invisalign, namely 17, and that her music is also a testament to the daring and creative energies of her age. I can barely remember what I had been doing when I was 17, and I can definitely say that it was not produce my first full-length album.
Her plunge into fame had been quite early. At the age of 14, she released “Ocean Eyes” onto Soundcloud, attracting an early fame that eventually signed her to Interscope Records. Because of her family’s connections with the music industry, she has often been labeled as an ‘industry plant’. But, similar to our diets, we do not necessarily need to be vegetarian to appreciate good vegetarian foods. Plants, if cooked well, are edible by everyone regardless of its place of origin. So why does being affiliated with the music industry detract from our perception of her music?
When I looked at all the production credits, I was pleased to find that all of her tracks have been written by her and her brother. There was not a list of other random individuals that have been credited because it seems that she had had incredible autonomy when creating the album, and I respect her creative talent regardless of her affiliation with the music industry.
I thoroughly enjoyed the three singles that were released before. I cannot recall how many times I have put on “you should see me in a crown” while stir-frying for dinner or “when the party’s over” when I took a particularly angsty shower. But, of course, “bury a friend” struck a very relocatable chord in my heart, as it is a metaphorical account of ending a friendship with the literal story of burying a friend in a park. Even its paranoid introduction captures the distrust beginning new friendships. Burying friends, after all, can have elements of trauma at times.
The music video that got released with the track was “bad guy,” which peaked at no. 1 on Spotify for a bit after its release. It’s quite a funny song detailing Billie’s assertion of being a “bad guy” with lyrics saying that she is a “might seduce your dad type” and “make your girlfriend mad type.” But, of course, Billie comparing herself to the “chest always so puffed guy” is quite a humorous image. Her soft-spoken voice contrasted with the upbeat and bratty nature of the nature the song accents the more child-like vibes of Billie. Perhaps one of the more happier songs in the album, I found the track to quite a startling introduction to the album.
You said she’s scared of me?Billie Eilish, “bad guy”
I mean, I don’t see what she sees
But maybe it’s ’cause I’m wearing your cologne
Perhaps my favorite track of the album is “ilomilo”. The title is a reference to a game that Billie had played about two creatures finding their way back to each other. The song, similarly, is an account of the sentiment that follows the fallout from a friendship, particularly the search of finding a way to be back together. But I had always found the mid-tempo track to be hauntingly beautiful because of the bouncy keys in the background. Perfectly capturing the sensation of being lost after experiencing loneliness, “ilomilo” captures the universal heart.
The world’s a little blurryBillie Eilish, “ilomilo”
Or maybe it’s my eyes
The friends I’ve had to bury
They keep me up at night
Said I couldn’t love someone
‘Cause I might break
If you’re gonna die, not by mistake
Another one of my favorite tracks is “i love you”, which captures the sensation of being told the phrase “I love you” without the committed intentionality behind it. The track is introduced with some soft guitar strums followed be an airy orchestra ambiance. As the final track of the album right before “goodbye”, “i love you” is a melancholic ballad to serve as the concluding tone of the album, and Billie indicates that the truth that she has come through all of her experiences is one of disillusionment, especially with love.
Maybe won’t you take it backBillie Eilish, “i love you”
Say you were tryna make me laugh
And nothing has to change today
You didn’t mean to say “I love you”
Throughout the album, the intimate tone of her voice sharply contrasts with the otherwise dark atmosphere that is created through tracks such as “listen before i go” and “xanny”. Although her album started with two upbeat songs, the songs becomes progressively slower and darker as the album goes on, ending with the elegy-like “goodbye” to end the album. From contemplating about her death on the roof to watching her friends being intoxicated on Xanax, Billie captures the disillusionment within her friendships and relationships that follows growing up.