Atwood Magazine’s writers discuss the rise of 17-year-old star Billie Eilish and the disarming aesthetic of her debut album ‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?’
Featured here are writers Ditta Demeter, Francesca Rose, James Crowley, Alex Killian, Ben Niesen, Mariel Fechik, and Nicole Almeida.
What has your familiarity with Billie Eilish been up to this point? Are you a longtime follower, or is she a new discovery?
Ditta Demeter: I’d been aware of who she was for a while before the album finally dropped, but up until the release of “come out and play” and particularly “when the party’s over” (and my best friend’s insistence on the fact that she very much was deserving of the hype and attention), I didn’t really appreciate the complexity and merit of her work. I blame my snobbiness and (healthy!) cynicism in the face of any music that gains popularity extremely quickly (truly interesting and inventive music often fails to woo the general public), as well as the fact the nature of singles and EPs: I think the album-length release was necessary to display the full extent of Billie’s talent as a singer-songwriter – and of Finneas’ genius as a producer.
Francesca Rose: I had always been aware of the name Billie Eilish but had never really listened to her. I don’t even know why but I guess because my perception of her was as this form of hype conjured up through social media I didn’t want to feel like I was jumping upon a trend as opposed to getting into something through serendipity. Anyway, a few months ago an interview with her kept appearing in my ‘recommended’ videos on Youtube and I gave in out of intrigue and watched it. After that, I kind of became transfixed, listening properly to her songs and watching more interviews.
James Crowley: I had listened to Eilish, and I wasn’t really impressed. I was aware of her, and I knew she was getting a bunch of hype, but don’t smile at me did nothing for me. She struck me as a very average third or fourth line festival act.
Alex Killian: I’d heard “Ocean Eyes” but didn’t make the connection that it was Eilish until more recently. I love the Sofi Tukker remix of “COPYCAT,” but other than that her music didn’t really strike a chord for me, aside from finding “bellyache” and “idontwannabeyouanymore” intriguing. Of course, I’ve seen the hype about her all over social media so she’s always been more of a personality / character about the internet than an artist to me.
Ben Niesen: I had listened to the don’t smile at me EP as a curiosity, but never really went further than that. She had connected quite well with a college acquaintance of mine and looking back on it, I could understand why. Low-key sass, soft-spoken lyricism, bizarropop jams were always her thing. And don’t smile at me provided that plenty, but, not being a fan of “introductory” EPs, I never lingered on it.
Mariel Fechik: Up until this point, Billie has been an active avoidance for me. I think I listened to half of one song once and placed her in the pile of extreme apathy bordering on active dislike. When the album came out, I decided to listen just so I could back up my opinion with actual experience.
Nicole Almeida: I’ve followed Billie since a little before the release of her EP don’t smile at me. I’ve been a huge fan of her, and think her live shows are incredible (a lot of much older and more self-conscious acts could learn a thing or two from her). What I really like about her music is how unexpected it is, her and Finneas always find a way to subvert the listener’s expectations in either song structure, lyrics, or production, and that’s so impressive to me. It’d be easy for her to be a traditional-sounding and looking pop star, especially since she’s signed to a major label, but the fact she’s gone the complete opposite direction is what makes her so interesting to me.
As a debut album, how does WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? fare as far as introductions are concerned? Does it do its job?
Francesca: I feel like Billie Eilish had already introduced herself so this debut is just a confirmation. I don’t think there’s anything that surprising about it and people knew what they were going to expect.
Ditta: Billie’s case is different to the usual setup: she’d gained a truly incredible level of popularity and an immense fan base before her debut record dropped, the world already had an idea of who she was and what she was capable of before these 13 songs were released as a whole. I think with WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, the question was not whether it would successfully present a new character to the music industry, but rather, if it would continue to build Billie’s image in a harmonious and consistent fashion after her explosive start. I can’t speak for anyone else, but personally I find it functions very well in that way: the whole album is a beautifully comprehensive piece of music that aligns perfectly with the idea we’d previously had of Billie’s identity and character. Nothing is out of place, it all feels like a natural, organic development from her previous releases.
James: To be honest, it serves relatively well. She’s charismatic and interesting and the production on the album is interesting and engaging. She also establishes her presence as a mysterious and thoughtful but overall dark pop-star. There’s been a lack of a certain ominous presence in pop after Lady Gaga took a hard pivot after The Fame Monster. Eilish feels like a fusion of that era of Gaga and the best aspects of Lana Del Rey.
