Finally, right? During my time with the flu, I stayed away from everything — even music. The name Billie Eilish, however, has been floating around everywhere. I must have missed something last year. Apparently she rose to fame at the confusing age of 15. Now the California singer and songwriter is 17. And she’s got plenty of haters. Many have labeled her as an industry plant. I held my judgment until I actually heard a song or two. I waited for the album to drop because it’s been a while since an artist has lived up to the hype for me. It just so happened that my sickness started on the same day as her album’s release. Last night I finally got down to it, holding my phone to my ear in bed. To be honest, I couldn’t stop listening. This girl has the juice, ladies and gentlemen.
Following my first time through, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP reminded me of a few popular artists. The Lorde comparisons will flock. Billie’s vocal delivery across this debut is subtle and delicate. Most of the emotion here comes from the lyrics. But that’s not a knock whatsoever. Despite staying in a comfortable range, her voice manages to shine regardless. It won’t ever blow you away, but it meshes alongside this intricate, dynamic production palette. Eilish’s brother Finneas O’Connell is responsible for the entire record’s production. One of the main reasons people think she’s a plant is that she has ties to the music industry. Interscope Records signed her at a very young age. Her brother is clearly a skilled musician and composer with connections to the show Glee. She grew up around actors and musicians. So, it makes sense why all this comes natural to Billie.
The album kicks off with her infectious “bad guy” single. She gets her intentions off her chest, claiming that she will make your mama sad, your girlfriend mad, and even might seduce your dad. Basic bitches beware: Billie Eilish’s bark and bite are on the same level. She’s a rebel at heart, which is apparent on the next track as well. “xanny” is an anti-drug anthem for this generation of pill-popping clout chasers. Deep buzzing bass, distant voices, and sweet piano deliver a refreshing message amongst all these sheep-like zombies. The first five full songs make a sonic splash of versatility rivaling that of a young Rihanna. Except in Eilish’s case, her brother’s instrumentals are much more consistent and lush. There is a free-flowing and tender energy illuminating out of this tracklist. Collaborative chemistry is essential in making a memorable album start to finish. The O’Connells certainly have that here.
Even though it ends on a sleepier note than I’d like, this debut features both sonic and thematic cohesion. The siblings’ lyrics vary from heartache to insecurity to wishing your crush were gay so that their disinterest in you wouldn’t hurt so bad. She even has a song where she writes from the perspective of the monster under her bed. Although that sounds childish, “bury a friend” is actually a kick-ass song. Kanye West’s Yeezus spills out of this track, which brought a smile to my face, seeing as it’s my favorite album of all-time. It serves as the thesis statement of the album from which the creative direction of the rest of the record bloomed. In spite of a couple lulls like “when the party’s over” and the semi-forgettable “8,” WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? is a near-perfect blend of Top-40 and electro-art pop.
Once her vocal style fully develops and matures, Billie Eilish will likely be drowning in awards. Until then, I foresee her losing out to the Taylor Swifts and Dua Lipas of the world who wouldn’t know a risk if it snatched the microphone from them. Conversely, by the end of 2019 this album will not be forgotten, though she has already released five singles from it. Here the O’Connells chose craft over trend, which is something I will always praise. This album is truly an experience with troughs and crests alike that give listeners both something to talk about and something to shut up and soak in. Billie’s baggy designer clothes and punk photograph persona may rub people the wrong way. Yet it is what is on the inside that matters. And the innards of this dazzling debut record are electrifying, experimental, and trailblazing.