Billie Eilish’s Album is Disturbingly Beautiful


Billie Eilish’s first studio album, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO” dropped on March 29 of this year. (Courtesy of Facebook)

By Rachel Gow

Billie Eilish was just 13 years old when she released her breakthrough track “Ocean Eyes” on SoundCloud. The song, written by Eilish’s older brother, Finneas, was uploaded with the modest intention of allowing Eilish’s dance teacher to access it, but went viral virtually overnight. It is easy to understand why: the record utilizes a subdued beat, highlighting Eilish’s honey-smooth vocals.

The three minutes and 20 seconds produce a euphoric cloud upon which the listener floats blissfully. While “Ocean Eyes” is about a breakup, it feels more like Eilish is completing you, offering a puzzle piece you didn’t know was missing.

The song would be impressive for an artist of any age but is made increasingly so by Eilish’s youth. Her prodigious talent helped catapult her to stardom, which snowballed after the release of her EP “Don’t Smile At Me.” Here, Eilish’s voice shines, her soft melodies anchoring themes of heartbreak and insecurity.

It is only the slightly darker tracks, “idontwannabeyouanymore” and “COPYCAT,” that could have foreshadowed the vibes of her latest album, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO,” which dropped on March 29 of this year.
This new album, Eilish’s first LP, veers off from “Don’t Smile At Me” to such an extreme degree it is hard to believe it is produced by the same artist.

The subtle qualities of eeriness and depression present in Eilish’s EP have been turned up to an unrecognizable degree, resulting in a jarringly divergent album. The songs on the record either produce tears or shivers.

This is not to say, however, that “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO” is by any means unpleasant. Rather, the album is delightfully unique, taking the listener on an unpredictable ride of beats, modulations and harmonies.

“You should see me in a crown,” “bad guy,” “all good girls go to hell,” “ilomilo” and “bury a friend” all have a similar vibe, constituting the edgier half of the record. Here, the subdued beats that characterized “Don’t Smile At Me” are swapped for far snappier and bass-heavy rhythms, breaking up the lyrics into cliffs off of which Eilish’s vocals repeatedly jump.

The themes of the tracks have similarly transitioned from Eilish’s first EP as the young artist gets in touch with her dark side: taunting past lovers, pondering world domination and taking the perspective of monsters from her nightmares. She utilizes the diva-esque overtones that brand female stars like Kehlani and SZA but puts an avant-garde twist on them.

The songs are also intensified by the addition of technological abstractions. Jarring sounds like that of a knife being sharpened and glass shattering, as well as the disturbing Auto-Tune of Eilish’s voice to sound alien in nature, produce a distinct listener experience. Fans are trapped in a vocal universe that almost seems four-dimensional, constantly inundated with perfectly layered sound elements that trigger an out-of -body-like episode. Eilish has flawlessly captured horror.

While these tracks are more technologically focused, allocating vocals to a more backstage position, Eilish’s does not let us forget her capabilities. Songs like “listen before I go,” “i love you” and “wish you were gay” are painfully sincere, Eilish’s voice a beautiful and feathery whisper that bears her truest emotions.

Here, she ditches the bad-b—- persona for a different perspective of someone downtrodden by life and love, and it works perfectly. Listeners of “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO” are invited to participate in both “sad girl hours” and “happy girl hours.” Eilish assures us the two are not mutually exclusive.

Perhaps the most respectable aspect of the new album, however, is Eilish’s ability to incorporate these morose motifs while still acknowledging her youth. She begins the album by announcing the removal of her Invisalign, the dreaded braces alternative, with a few salivae infused slurps.

On the track “xanny” she denounces the use of the illicit painkiller, stating “she’s better off without them” and instead “drinks canned Coke.” This assertion is especially profound considering the fetishization of drugs often seen in the work of her counterparts.

The album is an overall mishmash of emotions and ideas made increasingly complex by Eilish’s unique wardrobe of matching sweat suits, chunky sneakers and menacing chains, as well as her unapologetically eccentric, dark, personality.

This strangeness is beautifully genuine, the result of candid 17-year-old musings few other artists are capable of tapping into. As the singer’s persona continues to transcend her musical capabilities, it is exciting to see what she does next, both as a musician and a teenager.