Alex: I think Eilish and her team wanted to fully curate a debut with this album and in that sense I think they succeeded. Everything prior felt a bit under the radar or happenstance in terms of its success, but this was clearly a full force effort to introduce her as an artist. I think the album serves that intention well. It’s well packaged and presented, as an album should be, and cements Eilish’s image as a brooding, edgy artist with pop appeal.
Ben: Honest question: who makes a Halloween record as their debut? That seems to be what Eilish has done; you can see it in the eyes of that Omen-girl cover. As a record, it is well-produced, but to what end? I’m not sure if it’s a rather good one. Eilish prides herself on her own strangeness, but she spends some of her biggest moments attempting to unmask people (“bad guy,” “all the good girls go to hell,” and “wish you were gay”). It’s all trick and treat on WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP and neither act is playful, she can be quite spiteful, which makes her tender moments seem disingenuous, but then she unmasks herself just as well on “when the party’s over” and “my strange addiction.” Eilish leans heavily into her adolescent outcast image, and I’m not left with many questions how she acquired it in the first place.
Mariel: Like Francesca and Ditta mentioned, it doesn’t really feel like a debut. She’s a teen who got famous on the internet, and as rabid teen fans go, hers are at the high end. She’s already a household name, so I feel like “debut” doesn’t really apply here. I actually have to disagree with Ben’s first question, I kind of like the fact that she’s made a Halloween record for her first full-length. I’m still not sure I like it, but I find the Munsters-sounding synth on “bad guy” amusing and the whole monster-under-the-bed aesthetic kind of amusing. I’m not sure I really believe it, but it’s fun nonetheless. Like Ben says, she leans into the adolescent outcast image pretty heavily, and like I said, I’m not sure I believe it. It’s definitely fun when people create characters for their music, and she is creative – it can just feel a little forced at times. Which I suppose begs the question, aren’t all personas?
Nicole: I think the album is super impressive, and I love the darker aesthetic in both the song and visuals. I agree with Mariel, it doesn’t feel like a debut just because she’s been around and I’ve personally followed her career for so long, but if someone is going to get to know her via this album, I think they’ll get a very good sense of who Billie Eilish the artist is. There are songs like “you should see me in a crown” and “bad guy” which are playful and have a bravado to it, and then in “i love you” and “when the party’s over” we get to know her more vulnerable and delicate side. It’s definitely a good introduction to her and her sound.
How does WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? compare to Eilish’s don’t smile at me EP?
James: It’s much more well thought out and ambitious. Don’t smile at me didn’t offer any real insight to who Eilish is, and while WWAFAWDWG, doesn’t necessarily show us more or less of her, it definitely makes her memorable.
Alex: I hesitate to call WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP more mature than the EP, but it definitely has a more tangible theme and confidence, or intention, about it. There are threads from don’t smile at me that weave into the LP like the ukelele on “8” and the intimate moments on “listen before i go” and “i love you.” All in all though, the album is in its own league when it comes to Eilish’s discography, and I think that’s the point. It gives a new listener more to consider, and older fans a collection of songs more complete and connected to who Eilish is striving to be as an artist.
Francesca: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? is more ambitious and well-rounded but as somebody who started to understand Billie Eilish shortly before the album was released, all her music has kind of been grouped as one for me as opposed to being able to clearly analyse the transition.
Ben: As a record it is more cohesive; but as a statement, it is more venomous, more cruel and callous, replete with lo-fi pussy riot whisper-rapping, hard limited bass slaps and Death Row-esque keyboard samples. And she has more moments on this record to go boom, but she counter balances it with moments that retread thoughts (“listen before i go“ and “goodbye”) or work in enigmatic instrumentation or dive head-on into overboard sentimentality. “8” is a perfect storm of all three. She’s playing the ghost–it’s always about how she’s withdrawing from the physical world and isolating herself into this spooky ethereality. don’t smile at me was far more fierce, as much as that adjective ends up sounding trite, it also showcases that don’t smile at me was simply a thought. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP is a fucked-up journal.
Mariel: I haven’t listened to more than 30 seconds of the EP, so I can’t really answer the question. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP does seem a lot darker, which I cool, I suppose, but I don’t have much to say on this one.
Nicole: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP sounds much more mature and developed than the EP, which in my opinion was already very mature-sounding and unexpected. The album is not as bright as the EP, and I feel like we get to know more about Eilish, rather than the characters she writes as, on the album. Both projects ooze personality, though, and I feel like that’s Eilish’s trademark.
Does this album live up to the hype? (In other words, does this legitimize the cult-like energy and excitement around Eilish’s artistry?)
Ditta: Billie’s music and character fill a gaping void in the industry and in today’s pop culture. Many people cite “relatability” as the most crucial feature when discussing the reasons behind her staggering success; while that’s definitely true to some extent, her art does much more than simply echo a generation’s existential angst. Billie has an acute awareness of generic expectations and plays with them at every turn. Some tracks radiate fragility and vulnerability, others are bursting with confidence and self-assuredness. There is an interesting and unique interplay of contradictions, held together by a firm grasp that keeps it from descending into pure paradox. In short, I think it does more than just live up to the hype: it fulfils a promise of originality and genuinely outstanding talent – an achievement that justifies Billie’s popularity amongst all audiences.
James: Yes and no. I don’t necessarily follow every single popstar or pursue the clout of every artist that has some hype, and I don’t think that this album really legitimizes Eilish in the way that Sweetener did with Ariana Grande or Free Spirit was expected to legitimize Khalid. This feels like an album that establishes her at a Halsey-level of success. This isn’t an album that’s converted me to a rabid fan, as some equally hyped pop releases do. I’m sure she’s gained some fans, and I really like a handful of songs from this, but I don’t care about her the way I do Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, or JuiceWRLD.
Alex: As someone who wasn’t super into Eilish to begin with, this album impressed me in certain ways because I had no expectations. The production is amazing – a testament to Eilish’s brother, FINNEAS, and stylistically I found it to be pretty fresh and cohesive. That said, I don’t think it gave anyone an epiphany about why Eilish was so popular prior to this release. I agree with James about this album not necessarily legitimizing Eilish in and of itself, but it does make me think of her as an artist with vision. Khalid’s success is an interesting comparison to draw since his debut album was essentially the one thing that propelled him into the spotlight. That release was a make or break moment for him compared to Eilish being extremely popular regardless of whether this album was well received or not.
Francesca: It’s true that she would maintain her popularity regardless of if the album was ‘good’ or not- her fan base is that dedicated. With me, I became sucked into the music and personality etc but it feels more like a phase `(you know how you can go through periods of being really into something). I’m not sure how frequently I will return to it and maybe that’s the same for others who’ve jumped on board. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? is fairly cool, yes, but I wouldn’t say it’s iconic. If it’s been met with the love that it was anticipated to be met with then it has lived up to the (cult-like) hype but I think it will be interesting to reflect in a few years time.
Mariel: No. I still don’t get it. Some of the songs are fun. I’ve had “bad guy” and “bury a friend” stuck in my head all week, but I think all the other songs are completely forgettable. I like the production a lot – it’s very slick and convincing, and there’s a lot of specificity to the sound that makes the songs more interesting. What I’m absolutely not a fan of is the bizarre insistence on whispering into the mic for the entire album. It could almost be branded as “Teen pop star makes Halloween ASMR album.” Is it an attempt to be sexy? Mysterious? Either way, it does not work for me. I think it’s effective on the more creepy songs, but I want to hear someone sing if they’re going to sing.
I will say I’m pretty fascinated by her whole aesthetic, this blue-haired pop star in baggy t-shirts and shorts, and I really want to know if she actually let a tarantula crawl out of her mouth – but if the thing I’m latching onto the most is an aesthetic rather than the music, the music is definitely lacking.
Ben: I think it is what you bring to the table–a tautology if there ever were one–but no less true; if you expected to be left with only an impression of the bizarre and reacting purely with a “wot” on your lips, then you’ll be thoroughly satisfied. I’m going to keep finding new ways to describe the newest tortured soul weirdo and I have to admit, this one from my journal still makes me laugh: she’s the batgirl musical equivalent of batboy. But I agree with Mariel, it seems to me she’s been an image-obsessed artist in that ironic goth way. Not about image, but totally shifting hard into an aesthetic rather than an art.
