Album Review: Billie Eilish - WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
The debut album opens with a short audio clip, titled '!!!!!!!'. This introduction provides a slight insight into the excitement that the release of 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?' created for the Eilish, and opens the album on a positive note. However, this strays far from the themes of the album, and contrasts to every promotion put out there. In the words of Billie herself, " this is the album".
Track two, the first full length track on the album, is 'bad guy'. This song has rapidly grown in popularity, and was made a single as of the release date. The combination of constant beats, background humming and the signature effortless-yet-intriguing vocals of Eilish make this track a perfect single. However, despite being the first full track , 'bad guy' still refrains from delving too deep into the themes, instead creating a somewhat fun, upbeat song. However, the foundations of these themes do begin to unravel with Billie repeating, "I'm the bad guy", planting the seed of wicked themes in the listeners unknowing mind. This was a critical move, hooking listeners, and then transporting them to the somewhat cruel world established in the following tracks. 'bad guy' makes a for a perfect single, and lures audience's into the album of 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?'
'xanny' follows as track three. This track is incredibly mellow and soulful, creating a platform for emotions. The delicateness displayed highlights the diversity exhibited by Billie; creating both heavy and hard tracks, and delicate and emotive tracks. Further to this, 'xanny' reflects upon the youthful nature of Billie, an artist who is still seventeen: "I'm in their second hand smoke, still just drinking canned Coke". As an artist that covers such mature concepts and topics, it is easy to have their innocence buried, and it is imperative to create songs like 'xanny' to reinforce this fact. Furthermore, this track presents ideas that are all too reliable to today's society, calling out actions that other modern artists seem to encourage. The lyrics "They're awfully bad at learning, make the same mistakes, blame circumstance" and "don't give me a xanny now or ever" clearly target the modern perceptions upon Xanax; opinions which idolise its value as somewhat of a party drug. Billie's clear stance not only makes an important song, but makes her an important artist. Presenting such strong views on such a touchy subject fuels the opinions of many of her young, impressionable fans, acting as a catalyst for changing opinions. For this reason, 'xanny' should be considered one of the best songs on the album, and is a personal favourite from ' WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?'
Track four revisits the first released single from the album 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?', titled 'you should see me in a crown'. The eerie vibes return in this song, building up in the verses until the climax is reached in the chorus. This track is quite confident in itself, and reflects these emotions upon the listener. 'you should see me in a crown' uses its beautifully constructed lyrics to create an impact, allowing for the use of techno instrumentals that cover her voice in some aspects of the song. Not only does this showcase the diversity of skills Eilish exhibits within her music, but it creates a change of pace, assuring the listener does not get bored or lost in the story lines of the album. 'you should see me in a crown' introduces a welcomed change of pace and is a track that exudes confidence.
Track five follows, displaying a name which most accurately captures the essence of the album, 'all the good girls go to hell'. The uncomfortable lyrics accompanied by catchy beats and somewhat smug vocals create a sinister feeling within the song. Almost showcasing a pride with being evil. A vast majority of the song looks down upon things that society idolises; "Pearly Gates look more like a picket fence". With lyrics such as this, it is hard not to be impressed by the confidence Billie has in herself and her songs to go so far against societal norms. Furthermore, 'all the good girls go to hell' begins to capture the themes of 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?', establishing a link between the transition of innocence to corrupt and cruel societies and forces. The ominous track of 'all the good girls go to hell' is a clear standout from 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?'
Track six revisits the fourth single released from the album 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?', 'wish you were gay'. The introduction of acoustic instrumentals with fragile vocals creates a track which is personal, confiding in the audience. Despite many first assumptions upon the title, the song dives into a story of pride and relationship breakdowns, wishing the blame of the breakdown was anything but a reason based on her own actions. The vocals on this track range from soft to strong, and the transitions in between, not just sticking to one range as seen in previous tracks. Through this, the journey and the emotions felt within are clearly reflected upon every aspect of the song. 'wish you were gay' is one of the most personal and open songs from 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?'
The second single from Eilish's debut studio album is track seven, 'when the party's over.' The perfectly combined soft instrumentals and angelic vocals offer some of the heaviest emotions on the album; a channel of sadness which flows through the earphones. 'when the party's over' is one of the best vocal displays on the album and showcases how unique of an artist Eilish is. Few artists can deliver such strong emotions through a voice filled with delicateness and fragility, but Billie excels. Furthermore, this track best conveys the themes of a loss of innocence and happiness; "I'll only hurt you if you let me, call me friend, but keep me closer". The lyrics display self acknowledgement of unfavourable actions and the thought of her being the 'enemy', showing a loss of the child like innocence shown in some previous songs. 'when the party's over' emotively conveys themes and showcases vocal talent in a new way than previously seen on 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?'