How or where does Eilish’s age show — or not — for you on this album?
Ditta: There’s a fantastic interview with Billie – well, two Billies, to be precise: Vanity Fair asked the same questions to her aged 15 and 16 and put the two together. That was eye-opening to me – because Billie’s so incredibly talented at constructing her image, and because that image is such an integral part of her music, it’s often hard to see the seventeen-year-old behind it all and consider the implications of that. Seeing the two Billies one year apart is like seeing two different people: there’s a childlike playfulness and innocence to the fifteen-year-old girl that she seems to have lost in a year of endless touring and skyrocketing popularity. Your heart sinks as sixteen-year-old Billie discusses relationships, fandom and the crushing weight of sadness that comes with being an artist. Heck, nobody at sixteen should be going through this sort of stuff! Listening to the album fills me with a similar combination of awe, admiration and anxiety. I marvel at the accuracy with which she describes emotions and states of mind – the loneliness of “when the party’s over” seriously brings me to tears every time – but part of me can’t help feeling incredibly worried about her… I’m 21 and I often feel like she’s already been through so much more than I ever have. It’s really disquieting.
Francesca: It was actually that Vanity Fair interview that the persistent Youtube algorithm kept getting me to watch! There are aspects that remind you of her age, like in “Xanny” (and lines like ‘I’m in the second hand smoke/ still drinking canned Coke/ I don’t need a Xanny to feel better’ remind you that she’s not yet an adult.) Also, the playfulness of “my strange addiction” with The Office sampling is a very Gen Z thing to do. It feels kind of meme-like.
James: Some of the generic nature of some of her lyrics does. The songs and production are great, but looking at the chorus of a song like “bad guy” reminds you that Eilish still has a ways to go in terms of lyric writing. Also, the samples from The Office in “my strange addiction” feel immature. It feels like a forced attempt to be quirky in a way that you only are when you’re young. While there’s nothing really wrong with liking The Office, it doesn’t make you interesting either.
Alex: I’m reminded throughout the album that Eilish is literally only 17 — there’s just a lot of immaturity all over the album. The samples from The Office, the silly ad-libs, the juvenile lyrics and the lack of thought put into sensitive subject matter on “xanny” and “wish you were gay” all register as teenage work for me. The ad-libs are cute, but the rest of it is tough to get past, particularly in regards to the subject matter. I can (kind of) see Eilish trying to shine a light on the rampant abuse of prescription drugs with “xanny,” but the execution reads as privileged and condescending, even self righteous. As for “wish you were gay,” I get the sentiment behind Eilish “really trying hard” to make it not seem like an insult. Still, if you think something might read as insensitive to a specific community, why include it? There’s plenty of routes that track could’ve taken that didn’t include trivializing the LGBTQ community.
Mariel: I agree totally with Alex – her immaturity is rampant on “xanny” and “with you were gay,” showcasing an inability to think through the implications of your lyrics before releasing them. She’s obviously not the first or last artist to release immature songs, and age definitely doesn’t have everything to do with it – however, it certainly hasn’t helped. I think there are moments where she wants you to see her age, the opening string of exclamation points as one example, where she slurps noisily and takes out her retainer. There’s even a nod to this in the video for “bad guy,” where the man standing next to the paper she kicks through holds out his hand for her to place her retainer into. The video itself is a complete juxtaposition of her youth and the maturity she tries to project, and I’m not sure whether this is incredibly smart or just lazy. The crazy, little kid dancing juxtaposed with singing about wearing someone’s cologne sits or seducing someone’s dad sits weirdly with me. On some level, I don’t like saying such negative things about a 17 year old – I can’t help but think of my former students, their youth, their sensitivity. But at the same time, she’s chosen this as a way to represent herself.
Ben: Her age shows in how she’s barely even an adult and has this whole fractured-fairytale image built around herself. She is the anti-Disney star which is as bad as a traditional Disney star. She might write all her songs, all her lyrics, but in a culture where image is everything, I want to see her break away from just being the “weird one” persona and move on to an actual personality.
What are your favorite songs and why?
Ditta: “When the party’s over” is definitely up there – there’s something haunting, almost hypnotic, in the multi-layered vocals that I find incredibly moving. There’s also “ilomilo” on which I share Billie’s opinion – “that shit is so cute!” – and I can’t not mention “my strange addiction”: I love how in touch Billie is with pop culture and that reference to The Office just has me giggle every time I listen.
James: Ironically, I really like “my strange addiction” in spite of it’s Office samples. I think that “bad guy” and “you should see me in a crown” are the album’s two best tracks though. Each comes with a certain level of grandiosity and amazing production. The post-punk bassline of “bad guy” and the growling vocals that enter when Eilish says the title are exactly what I’d want from an album with this sort of cover and title. “Crown” feels like a car revving it’s engine before a race, and when Eilish gets to the chorus, it’s like she’s just dropped the flag. Also, those horror-movie harmonies, when she sings “croooown” are excellent.
Francesca: The most memorable one, for me, is “when the party’s over” because it’s so hypnotic in its slowness. I also can’t stop thinking about its video with the black inky liquid seeping out of her eyes. It’s sweet that it was a recreation of an illustration a fan gave her.
Alex: I will say that the songs I like on this album, I really like. I particularly enjoy “bury a friend,” “you should see me in a crown” and “bad guy.” The intricate sampling paired with the shuffle beat and backing vocals from Crooks on “bury a friend” are superbly captivating. I also find the concept equal parts creepy and intriguing; I love the idea of the monster under your bed having this whole internal dialogue. “You should see me in a crown” is pristine, with production that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I think it strikes an excellent balance between Eilish’s more delicate vocal work and the heavier, darker elements that tend to take front and center. As for “bad guy,” there’s a reason it’s the opener. It’s catchy, bouncy, and has that radio thing going. It strikes me as a weird combo between “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift and “Uma Thurman” by Fall Out Boy. I also really like “i love you,” because of its genuine vulnerability, which I found to be rare on the album. I also just adore the harmonies done with FINNEAS.
Mariel: Like I said earlier, “bad guy” and “bury a friend” are the most interesting. I like the spooky melodies and the production, even the flippant little “duh” she offers before the drop in “bad guy.” “bury a friend” actually feels like her most mature song, and her explanation behind it, about being the monster under the bed, gives a little more insight into her mind.
Ben: I’m with Ditta on this one, “when the party’s over” is probably the best song on the entire record because it’s the one ballad that doesn’t sound overwrought and the most naturally withdrawn cut. Special mentions are given to “you should see me in a crown” and “my strange addiction” for some absolutely nasty bass and haunted Tetris musicality. It seems there is a ghost in the Eilish machine, and her best moments are the banshee screams to be let out.
Nicole: “bad guy,” “my strange addiction,” and “bury a friend.” I think these songs bring about the aspects of Eilish’s personality that I like the most, like her give-no-fucks attitude, more sinister sound, and not taking herself too seriously. “bad guy” is such a solid opener, my jaw dropped as soon as I heard it. The perfect way to hook people to the album. I can’t think of a better lead single than “bury a friend,” which is the album and Eilish at their most ambitious. “my strange addiction” is fun and dangerous and ridiculous in the best way. I haven’t ever watched The Office and yet this song stands out to me – I feel like that says something, right?
Where does Billie Eilish stand out most as a lyricist?
James: She doesn’t. Everywhere Eilish shines is in song-structure, vocal ability, and production. Eilish breaks as much ground as a high school poetry club, and I think she will become a great lyricist, but she’s not yet.
Ditta: I agree. I think her lyrics are quite generic and almost forgettable, which I actually don’t think is bad as they really let the music shine.
Francesca: I agree that most of the charm is with Finneas’ production rather than the songs’ lyrics. I also think it’s in the delivery. For example (like James said) the way she sings ‘crowwwn’ in “you should see me in a crown” and the freakiness of “bury a friend” and ghostliness of “when the party’s over.” It’s a horror ambience that compliments the darkness of the lyrics.
Alex: I guess I would say “bury a friend” based on the concept, but I agree with my co-writers that truly compelling lyrics are scarce here. Apparently “all the good girls go to hell” is about climate change, but I think the fact that it doesn’t register that way is further evidence there’s growing to be done. All the lyrics are a bit flimsy and any in depth explanations feel stretched.
Mariel: I also agree that the lyrics don’t really matter in the context of the album. I will say, like Alex, that I like “bury a friend” conceptually, but the lyrics themselves feel a little like monster mash madlibs. I do like the sing-songy chorus, though. It’s fitting with the creepy child in the hallway feel of the video.
Ben: I agree with James. Eilish is the first artist I’ve been uninterested in reading the lyrics. Not even because of how clearly she does sing them (bizarre that they can make up the crispest parts of the record), but these lyrics and wordplay are nothing more than lyrical tricks that serve the song like the words to a lullaby. Messed-up, naif, perverse lullabies, sure, but it’s not like “Rock-a-Bye Baby” doesn’t involve a baby plummeting to its death so should we really be amazed that “xanny” is describing her contempt for the deaths (slow or sudden) of the people around her or that “bury a friend” is all about burying herself?
Nicole: I feel like what’s interesting about her lyrics is how clever they are (ex: countdown incorporated into “wish you were gay,” calling god a woman in “all the good girls go to hell”). You can feel that Eilish and FINNEAS really have fun writing the words to the songs. A set of lyrics I specifically love is “Keep you in the dark/ What had you expected?/ Me to make you my art and make you a star/ And get you connected?/ I’ll keep you in the dark, I’ll be calm and collected/ But we knew right from the start that you’ll fall apart/ ‘Cause I’m too expensive” from “bury a friend” because of how cocky they are. Eilish’s lyrics grab me because of their attitude, and I do agree with the people above who say a lot of the effectiveness lies on her delivery as well.
Which track do you think has the most intriguing production?
Francesca: DEFINITELY “BURY A FRIEND.” I love the insights that are given into its production in ‘Diary of a Song S1 E1: How Billie Eilish Is Redefining Teen-Pop Stardom’ (The New York Times). For example, the integrated sounds of a dental drill (‘Calling security, keepin’ my head held down’) which she recorded herself during an appointment at the dentist, and the easy bake oven (‘Bury a friend, I wanna end me’), smashed glass, and stapler (‘Step on the glass, staple your tongue (Ahh)’). It’s small personal touches like these that really draw me to songs. Often you don’t even notice them until the artist points them out but it adds to the creative/independent quality.
James: While I prefer the production in songs like “my strange addiction,” I found “8” to be most interesting, because it seems like it would just be an out-of-place ukulele song on the album. While the beginning is startlingly strange, it transitions into a song that fits neatly on the album.
Ditta: “xanny” for sure, especially if you listen with headphones – the vocals are so intriguing.
Alex: My favorite songs on the LP take that title largely due to production, so I’d say “bury a friend” and “you should see me in a crown.” Minus the samples, “my strange addiction” is really cool as well. I always dig that plucky, bouncy synth it centers around – it hooks me every time.
Mariel: I agree with Francesca – it’s the little additions to the production that make “bury a friend” so interesting. It actually reminds me a lot of the production on Daveed Diggs’ hip hop group clipping.’s work, where cups of broken glass and various bells are altered and sewn into the production. FINNEAS’ production is by far my favorite part of this album, and I’m excited to see more from him. On “ilomilo,” there are some really nice moments as well, from the treatment on her background vocals to the added bell melodies (which Ben also references below).
Ben: I find “ilomilo” to be absolutely haunting, the little ascending bell melody like a Luigi’s Mansion soundtrack has me shuddering, but I think I agree that “bury a friend” lays out far more tricks than any other song on the record.
Nicole: Ugh, it’s so hard to choose because this album is just so immaculately produced (standing ovation to FINNEAS for being a creative genius and articulating Billie’s vision so perfectly). I feel like “bury a friend” is one of the most daringly produced ones, as is “my strange addiction” with the inclusion of the The Office sample. When it comes to the ballads, I love how “goodbye” incorporates the opening lyrics of every song in such a haunting manner but tells a completely different story, and “when the party’s over” is so delicate. “bury a friend” will take this one for me because I remember being just so taken by every single left turn in the song the first time I listened to it. It’s absolutely genius.
What is your least favorite track?
Francesca: “wish you were gay” because I just don’t get it and “8.” With the latter, it’s like WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO?’s equivalent of dont smile at me’s “party favor” (ukulele) but personally I’m not really into the baby voice that appears throughout.
James: Despite finding a way to make a shocking ukulele track feel seamless, “8” is an easy pick for least favorite. It’s very well done in the sense that it’s produced in such a way that it doesn’t feel like it was just tossed in the middle of the album, but it’s still just a little too jarring of a departure from anything else. Also, we don’t really need more ukulele songs. Isn’t that what we have Julia Nunes for?
Ditta: Come on, “8” is easily one of the best songs on the album exactly because of that ukulele start! It quickly transitions into something different and turns into an absolute banger. I love that play on expectations. I’m not a big fan of “listen before i go,” just because it didn’t really make a particularly great impression on me. Everything else was quite memorable in comparison.
Alex: I don’t like “wish you were gay” and “xanny” for reasons I mentioned above. I agree that “8” is a bit jarring and I also dislike the baby voice thing. It feels out of place, although it could be a different angle to the whole “creepy” theme.
Mariel: Sorry, Ditta, wholehearted agreement with James: we do not need more ukulele songs. And again, I agree with Alex. “wish you were gay” and “xanny” were unnecessary. I genuinely don’t remember how any of the other songs go besides “bury a friend,” “you should see me in a crown,” and “bad guy,” so I suppose maybe…all of them?
Ben: “8” is Billie’s most gnash-like record, and that makes it her worst. I dislike this faffing foppish rap, that G-Eazy introduced and gnash perfected. I may not like hip-hop outside of my abstract, neo-soul, jazz rapping shell, but even I understand, you can’t do rap without a little bite, and “8” is all gums.
Nicole: Probably “8” just because it sounds less interesting than all the other songs. That being said, though, after I learned Eilish wrote this from the perspective of someone who she pissed off and is referring to herself in the song, it became a lot more intriguing to me.
This album has already broken a record as one of the first to hit #1 without a hit single. How do you think this album’s success will change the music industry?
Francesca: What Billie and Finneas do/have done is very representative of now and it will be interesting to see how it evolves, the influence etc. One thing that did make me go hmm was the Billie Eilish Experience pop-up event for the launch of the album’s release with rooms dedicated to bringing the album to life through the senses- a bubble room, a craft room, a room with dogs in etc. How many people have an exhibition curated when releasing an album let alone a debut album? I think that’s testament to her underground(?) stardom but is also a really great marketing tool that maybe more musical artists will follow in similar ways.
James: This really isn’t all that shocking. Streaming services are our king. The easiest way for a song to shoot up the charts is to become a meme. This isn’t so much a testament to Eilish as it is just another signal in what has been the 30 year long “death of the music industry.” She’s a popular artist with a rabid fanbase. It’s a sign that she put the work in the same way other artists do.
Alex: I don’t find it to be representative of much aside from an artist being able to cultivate a following and hype based almost entirely on image. Like James said, that’s just where we’re at in the age of streaming and social media – you don’t need an incredible song, you just need to be known. You can absolutely make money and be popular without having a radio hit or reaching the top of the charts. Those things have never been entirely representative of genuine artistry, anyway. I guess WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP is, put simply, the most tangible proof I can think of when it comes to the internet’s power to conjure success.
Mariel: I really don’t think it will change anything. To be honest, this album will be just as forgotten as most quirky pop records (outside of Lady Gaga’s) in a few years. I don’t get the hype, nor do I think she’s really done anything that different or that special. Teen internet fans, like I mentioned, can be rabid. And as they grow up, that rabidity shifts onto something new or dissipates entirely. Billie feels very much like a popstar of the Now with a capital N, and I don’t think anything will shift other than a changing of the guard. Soon, someone else will assume her mantle, and we’ll be writing this all over again.
Ben: I don’t it will either. It just confirms a rather nasty trend in the music industry: the audiovisual album “experience.” Frank Ocean popularized it, Childish Gambino has played into it and even Animal Collective have flirted with it, but Beyonce’s Lemonade was the power move of the trend. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I literally couldn’t give a shit–The Wall album will always outpace The Wall film for me because it’s no frills–the story is in the music and the music is the story. Eilish makes some pretty good aural stories on her debut, she doesn’t need an album release party to convince anybody but a couple of fatcats record moguls smoking their cigars and laughing at the opening of a new revenue stream
Nicole: Not sure it’ll change the music industry. What I think we’ll start seeing now is a bunch of wannabe pop stars wearing baggy clothing and looking stoic trying to replicate the Eilish formula. I think we’ll definitely see Finneas’ name a lot more, and, if this is even possible, Billie’s as well. Their success is very much deserved.
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