Track eight is titled, '8'. This track is extremely different to other tracks found within 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?', from the vocals to the instrumentals. It is a juxtaposed contrast to 'when the party's over' as it displays many child like features such as the 'la-da-da's' and the use of manipulated, childish vocals. Accompanied by ukulele sounds, '8' creates an impression that the song is pure and happy, but the lyrics say otherwise. Covered by all these tools is a story of pain, moulded to fit into a happy appearance, much like many individuals in society. For this reason, '8' should be examined deeper than just a listen, as the hidden meanings seem to have a connection to the actions and feelings of modern society. '8' cleverly masks true feelings in order to create a track which not only sounds different, but calls the listener to interpret it in their own way.
'my strange addiction' follows as track nine. Much like track three, this song exhibits a stance upon substances; "to be talkin' to you, belladonna". Lyrically, this song is strong , and is only enhanced by the beats and instrumentals surrounding. as seen within previous tracks, Billie seems to take on the figure of evil, exploring the negative outcomes she can induce alongside the obsession shown for the substance. "Bad, bad news, one of us is gonna lose, I'm the powder, your'e the fuse"; with many lyrics as powerful as this, it is clear to see that these are not just expressions, but warnings upon the subject matter of the song. Furthermore, Billie uses that same modern day reliability found within 'xanny' in order too connect to young, impressionable audience, In this case, it is through the use of excerpts from 'The Office'. 'my strange addiction' skilfully takes on a new persona and perspective to not only create a catchy song, but a meaningful one.
With lyrics that provided the name for the album 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, track ten is 'bury a friend'. This track has become one of the most popular, but manages to hold the creepiest song composition and most sinister lyrics of all the tracks. 'bury a friend' is an exploration of twisted thoughts, "step on the glass, staple your tongue... cannibal class, killing the son", which are somehow shared with other beings around the focus character, "why don't you run from me... what do you know?" Apart from showing this self acknowledged evil and loss of innocence, this song could also be a call to society. In today's world, actions and thoughts that were once labelled shocking now appear as everyday occurrences, becoming part of the newly constructed social norms. Much like the song, these twisted changes of action should not be something we accept, but something we question. 'bury a friend' is a personal favourite and an outstanding song from 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?'
Track eleven from 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?' is ' ilomilo'. In a far more reserved way, this track conveys delicate feelings through softer vocals and unforced beats. Much of the song relates to fears of separation; "and I don't wanna be lonely, so tell me you'll come home", which compared to the whole album, it quite a standout. Previous tracks have exhibited thoughts from a character that would enlist fear within others. This figure being alone and evil. However, a song like 'ilomilo' provokes thought within the audience, reminding them that no matter the tough exterior, such emotions can be felt within anyone. Loneliness is universal. It also displays the fact that often the most fearsome people hold fear themselves. 'ilomilo' challenges preconceived ideas upon both the album and thoughts upon individuals, making it an important track from 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?'
'listen before i go' is track twelve. Using solemn and stripped back piano chords, it is evident this song has hit a serious note within the album. With nothing but raw vocals and piano, emotion has been poured into this track, making it heavy and vulnerable. This would give an indication that lyrics such as "better hurry 'cause I'm leaving soon, sorry can't save me now" do not begin to scratch the surface of the meaning, and perhaps relate to something darker than first anticipated. This beautifully raw track highlights the maturity of Eilish, and frames her as wise beyond her years. A song like this coming from such a young figure also highlights the struggles faced by many people her age and the pain they have endured in situations such as the one described. 'listen before i go' is a raw, vulnerable and eye-opening track from 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?"
Track thirteen is 'i love you'. Rumoured to link to 'listen before i go', this track once again features soft and solemn vocals and instrumentals to convey fragile ideas. An extra dimension is added through the use of a male backing voice, solidifying the idea of a struggling relationship; "you didn't mean to say 'i love you'". It can be inferred that this struggling relationship has lead to the destructive thoughts shown in track twelve, creating a beautifully constructed backwards story line. The complexity of the emotions within this song is accurately displayed by Billie through her powerful vocals. She is truly unique. Eilish's vocals are graceful, and hold more emotion than anyone I have previously listened to. Through this, emotive songs are created with ease and persuasiveness is shown, making you feel the pain that the focal character is feeling too. 'i love you' is a gorgeous song from "WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?'
The concluding track to the album is titled 'goodbye'. Cleverly, this track assures all songs will resonate with the audience, using a lyric from each song within the track. Reminding you of the incredible previous tracks from the album, 'goodbye' immediately makes you want to listen to the album again. Thanks to 'goodbye', you will have 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?' on repeat.
Billie Eilish's debut studio album, 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?' is a musical masterpiece. Not only does the album showcase her unique and emotive vocals, but through the power of her music, society and its norms are questioned, and audiences are called to action. It is clear to see why Billie has gained such a large following, and this number will not be decreasing anytime soon. ' WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?' is a must listen album, and is strong contender for being one of the best albums of the year.
Written by Georgia Haskins
Have you listened to 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?' yet? If not, listen below and tell us your favourite track in the comments: